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Push ups: Why You Should Be Doing Them

Updated: Jun 23, 2021

Love them or hate them, push ups are an exercise that everyone should be doing. They are one of the oldest exercises and remain a standard of many exercise programs because they are effective. Push ups build upper body strength in the chest, shoulders, upper arms, and back. Your core muscles (abdominals and muscles surrounding the spine) are working and also getting stronger as they help keep your body aligned throughout the exercise as are your hips and legs. So in reality, every muscle from your shoulders to your toes (or knees) is working. What if you can’t get down on the floor? No problem - do them against a wall or a counter top; just make sure you’re on your toes and at an angle so that the majority of your body weight is suspended against gravity.

For proper push up form, follow this guideline: Whether you’re on your toes or knees, maintain a straight line from your neck to your hips – no sagging. Hands should be slightly shoulder-width apart. When lowering your body,, keep abdominals engaged for maintaining optimal form. As you bend your elbows to lower yourself, try to go about 3 inches from the floor (use book about this size as a guide to give you an idea of where that is). Fully extend your arms to come back up to the start position. Repeat as many times as you can while maintaining good form. Have someone watch you to make sure you’re doing it correctly or if you have a mirror, check out your form yourself. If you plan to do more than one set successively, rest for 1-2 minutes in between sets.

Is there a proper breathing technique for doing pushups? There is not. Some people believe it works best if you exhale as you lower your body and inhale as you lift your body. This doesn’t work as well for me and I instruct my clients to do the reverse. I find that I have much more power if I exhale to push myself up and inhale to lower back down. Try both ways yourself to see what works best for you.

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