Hi friends! How is everyone’s day so far? I’m teaching two classes this morning and then working on some freelance stuff, so my day is looking busy, busy (in a good way!).
Today I want to talk about push ups. I’m not going to pretend like push ups are my favorite exercise—they’re not—but they are SO effective. I lifted weights on a regular basis all four years of college—bicep curls, overhead presses, tricep kickbacks, etc.—and nothing has toned my arms the way push ups (and yoga!) have. True story.
Now before I start talking about push ups let me say this: I am in no way the push up queen. I can do 10 maybe 12 before I start thinking ‘damn these are hard’. I am not an expert, but I do think they’re important to fit into your workout regimen.
Lucky for me, I get push up practice in on a pretty regular basis. At the barre studio, we do push ups in virtually every class. Whether it’s 5 push ups or 35 push ups, we make sure to squeeze them in. Buy why?
Though push ups seem to work the arms and shoulders (and they do), they actually work the entire body. In short, along with working your arms, they work your back, your core and your legs. Today I’m sharing 7 of my favorite (or not-so-favorite) push up variations, along with step-by-step instructions on how to complete them! Take it from me when I say that completing 1 push up will make you feel like you can complete more, and then when you complete more you will feel like you deserve a medal. If you’re already a push up pro, teach me your ways!
THE BASIC PUSH UP
Start in a basic plank position, arms straight, wrists under shoulders, body in a straight line, legs straight and feet behind you. Make sure your hands are slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Bend at the elbow and lead with your chest to lower down, keeping your body in that straight line, and then straighten your elbows to lift back up. That is a basic push up. Make sure when you bend your elbows that they go out to the side and that your gaze is on the ground so your neck is long, rather than looking up which can strain your neck a bit.
THE TRICEP PUSH UP
Start in a basic plank position, the same way you start a basic push up. This time keep both hands under your shoulders and shoulder width apart so when you bend your elbows to lower down, your elbows should to straight behind you rather than out to the side. You should absolutely feel this working your tricep muscles.
THE SPIDERMAN PUSH UP
Before I give the step-by-step instructions, let me just say that these are HARD, at least in my opinion. These work your entire body with an emphasis on your obliques, though, so I definitely recommend trying a few if you aren’t already familiar with them.
OK so.. start in a basic plank position, the same way you start a basic push up. Keep your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, body in that straight line. This time when you bend your elbows to lower down, bend your right knee and bring it to touch your right elbow. When you lift back up, return your right foot to its starting position and repeat this on the left. Alternate legs for the entire set.
THE SINGLE LEG RAISE PUSH UP
Get ready for this.. we are starting the SAME way as the basic push up (hands a bit wider than shoulders, arms straight, body in straight line). When you bend your elbows out wide to lower down, lift your right leg straight behind you about a foot about the left. When you straighten your elbows to lift back up, lower your right leg down. Repeat this sequence on the left side and then alternate leg lifts every time you lower down.
THE DIAMOND PUSH UP
Start in an upward plank position. This time, however, bring your hands together in front of you and form a diamond with both hands. Do this by bringing your index fingers and thumbs together to touch (shown in photo above). From here, bend both elbows slightly and and then lift back up. When you lower down, your hands should be directly under your chest. Because of the way your hands are, you won’t be able to lower down as low as you can with most of the other push ups, and that’s ok. Lower half way and then press back up, keeping your hands in that diamond shape the entire time.
THE DOWNWARD DOG PUSH UP
New starting position for this one! You’re going to start in a downward dog position. Do so by bringing your hands and feet to the ground, forming an upside down “V” with your body. Press into the floor with your palms, both legs should be hips-width distance apart and straight, feeling the stretch in the back of your hamstrings, gaze is in between your legs, butt is up in the air. Walk your hands in about 2” and then bend your elbows to lower down so that your head comes extremely close to the ground before straightening back up. You will really feel this work your shoulders, thought it works your back and core as well.
THE MODIFICATION: KNEE PUSH UPS
Let me preface by saying that, even though this is called “the modification”, they are still challenging and an excellent workout. I do “girl push ups” (<<hate calling them that) A LOT in class because A) I know I’m still getting a good workout in B) I don’t want my arms to fall off and C) I’m physically not strong enough to do 35 full out push ups, and I’m ok with that. With that said…
For these, you’ll want on all 4’s—your hands and knees. From these, rock onto your knees and shift your hips forward so that your torso is in a straight line. Squeeze your hamstrings to bring both feet in a bit closer to your butt (you don’t want your shins resting on the ground) and make sure your butt is in line with your back and not sticking out! Next, walk your hands out about a foot away from your body, Now, when you bend your elbows out to the side, you should be leading with your chest and you should feel it in your arms. If you don’t feel it, you may need to walk your hands out a bit more, making sure they are a bit wider than shoulder-width apart. Make sure when you bend your elbows that you’re lowering your entire torso, not just your upper body.
This is me smiling because I LOVE PUSH UPS. And because I was happy to be done with the photos.
PS as I was typing this post up I was listening to Sia’s “Elastic Heart” on repeat. The entire time. Not knowing any of the words but loving it anyway. After about 14 times I finally decided to look up the lyrics and now the song actually makes sense.
Anywho… I hope this has inspired you to do some push ups today. You have 7 variations to choose from, so hopefully you find a favorite of your own!
Q: Do you push up? What’s your favorite variation?