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Ditch the Gym: Push up Exercise Routines

written by: Sylvie Colette • edited by: Cheryl Gabbert • updated: 12/12/2010

Push ups offer a full body workout, targeting the arms, chest, back and core. A push up exercise routine can take your body through a full range of muscles while quickly showing results in strength and definition.

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    Body weight exercises can be the sole focus of your workout regimen. Exercise wherever you are, with no special equipment. These push up exercise routines are ideal for both busy moms, students, traveling salesmen and military and body builders alike.

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    Traditional Pushup

    • Lie facedown on the ground with your hands a little more than shoulder length apart. Raise up and balance on your hands and the balls of your feet.
    • Keeping the body straight, with your abdominals tight, lower yourself to the ground.
    • Push back up right before you touch the ground.
    • Repeat using solid form.

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    Variations for Beginners

    If you are unable to complete traditional pushups, reduce your lifting load by approximately 50% by switching from your toes to your knees. Maintaining a tight core and straight line from head to torso is still of utmost importance. Switch between the two forms until you can do the traditional push up exclusively.

    Another way to make a traditional push up more accessible as a beginner is to perform a push up on a bench or step. Be sure the bench is very stable before attempting to pushup on it. These incline push ups reduces the workload sligthly, if it is too easy, place one foot on top of the other heel as you practice your push ups, alternating the raised foot.

    Wall push ups are the easiest way to begin a push up routine. Stand facing a wall and push off, the closer you stand to the wall the easier these pushups are to perform. The pressure on the arms is dramatically reduced and you can ease into standing farther from the wall, eventually trying incline push ups and knee pushups.

    Continue to be aware of your body alignment and maintain control to maximize results with any of these variations.

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    Hand Postitions

    Changing the way you position your hands directly effects the muscles that a push up uses. Try to vary your hand positions; fingers pointed in, fingers pointed out, a wide arm stance and a very close arm stance. Each of these offers a simple way to amplify your workout switching the focus from your biceps to triceps and all the different muscles in your back and chest.

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    Push Up Exercise Routines: How to Get Fit with Push UpsPush ups offer a way to build your core strength and strong muscles. A progressive workout routine needs to be tailored to your abilities. Page 2 describes more advanced forms of push up exercise routines. Use these exercises to design your own program.
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    Advanced Variations

    Explosive Push up

    Same technique as the traditional push up, but push yourself up with enough force that your hands come off the floor. Land and immediately lower yourself into the next push up. Aim for 10 reps in 10 seconds.

    Push up on a Ball

    Place your feet on a exercise ball to work on your balance and deep muscles. Be sure to maintain control throughout the entire movement when using balls as props.

    Exercise Ball Push up

    With the balls of your feet on the floor, get into the standard push up position but place your hands on the sides of an exercise ball directly under your shoulders. Keep your body in a straight line from your head to your heels and bend at the arms until your chest touches the ball. Pause, then push up to the starting position.

    Push up Shuffle

    Assume the push up position, but instead of placing both hands on the floor, place your left hand on a medicine ball. Bend you arms to lower your body toward the floor. Push yourself up with enough force to lift your hand off the ball and switch to the other side. Now, with your right hand on the ball, repeat.

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    Repetitions in a Push up Exercise Routine

    Keeping track of your repetitions is the first step in a successful push up workout program. It may be humbling, but be honest with yourself and count only the push ups you do with proper form.

    3 sets of 15 repetitions is a good starting point. When those 3 sets become effortless, go for 20, 30 or 50 repetitions.

    Introduce more difficult versions of the push up throughout your workouts to keep it interesting and increase the resistance.

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    Warm Up and Cool Down Push up

    Hindu push ups are a great way to get the blood pumping before push up exercise routines, and are ideal for cooling down after your session. Stretching the muscles and warming them up allows them to perform better.

    Hindu Push up.

    1. Start with your feet shoulder-width apart and your butt high in the air. Head down, look back at your heels.
    2. Lower your hips, but don't allow them to touch the floor, as you push up with your arms.
    3. Finish with your head up and your back arched.
    4. Push back to the starting position and repeat 8-10 times.

    Complete your push up exercise routines with a round of these hindu push ups to fully stretch your muscles and bring your heart rate back down.

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    Men's Health Total Fitness Guide, Rodale, 2008

    Body Sculpting Manual 2008