Young man dressed in black workout clothes doing push ups


Written by: Elsie Velazquez cert. personal trainer at Prescription Fitness (Cleveland, Ohio)

When you think of the push-up exercise, you may not think there is much to them but you are wrong.  It is amazing the benefits that one simple exercise can deliver.  When doing a push-up (correctly, of course), you will be working several different muscle groups because push-ups fall into the compound movement category.  A compound movement is defined as any exercise that engages two or more different joints to fully stimulate entire muscle groups and, indeed, multiple muscles.

Push-ups incorporate the use of the muscles AND joints in your arms, shoulders, chest, back, abdominals and even your legs.  While your chest is the main muscle activated, your triceps, back and shoulders also play a role in the movement.  In addition, your legs (quads), your lower back, and your abs work hard to stabilize your body when performing the push-up exercise.  So, if you add all that up, you can see how effective push-ups can be.

One of the things I love most about the push-up (aside from the above) is that they can be done anywhere, anytime, and as often as you’d like.  You can work them into a cardio routine. You can work them in while watching t.v. during commercial breaks.  You can add them in during your lunch break at work.  Because push-ups get your blood flowing and energize you, start your day off with a set or two or three.

Because the push-up is a “basic” looking move, you would not think that the calorie burn it provides is significant but it is.  The reason is simple.  The more muscles worked during an exercise, the higher the calorie burn.  Because so many muscles are involved in the doing a push-up, your body requires more energy to perform the exercise– calories provide the energy and you are burning more calories.  Awesome, right?

Another reason to add push-ups to your workouts is that they can easily be modified.  Whether you are a beginner or advanced, there is a push-up variation for you!  Here are a few ideas:

  • Beginner:
    • Wall push-ups – with hands on wall, walk your feet away from the wall and proceed with pushing upper body away from the wall.
    • Kneeling push-ups – Place your hands on the ground, shoulder width apart. From your knees, lower your torso to the ground until your elbows form a 90 degree angle. Push back up and repeat.
  • Intermediate:
    • Bosu push-ups – instead of pushing up from the ground use a bosu ball to add instability
    • Triangle Push-ups – get in the basic push-up position but arrange your hands on the mat to form a trianglewith your thumbs and index fingers.
    • Single leg push-up – get in basic push-up position but lift one foot off the ground behind you and keep it up as you come down into a push-up.
  • Advanced:
    • Burpees – From a standing position kneel down and put your hands flat on the floor in front of your feet. Jump your feet back so you’re at the top of a push-up. Complete one push-up then jump your feet back up to your hands. Rise up, jumping up at the top. Land with bent knees and repeat.


I hope you are now excited to add push-ups to your routine.  If you have any questions, contact Prescription Fitness in Bay Village, Ohio at   A personal trainer is always on hand and willing to help!

About the author : jhaase

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