When we say the pushup is a classic exercise, we mean it literally. Based on drawings from the classical era, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (who came to power in A.D. 306) did pushups to stay in shape. The pushup remains a fitness staple because it engages the body from top to bottom, working several muscle groups at once: the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. Ben Taucher, the club manager of Anytime Fitness in Central Point, offers these suggestions and tips to experiment with variations on the original form. If you’re just starting or need to modify these pushups, rest your knees on the floor instead of balancing on your toes. Beginners should try to aim for 10 pushups at once, while people with more advanced skills should try to do 10 of each move.
This one movement is a fitness staple because it does so much at once, according to Taucher. It engages your chest (pectorals), triceps, shoulders (deltoids), wings (serratus anterior) and abdominals. In this form, you lift about 70% of your own bodyweight.
How to do it: Assume a plank position on all fours, facing the floor with your feet close together and your hands under your shoulders. Lower your chest close to the floor without touching, then press back up.
Form tip: Your torso should be in a straight line with your legs. In the down position, your upper arms should make a 45° angle with your torso.
This variation targets the triceps, which are the largest muscle group in the arms, running from the elbow to the shoulder. The triceps contribute to shoulder stability and upper arm strength.
How to do it: Assume the classic pushup pose but move your hands closer together. A good distance is to create a “football field goal” with your fingers pointing up and your thumbs touching each other.
Form tip: As you lower yourself to the floor, keep your elbows locked tight to your sides.
Taucher says this style will not only get your heart rate up, but will add a level of stability that targets your abs.
How to do it: Assume the classic pushup pose, but with feet spaced 12 inches apart. Lift one hand off the ground and tap your opposite shoulder. Then lower your chest as you return that hand to the floor. Repeat with the opposite hand.
Form tip: Stay in control the whole time, and do not rotate your body to the side when balanced in tripod position.