Turning a Boring Push-up into a Serious Challenge

The push-up is probably the first introduction the majority of us have had to exercise.  It is a standard bodyweight press, which targets the chest and tricep muscles.  Along with the sit-up and pull-up, the push-up makes up the core group of exercises we probably all began as children.  Growing up, P.E. classes often conducted physical fitness tests which involved, among other things like the mile, and shuttle run; push-ups.

It’s no wonder that less and less people do push-ups in their exercise routine.  Even the freshest moves you hear about lose their appeal after a few months.  Push-ups have been a part of our routine for almost our entire lives.  Most assume they are too standard and elementary to serve any real purpose in a chest routine.

The key is to turn the standard, hands chest-width apart-back straight-all the way down, push-up into something that not only adds a bit of variety to your routine, but becomes MUCH more effective in hitting your muscle fibers which result in better gains in the gym.

The following exercises can be done with nothing more than your own bodyweight and an exercise ball.  In some instances, a simple park bench or raised surface can substitute.  Keep in mind, many things can be made even harder for more advanced individuals by placing a weighted plate on your mid-back.  If you have any back problems however, you should avoid doing this.

This is a good introduction to increasing the difficulty of your push-up.  By elevating your feet, you increase the pressure felt on your chest, triceps, and deltoid (shoulder) muscles.  Lower yourself slowly until your shoulders are just about 3 inches off the floor as not to overly increase the torque on your shoulder joints, and then following the same pace, raise yourself back up while keeping a straight and steady back.  If you were incorporating this into an entire push-up routine, this would be a good place to start to adequately warm those muscles up.

Side-squeeze push-ups are a way to add even more variety into your routine.  Squeeze the ball at about 10 and 2 with a great deal of strength.  Like a regular push-up, lower yourself slowly with a straight back and then follow the same path up.  To increase the difficulty, you can try elevating your feet like in the previous exercise.

Moving down the list and getting progressively harder, we have the two ball push-up.  In this exercise you assume the elevated upper-body position.  It’s made even harder by placing each hand on an individual exercise ball.  Doing push-ups on an unstable surface, like an exercise ball is awesome because it targets so many stabilizing muscles and muscle fibers in your chest that would have otherwise gone ignored or under trained.  Hitting 15 of these in a row is serious work if you aren’t in at least decent shape.

To really increase the difficulty give this move a try.  Here, everything is off the ground.  Between your ankles you are pressing your legs together with enough force that the smaller ball in between is staying in place.  Your hands are on the larger ball, with a grip at about 11 and 1.  The grip can obviously be changed up to suit you best however.  This exercise will hit almost every muscle group in your body.  Really tighten your core muscles for added stability and a great way to hit that group while you do push-ups.  Two birds, one stone.

By building a push-up routine using these 4 exercises, you can supplement your standard chest routine.  Either try to work them in on lighter chest days, or do them completely on their own day for extra chest work.  You do need to be careful not to  over train however.  Give yourself the proper rest before re-targeting your chest and triceps. For an insane workout try this:

Exercise 1: set 1-15 reps, rest 30 seconds, set 2-15 reps

Exercise 2-4: repeat.

Repeat this cycle for a total of 3 times.


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