Why The Pushup Is The World’s Greatest Exercise

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Why The Pushup Is The World's Greatest Exercise
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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, over 610,000 people die each year because of heart disease – that’s one in four deaths. Each year, almost 750,000 Americans experience a heart attack. These numbers don’t lie – the world is in serious need of better diets and regular exercise to promote cardiovascular health. The American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise each week in order to effectively lower our risk for heart disease. Moderate exercises include walking, aerobics, and slow cycling. Vigorous exercises including jogging, running, and swimming. [1][2]

Why Push Ups?

Out of the all the basic exercises you can do, push ups are among the hardest. While the name is deceptively simple and the description even simpler so, push ups require more from you than simply pushing your body off the ground. This exercise requires excellent balance and form – the two most important things when performing push ups. Trainers will often tell you that 10 modified push ups with great form is better than five full push ups with poor form. If you can do full body push ups with good form, even better!

The push up is considered a great exercise because it tones your entire body, though its main focus is the upper body, primarily the arms, shoulders, and chest. Push ups also helps tone your back muscles, abs, and your legs because they require you to keep a straight, balanced form from your arms to your legs. To an extent, push ups also require great stamina because push ups don’t rely on speed, they rely more on accurate movements which take a lot of stamina.

Different studies that focus on push ups and physical fitness have found that push ups and modifications made to the typical ground push up can target different muscle areas in the upper body.

– Kim and Yoo (2013) found that push up exercise with hip adduction (keeping your hips closer together or legs close together) could strengthen the Serratus Anterior muscle of the chest. [3]

– Kim, et. al. published a study in 2016 showing how different palmar widths affected muscle activity when performing push ups, primarily in narrow, neutral, and wide positions. The study found that narrow palmar widths (hands closer together) focused more on the Pectoralis minor, triceps brachii, and infraspinatus muscle. Narrow and neutral palmar widths were also better for working out the pectoralis major muscle. Wider palmar widths focused on the Serratus anterior muscle more. This study also cited push ups as an excellent exercise to use during rehabilitation sessions. [4]

How To Perform Push Ups Correctly

1) Get into a full plank position, lying face down on the ground with your hands on either sides of your shoulders.
2) Lift your body up using your upper body strength, keeping your back and legs in a straight line. No drooping!
3) Lower body to the ground, keeping about a fist-sized difference between your chest and the ground.
4) Repeat

If you can’t do the full body push up, you can modify it by planting both knees on the ground instead of the toes. You only have to lift your upper body for a modified push up. The same principle applies: keep your body straight!

Here are a few tips to remember:

– The wider your hand position is, the harder it is to perform the push up. More stress is placed on the chest the wider you place your hands apart.

– The close your hand position is, the more you exercise your tricep muscles.

Push ups are excellent inclusion in your exercise routine, more so if you exercise at home. You don’t really need anything aside from an exercise mat and maybe a few modifications like dumbells or exercise balls to increase the difficulty of your push ups.


[1] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. https://www.cdc.gov/heartdisease/facts.htm

[2] American Heart Association. American Heart Associate Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/HealthyLiving/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/American-Heart-Association-Recommendations-for-Physical-Activity-in-Adults_UCM_307976_Article.jsp

[3] Kim, H. & Yoo, W. (2013). Effects of Push-up Exercise with Hip Adduction on the COP Deviation and the Serratus Anterior and L1 Paraspinal Muscles. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24259852

[4] Kim, Y., Kim, D. & Ha, S. (2016). Effect of the push-up exercise at different palmar width on muscle activities. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27064571

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