The pushup

The pushup is a powerful compound movement that many people have used since the beginning of time to get a great upper body workout without the need for equipment or a gym. The movement is compound meaning that it works multiple muscle groups at the same time, thus you will see greater returns and gains with total energy output and also time saved by working your whole body. Let's find out more about this powerful, effective, and simply movement.

The movement

When you perform a pushup you want to get down on your knees and stretch out your arms and place your hands flat on the ground. Once they are planted firm and straight lift up the rest of your body so the only points on the ground are your hands and the tipushupps of your toes. Then begin the movement by letting your body go down to the ground and them pushing your body back up with your arms. Continue this movement many times until your arms tire out and then take a break. As you can see this exercise can be intense if you aren't in shape and your arm strength is lackluster, but the beauty of working out is that you build your strength by doing the exercises. Even if you can only do one or two full pushups that's a great foundation to begin a regimen on and go from there.

Muscles worked

Just like my article on the pull up, the pushup is a powerful compound movement that works multiple muscle groups at the same time. The power behind this is that all the muscles are getting an equal workout and grow together instead of separately like isolation exercises. The following muscles and muscle groups get worked when you perform the traditional push up:

  • Shoulders
  • Chest
  • Triceps
  • Core and Abs

As you can see this combined with the pull up is a powerful force to be reckoned with when it comes to compound upper body exercises. The pushup will prove to be a great addition to your shoulder and chest days as this movement works all of these muscles and really in force. The core and abs especially get worked when you tighten them hard because the stabilizer muscles in your core help you keep your balance while you are relying on just your toes and hands. I have felt the core and side muscles in my abdominal area hurt big time after doing many pushups, so you are sure to get a great workout with this exercise.


Compound movements

While I touched on this above, I wanted to go into further detail about the importance of compound movements. The importance of compound exercises cannot be understated, as many people are unfortunately taking a bad approach with doing many isolated exercises that work specific muscle groups while leaving the rest alone. The problem with this is that if you work just one muscle group it may get stronger, but to do typical tasks like lifting a heavy box it involves many more muscles than just...say...the biceps. Your biceps may be huge and strong but if you try lifting something super heavy your forearms and other stabilizer muscles aren't strong enough and this will lead to injury. Taking us back to pushups now, you don't want to perform isolation exercises on these muscle groups unless you are sure you know what you are doing and have a solid regimen that really hits each muscle group evenly. For the average novice and gym go'er this isn't practical so compound movements solve this problem easily

Instead of doing isolation movements, use exercises like the pushup to get that hard solid workout in knowing that every muscle involved is getting hit hardcore and you are really seeing all the stabilizer muscles and fast twitch muscle fibers get used. You will notice that as you get stronger each one of these muscle groups are stronger as well, and there was no need to isolate one of them. I still do isolation exercises on these muscle groups because I have been working out for a while and have a good program that ensures I work them evenly, but if you are a beginner the most practical thing you can do is a compound movement like the pushup and pull up.

Easy to do

Pushups are easy to do, and I don't mean they are easy to perform because that's based on your fitness level and strength. What I mean is that the movement is easy and you can do a pushup anytime you want. There is no need for complex movements or equipment to do a pushup, instead you can drop down and "give someone 20" right where you stand. It's wonderful to know that easy movements like the pushup are so readily available for you to perform while still giving you a solid, powerful workout at the same time. The military is big on pushups and a good sign of your upper body strength is how well you perform a pull up or pushup because it's a compound movement. Notice they never tell you to do 20 bicep curls; because that's not a signal of overall strength. You want to be doing these movements in addition to you free weight trainings so that way you work smaller muscles that isolation exercises could never hit.

Drill Sergeant


Drop down and give me 20!

Now that you know how to do a pushup, why you should do a pushup, and how powerful a pushup workout can be, get out there and do them! You can do them right where you are, or you can pull out your workout log and find a way to incorporate this easy and popular compound exercise into your regimen. I work the shoulders, triceps, and chest together in one day so the pushup fits like a glove right into my plan. Some bodybuilders prefer split days where shoulders and chests are separate. If this is the case then find which day would be more appropriate for you and make sure you put them in there. It doesn't have to be a lot, and you could even split the pushups into both days so you are continually stimulating the muscle growth in those areas. Regardless of how or when you do it, go for it and see those gains happen today!