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The Benefits of Doing Push Ups

written by: lizblackwood • edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski • updated: 9/20/2011

Basic yet effective, push-ups have been an exercising staple for many years as they work a a variety of upper-body muscles. Learn two types of push-ups and how they can benefit your overall work out routine.

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    Push-ups are one of the easiest and most effective exercises you can do to build your upper body. Because push-ups target major muscle groups of the upper body, doing a set or two of push-ups on a regular basis can get your upper body into great shape, and you don't need a gym membership or a fitness trainer to get started.

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    What Muscles Do Push Ups Work?

    Push-ups target several different muscle groups including the pectorals, deltoids, triceps, and abdominals.

    Pectorals -- Located in the upper portion of the chest, the pectorals stretch from the humerus (the bone in the upper arm) to the sternum.

    Deltoids -- The deltoids stretch across the clavicle (or collar bone) and attach to the humerus.

    Triceps -- The triceps run along the back of the upper arm and help stabilize the shoulder joint.

    Abdominals -- When correctly performed, with the shoulders and hips in proper alignment, push-ups work the major abdominal muscles, including the rectus abdominis and the transversus abdominis.

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    The Benefits

    Push-ups are convenient exercises that require no additional work-out equipment. Perform them at home, at work, or anywhere else when you have a spare moment. As a single exercise that targets four major muscle groups, push-ups are also extremely efficient.

    Push-ups offer numerous health benefits, increasing your upper body strength and stamina. Push-ups also help reduce the risk of injury by increasing bone strength and stabilizing the shoulder joint. Because they work the triceps, these exercises help reduce upper-arm jiggle and lead to toned upper arms.

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    The Exercise

    The Military Push-Up

    • Place your toes and hands on the floor, with your hands slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Engage your abdominal muscles by feeling your belly button move towards your spine. Lengthen your neck so that it continues the line of your spine.
    • Inhale as you lower your body to the floor. Stop as your elbow reaches a 90 degree bend. Keep your body from touching the floor.
    • Exhale and push yourself back into your starting position. Remember not to lock your elbows. Keep your abdominal muscles engaged so that your back does not arch.
    • Start by performing the number of repetitions that you are capable of. As you get stronger, add more repetitions.
    • If you are unable to keep your back from arching, this version is too difficult for your current fitness level. Perform the modified push-up for several weeks until you build your strength.

    The Modified Push-Up

    • Place your hands and knees on the floor. Bend your knees so that your feet do not touch the floor. Your hands should be slightly more than shoulder-width apart. Lengthen your neck and engage your abdominals so that there is a diagonal line running from the top of your head to your knees.
    • Inhale as you lower your body to the floor. Stop as your elbows reach a 90 degree bend. Keep your body from touching the floor.
    • Exhale and return your body to the starting position. Don’t lock your elbows or bend your back.
    • Start by performing the number of repetitions that you are capable of. As you get stronger, add more repetitions.
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    References

    About Exercise: Chest Exercises: Push Ups - www.exercise.about.com/od/exerciseworkouts/ss/chestexercises_3.htm

    Mens Health: Push Ups: More on the Floor -www.menshealth.com/men/fitness/muscle-building/push-ups/article/d2f999edbbbd201099edbbbd2010cfe793cd

    "The Concise Book of Muscles"; Chris Jarmey; 2003