It might be hard to believe, but yes, you can get buff from doing push
ups. But if you really want to get maximum results, you might want to
check out some of these tips, they'll help you reach your goals faster
and more efficiently.
1. Set Goals
Okay, technically this isn't a tip on push ups, but it's a really good idea. Research has shown that people who write down their goals and post it where they can see it every day are much more likely to stick with it. So regardless of what your end goal is (such as "Get Buff," "Tone Up," "Lose Weight" or even "Do More Push Ups") write it down. And get specific, "Do More Push Ups" is great, but "Do 50 push ups in one set" is much more targeted - and something you can focus your efforts on.
But enough about that, let's get into the meat and potatoes.
2. Push Up Tempo - Slower Isn't Always Better
Chances are you've heard over and over again that you should perform any kind of strength training at a slow and controlled pace. I say throw this philosophy out the window. It's antiquated. It's a leftover ideal lingering around from the old days - like an old wives tale, but with less truth to substantiate it.
If you really want to get the most bang for your buck while you're cranking out push ups, try this: Lower yourself to the down position slowly and methodically, pause for a brief second, then explode up. Give it everything you've got on the "up" part of the push up.
Why do I recommend this? Because this activates your fast-twitch muscle fibers, the ones responsible for explosive power, but also for that buff look. Slowly pushing up is fine, but it only builds muscle endurance, which won't give you that buff look. Here's the difference in the real world: Sprinters train their fast twitch muscle fibers, whereas marathon runners train their slow twitch ones. Guess which ones have the ultra ripped bodies? Sprinters. Exactly.
Note: Never perform any strength training exercise in an "out of control" fashion. If you don't feel comfortable or safe, re-evaluate what you're doing, make some adjustments and try again. If this is beyond your skill level, don't push yourself beyond your limits. You'll get there, no need to get yourself hurt in the meantime.
3. Add Instability To Your Push Ups
The biggest advantage of push ups over comparable machine or free weight exercises is the role your stabilizing muscles play during a push up. Even though your chest, shoulders and triceps are performing the actual push, nearly every muscle in your body is firing to keep your body in the proper position during the process.
So why not take advantage of this? Instead of dropping into the standard push up position, try balancing one one foot. Or changing your hand positions so one is higher than the other. You'd be surprised at how something that seems so negligible can really add a whole new dimension to your routine.
If you're looking for something even more advanced, try using stability balls, medicine balls or any other unstable surface. Try putting your feet on them and feel the difference in your midsection. Or keep your feet on the ground and put one or both hands on them. You'll feel it in your abs. In fact, I've had so much success with this kind of training that I often don't even both with crunches, sit ups or other ab exercises, simply because push ups on an unstable surface works my abs so much that they are unnecessary.
4. Try Incline Push Ups
One of the biggest criticisms of push ups is that it's difficult to add resistance. Not true. That's just the old wives talking again - you should probably ignore them, as old wives aren't the best experts on getting buff.
If you're at the point where you want to add more "weight" to your push ups, alter the elevation of your feet in relation to your hands. Simply put: Elevate your feet on a chair, bench or stair while keeping your hands on the ground.
By doing this you'll be changing the (physics term coming up...) "Fulcrum" of the movement. And by moving it forward, you'll be adding resistance. The more resistance you want, the higher you should elevate your feet.
Speaking of which, if you're looking for a way to make push ups easier - for those who have trouble completing more than just a few at a time - try elevating your hands. Move the fulcrum backwards and the mechanical advantage changes in your favor, and the exercise becomes much easier.
5. Advanced Push Ups
If the above tips aren't hard core enough for your needs, try out some of these variations. They're incredibly difficult, so I wouldn't recommend them to the average Joe. But if you've made it this far down the article, you're probably not an average Joe. And if you are (in terms of push ups, not your wonderful personality), consider these a goal to set for yourself.
One Arm Push Ups: As the name implies, you only use one arm rather than two. Place the unused hand on the small of your back throughout the entire movement. You'll probably notice that your body will want to twist, which is normal; you are, after all, submitting it to a very unbalanced situation. With one-arm push ups, the level of difficulty can be somewhat controlled by the spacing between your legs. Spread your feet out as far as possible for a more solid base (easier), or put them together and feel every muscle in your body shake throughout the entire movement (hard).
Hand Stand Push Ups: Remember the fulcrum we spoke about earlier? With a hand stand push up there is no fulcrum. You're literally pushing the entire weight of your body up and down vertically in space. And to make matters worse - or for the purposes of getting buff, "to make matters better" - you'll be using more of the smaller muscles in your upper chest and shoulders. So not only is the resistance incredibly high, but the muscles you're using are smaller. Try them with your feet up against at wall at first, or have a friend hold them up. But try to eventually perform them "unassisted," that is from a self-sustained hand stand position the entire time.
Plance Push Ups: I saved these for last for a very good reason. They're tough. Very tough. This is the kind of movement that professional gymnasts spend years working on before they're able to perform them correctly. So what is a Plance push up? Imagine this: Do a regular push up, then move your hands down to your waist and balance your entire body one them (pick your feet up). Now dip down, then back up again. That's a Planche push up. It's the holy grail of push ups, and if you can do them, you're one of a very select few. And chances are you're pretty darned buff.
Yes, you can get buff with push ups.