4 Reasons Why Push-Ups Are Worth the Challenge

You may remember push-ups from your elementary-school physical fitness test, but unlike the hard plastic My Little Pony lunchbox with matching thermos you used to carry around, this exercise has not gone out of style.

  1. Push-ups are your best bet for toning your entire upper body: chest, forearms, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper and lower back.
  2. When executed in good form, they'll challenge your entire core and legs too. Not to mention the pushing action of the push-up will strengthen your arms and heart, making you stronger in both areas.
  3. Push-ups can be done anywhere, and since there are many variations of this move, you can alter per your skill level.
  4. They're an inexpensive way to exercise at home-no extra workout supplied needed!

On the flip side, getting good at push-ups is challenging. Since most of us don't work our triceps everyday, doing a set of just five can be difficult, frustrating, and exhausting right off the bat. So which is better-doing a lower number of full push-ups, or a high number of kneeling push-ups? According to Sara Haley, Fitness DVD Personality, Master Trainer and Creative Consultant for Reebok, "Always perform as many reps of an exercise with proper form. Do as many full push-ups as you can with your core engaged (this means with no break or sway in the back). If you feel you are beginning to lose your form, that is the time to start going halfway down. When halfway starts to suffer, it's time to go to your knees."

So regardless of where your skill and strength levels are, here are three different ways to do push-ups. Soon, you'll be so strong, your friends will think you've been spending time working out with U.S. Marines.

Beginner: Wall Push-Up
  • Stand an arm's length away from the wall.
  • Place your palms on the wall and bend at the elbows to do 20 standing push-ups.
  • Push your body back from the wall harder each time, moving slowly and maintaining control.
  • Increase the intensity by using one arm at a time, or lifting your fingers away from the wall.
  • Do 10 repetitions for 1-3 sets.

Intermediate: Kneeling Push-Up
  • Assume a push-up position, but bend your knees, placing them on the floor. You should use a folded towel or mat under your knees for support.
  • Place your hands in line with your shoulders on either side of your torso.
  • Make sure your fingertips face forward.
  • Cross your ankles as you lean forward.
  • Lower your chest until you are about 3 inches off the floor and press back up to the starting position.
  • Do 10 repetitions for 3-4 sets.

Advanced: Full Push-Up
  • Assume a push-up position, knees locked and off the floor, supporting yourself on your toes. Don't let your back dip or arch-keep it straight-and lower yourself so that your chest hits the floor first. Even if you can only do one or two at first, eventually you'll be able to do them exclusively on your toes.
  • Do 10 repetitions for 3-4 sets.
Note: If putting your palms flat on the floor is too much stress on your wrists, grip two medium-weight dumbbells and push off of those.

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Reprinted with permission of Hearst Communications, Inc.