Before hitting weights and getting under a bar became the norm, there were push-ups.
Push-ups are one of the classic fundamental or compound fitness exercises.
Targeting your entire upper body, push-ups are a great way to get stronger, build muscle, and increase your endurance.
Have you been stuck at the same number of push-ups for weeks or months? Want to increase the number of push-ups you can do?
Let's take a closer look at the push-up exercise, the different types of push-ups, and how to increase the number of push-ups you can do.
Benefits of push-up exercises
There's a reason push-ups still exist after all these years: they're incredibly beneficial.
Here are several benefits of daily push-ups and why you should incorporate them into your weekly fitness routine.
Upper body strength: Make push-ups part of your routine and you'll get stronger. In fact, one study found that push-ups provided comparable strength gains to the bench press exercise.
Lean Muscle Growth: Although push-ups are a bodyweight exercise, they are very effective in inducing hypertrophy when performed correctly and for the required reps.
Muscular endurance : even with perfect form and execution, doing push-ups is still a numbers game. The high number of repetitions will help you increase your endurance.
Cardiovascular health: One study found a correlation between the number of push-ups performed and the risk of cardiovascular disease. In short, the more push-ups you can do, the lower your risk of cardiovascular disease.
Convenience : Few exercises are as practical as they are effective. You can do push-ups in almost any location, making it a great on-the-go exercise.
Push-up muscles worked
The benefits of push-ups come from the muscles targeted by the exercise.
The main muscles activated by push-ups include the chest and the front deltoids (shoulders).
Targeted support muscles include the abs and triceps.
Muscles that help with stabilization are located opposite to core muscles such as the rear deltoids (supporting the front deltoids) and the biceps (stabilizing the triceps).
Different types of pumps
Chances are you're familiar with the classic push-ups, but there are several variations of the exercise that can help you increase your numbers.
Here are some easy push-up variations as well as more difficult options that you can add to your upper body workout.
With all subsequent pushups, it's important to bring your chest back to the floor or surface and pause for a second or two before returning to the starting position.
Push-ups for beginners
The following push-ups start with the easiest variant and gradually become more difficult.
Wall pumps: If you are recovering from injury or surgery, this is a good place to start. You place your hands against a wall with your feet behind you. Slowly lower yourself to the wall and back up.
Knee push-ups: place a comfortable mat on the floor before kneeling. Maintain a tight core and a flat back as you lower.
Incline Pushups: place your hands on an elevated surface like a park bench and maintain a tight core as you lower yourself.
Wide Pushups: Adopt a traditional push-up position, but extend your hands shoulder-width apart.
Variations of Hard Pushups
Once you feel comfortable with all of the push-ups listed above, try these more challenging variations.
Again, remember to slowly lower yourself and pause at the bottom before returning to the top of the movement.
Closed hand push-ups: Start as you would a traditional push-up, but bring your hands shoulder-width apart. You will feel it more in your triceps than usual.
Diamond Pushups: Create the shape of a diamond with your hands on the floor and then perform a push-up. Your hands will be in the center of your chest as you lower down.
Refuse push-ups: place your feet on an elevated surface such as a bench in a gymnasium or a park bench. Focus on maintaining a tight core as you lower yourself into the push-up.
Ring Pushups: Lower two gymnast rings to the ground. Grab them with one in each hand. Perform push-ups focusing on perfect form while striving for stability.
How to improve your push-up numbers
Now let's talk numbers.
Here's how to get better at push-ups and increase the number of push-ups you can do.
I'm going to describe a trick I learned in the military to increase your number of push-ups in two weeks.
On Day 1, I want you to set a timer for two minutes and then do as many push-ups as possible with perfect form.
You can give yourself a "break" by extending your hips back like you would in Downward Dog, but you can't get up from the push-ups until the timer starts ticking.
Record the maximum number of perfect push-ups you have performed. Now divide it in half.
For example, if you did 50 push-ups in two minutes, dividing that by two would give you 25.
On Day 2, perform 25 push-ups. Every day, then add another pump.
So on day 3 you would do 26 push-ups. On Day 4, you would do 27 push-ups. Etc.
On day 14, perform the test again, you will see a dramatic improvement in your numbers.
Give yourself a day or two of rest, then repeat this system until you're really happy with your push-up numbers.
Need help with your pumps?
Discover our Pumps Module by clicking here.