Pushups are one of those things we all think of when thinking about general exercise. Popular media has cemented this – how many times in workout montages do we see characters doing pushups, sometimes with another character motivating or adding a challenge to it? How many times have we seen the rigors of military training (inaccurately) portrayed in narrative shorthand via “drop and give me fifty” or something of the like?
Well, while popular media like this is often inaccurate for the sake of the narrative above, there is a lot to be gained from including pushups in your exercise regimen. The thing is, there are several kinds of pushups, not just “normal, one-handed, and clap,” which is what one would typically expect.
Today, we’re going to talk about six types of pushups and the benefits they offer. They’re far from the only ones; there are many subtle variations you can do with the pushup.
Before we begin, let’s talk a little bit about why pushups, in general, are beneficial and cover a warning for certain people. Any exercise routine, under certain medical conditions, can be harmful rather than beneficial.
Let’s get those caveats out of the way first. If you have shoulder or joint problems from osteoporosis or severe rheumatoid arthritis, or long-lasting symptoms from bad injuries, you may need to modify pushups to do them safely. You should probably limit yourself to semi-pushups where the knees hold some of the weight. Pushups put a lot of strain on the shoulders and arms, moderate strain on your back, and moderate strain on the legs and feet.
Typically, this strain is helpful but will exacerbate existing issues in many cases. Thus, consult your doctor if you’ve got any conditions you think may conflict with this type of exercise.
Due in no small part to popular media, people falsely gauge their level of fitness by their ability to do ridiculous rep counts with pushups, and fancier forms thereof, such as the clap pushup or one-handed pushups. Don’t overdo it, you can hurt yourself, and excessive reps with pushups are no substitute for a balanced, varied exercise routine!
May as well start with the classic. It’s more or less the easiest one to train yourself for, and it’s the most balanced of pushups. This will work your back, your core, your biceps, your triceps, and your calves to varying degrees, and is an excellent part of a warmup routine.
To do a traditional pushup correctly, you should start facing down, weight on your palms and the balls of your feet (or toes if wearing shoes), legs straight and closed. As you lift yourself up, your arms should be straight beneath you, not splaying in any direction.
This is very much a plain, vertical lift of most of your body weight. It works most of your body all at once, which makes it an excellent general strength exercise, endurance exercise, warmup routine, and calorie burner all in one.
Wide Grip Pushup
Looking to focus on your chest and shoulders? Wide grip pushups are perfect for you, being an intentionally imbalanced pushup putting more work into these areas. This is an easy pushup to do, from a technical perspective.
All you need to do for this is to spread your arms further apart, lifting as normal, but with your arms splayed a bit more. It’s a more demanding pushup and not one for people with shoulder or joint problems. However, for tightening up your back, shoulders, and chest, you can’t beat this routine.
This one can work your arms a bit more, and provide some of the necessary asymmetric workouts your body needs. It’s easy to do, just performing a traditional pushup, but with your hands not parallel – one should be higher than the other.
Shift the positions of your hands, doing an even number of reps for each side. That’s really all there is to this. It may not sound like much of a difference, but the offsetting of your weight in this way is an excellent upper arm and back workout. It also helps to strengthen shoulders more evenly. Shoulders can be hard to keep even, and parallel/symmetrical exercise doesn’t always fix that.
If you want a little more challenge and harder workout from your pushup, consider the diamond pushup. Again, this variation isn’t complicated to come to terms with, but it’s harder work to perform a diamond pushup than a classic one.
Your hands are much closer together, traditionally forming a diamond shape between your thumbs and index fingers, and you lift in a traditional vertical motion. The trick with this is not to allow your elbows to flare outward. This will work your shoulders, biceps, and triceps harder due to the additional strain of a less-distributed center of gravity.
We’ve all seen people do this one to impress people, because it’s certainly not easy, and it’s certainly not for beginners. However, aside from legitimately being a way to kind of show off, this pushup technique does provide more of a workout and tests your body’s abilities quite well.
To start, assume a standard pushup position, but thrust yourself upward at a decent rate. While in the air, clap your hands, before landing. When you land, your arms should bend, absorbing shock in a similar way to bending your knees when landing from a jump. Use the impact velocity and some restitution (bounce) in your next rep.
Be careful; this isn’t for beginners. While you won’t injure yourself by going thud on the ground (and you will when first trying to master this), it can knock the wind out of you.
Most exercises are entirely unaffected by gender, but in the case of messing this up and landing face down on the floor, women may find the impact to their breasts to be quite painful. This isn’t something to snicker about – it can really hurt, so just be prepared.
This pushup is the most advanced one we will discuss. Like the clap pushup, you want to assume a standard pushup position and thrust yourself into the air. As you fly up, thrust your arms forward, assuming a superman flight pose, before catching yourself in a landing with bent arms just as you do with the clap pushup.
These last two pushups work on coordination, as well as accelerating circulation and respiration.
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