Muscles Targeted: If you’re looking for an excellent bodyweight exercise that really works your chest, then pushups are perfect for you. The pushup exercise targets the pectoralis major as the primary muscle group and it also works the deltoids and triceps as secondary muscles. Pushups also really work your core muscles of your abdominals and lower back since you need to stabilize yourself with these muscles during the movement. Depending on the hand position, you can target and place more stress on different muscle groups. If you take a very narrow grip and keep your elbows in during the movement, you will placing more emphasis on the triceps muscles. If you take a normal shoulder width hand position and let your elbows come out away from your body, then you will target more of the chest region when doing the pushup exercise. Your shoulders, especially your front deltoids, will always be worked when doing pushups due to the range of motion of the exercise.
Exercise Advice: Begin this exercise by placing your hands at a shoulder width position firmly on the ground. Your feet position should be a little closer than shoulder width, with your toes touching the floor. The most important thing to remember when doing pushups, is to keep your back flat during the entire exercise. It’s very helpful to do pushups in front of a mirror, so you can really watch your form and work on your technique. Avoid arching your back or rolling it when you do pushups. With your back flat and your hands and feet placed firmly on the ground, begin this exercise by slowly lowering your body until your chest slightly touches the floor. Push yourself back up to the top position to complete one full repetition. Try to do anywhere from 15-50 reps for this exercise. If you have trouble doing a full pushup, you can place your knees on your floor and do the pushups. This relieves a considerable amount of bodyweight from the exercise and if you’re a girl with limited upper body strength, then the knee assisted pushups will work great for you. For more advanced individuals, pushups are amazing because there are so many different variations that you can incorporate into your chest workout. You can do narrow grip pushups, wide grip pushups, one arm pushups and you can even do moving pushups where you move laterally as you do them. You can also do inclined pushups on a bench which works your lower pecs and you can do declined pushups where you place your feet up on a bench and this targets your upper chest muscles and your front deltoids.
Things To Avoid: A few very important things to avoid when doing this exercise is keeping your back flat and lowering yourself to the proper position on the eccentric (bottom) portion of this exercise. It’s very easy to let your back either arch or roll when doing pushups. Pushups actually really work your core muscles since you need to stabilize your abs and lower back during the range of motion. Try to really work on keeping a level and flat back when you lower and raise yourself and if you can do them in front of a mirror, it will really help to visually see if you’re getting in the correct position. Also, when lowering yourself to the bottom position, its important to go all the way down until your chest touches the floor. By not going down low enough, you will not be able to get the maximum stretch in your pecs which limits your overall growth in the muscle. You want to maximize the range of motion in order to get the most out of the pushup exercise. So, doing full pushups where you go all the way down and back up is the correct technique you want to follow when doing pushups. Another thing you want to avoid is an incorrect elbow position during the pushups. If your main goal is to build your chest, then you want to avoid keeping your elbows close into your sides when doing pushups. This places the most stress on your triceps muscles and not your chest. In order to maximize the stress on your chest, keep your elbows out and away from your sides. You will easily feel the difference in what muscle group is targeted when trying both variations.
Reps and Sets: To build strength and muscle definition in your chest, try to focus on higher reps with the pushup exercise. Since pushups are a bodyweight exercise, you will not be able to build a large amount of muscle mass in your pecs but pushups will give you a toned and hard look to your pecs. In order to build a lot of lean muscle mass and really pack on bulk in your upper body, you need to force your muscles to work by overloading them with a lot of weight, as you would do with the barbell bench press which is an excellent mass builder for the upper body. For pushups, your goal should be to do 15-50 reps per set depending on your strength levels. Do 5-8 sets of pushups if that is the only exercise in your chest workout. For a great finishing exercise, add pushups to the end of your mass building chest workout and leave it as a “finishing” exercise after doing bench press and other mass building exercises.
Other Exercises To Use: Some great exercises to combine with pushups in your bodyweight workout routine would be burpees and jumping jacks. These are three great exercises to get a great workout when you don’t have access to any free weights or machines. Try doing 15-20 reps of each exercise, back to back, for one full set. Do 5-10 full sets for an intense bodyweight workout that will get you sweating and burning a bunch of calories! If you want to add pushups as a finishing exercise to your weight lifting chest workout, then add them at the very end of your workout and “burn out” with 20-30 reps for 3-4 sets. If you can do more pushups, then do them until failure because your goal is to really burn them out and achieve a killer pump by getting all of the blood into your chest muscles until they feel like they’re going to explode!