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Push-Ups Are the Ultimate Barometer of Fitness

If you want to be strong and fit, make the push-up a part of your regular fitness regimen. It’s the ultimate barometer of fitness—and you can do it anywhere.

The Importance of Push-Ups
A push-up is a compound exercise, meaning it requires more than one muscle group to perform the movement. In fact, some people even insist that the push-up is a near-perfect exercise. Push-ups work the entire upper body, including the chest, shoulders, triceps, and abdominals—but nearly every muscle in the body has to participate in a proper push-up. During a push-up, you’ll use your latissimus dorsi (Lats), trapezius (traps), and abdominal muscles to stabilize your pushing muscles and your lower back, legs, and glutes to maintain a perfect plank position and keep your hips from sagging.

Push-ups are a functional exercise—they require us to use several different muscle groups and to lift our own body weight. What’s more—they teach your muscles to work in harmony with each other.

So, why is this effective and simple (but not easy!) exercise so overlooked? Because it’s challenging!

Practice Push-Ups
Push-ups are taxing. They test the whole body. It takes strength and endurance to do them. But the effort will pay off. If you struggle to do even one push-up, it’s time to start practicing. The best way to perfect the push-up is to practice, practice, practice—and make it a daily habit. Push-ups don’t require anything more than a floor, so you can do them anywhere. That means there is no excuse to skip them!

Ready to drop and give us 10? Here’s how:

Push-up: Lie on your belly with your hands beneath your shoulders. Press into your palms and straighten your arms. Keep your head, neck, back, and hips in line as you lift yourself to a plank position. Now slowly lower almost all the way to the floor—and push back up.

Make it Easier
If a full push-up is too challenging, work up to it with these modifications:

  • Countertop: Lean against a countertop at a 45-degree angle and press up and down.
  • Incline: Push-ups that are slanted uphill are easier. Find a staircase (or other incline surface) and plant your palms on a stair higher than your feet.
  • Knees: Drop your knees to the floor, with your lower legs lifted toward your rear end. Create a plank position from the knees to the head and push up.

Make it Harder
Looking for a challenge? There are a several push-up variations that can help you take things to the next level:

  • Diamond push-ups: The closer you move your hands together, the harder a push-up is. Make a diamond shape with your index fingers and thumbs and angle your elbows toward your torso. Then, lower all the way down until your chest touches your hands and your forearms graze your ribs. Make sure you can do at least 20 regular push-ups before you try diamond push-ups.
  • Rotational push-ups: Start in a classic push-up position. As you push up, rotate your body so that your right arm reaches toward the ceiling (and your arms and torso for a T). Return to the starting position, lower, then push up and rotate and extend your left arm towards the ceiling.
  • Staggered push-ups: Place one hand on the floor and one hand on a medicine ball to perform your push-ups. Be sure to practice on both sides.