Build Serious Muscle with the Push-Up

The ‘Push-Up’ should be viewed as the atom of all weight lifting life. It’s where it all started; using your body weight to push your body up from the ground to get stronger and build muscle.

It’s so simple, yet so perfect.

The push-up is an exercise you can perform anywhere, anytime, and at any fitness level, which is what makes the exercise so versatile. The variations of a push-up and how you perform it can be adjusted depending on your goals. So, whether you are just beginning your lifting journey or you are an experienced fitness guru, the push-up can be incorporated into your training routine in a variety of ways.

Build Serious Muscle with the Push-Up

Proper Form

Form is key to all exercises and the same rules apply to the push-up. When performing a standard pushup you want to have your hands just a little wider than shoulder width apart. Keep your neck in line with your spine and your hands parallel in line with your chest. Keep your feet together and tighten your core and glutes. Inhale as you lower yourself down, with your chest touching the ground, and exhale on the push-up.

The King of Super Sets

In my opinion, the push-up is the king of all super set exercises. Performing a set of 10-15 push-ups immediately after another exercise doesn’t require you to use another machine, another bench, or another set of weights. You can simply drop down to the ground immediately after finishing your first exercise and fire off a set of push-ups.

And, performing a push-up super set isn’t limited to just chest day. By changing the positioning of your hands and body you can also super set your back day, arm day, or shoulder day with an intense set of push-ups.

Standard Push-Up: Performing a standard push-up places emphasis on working your chest. Performing a super set of 10-15 push-ups after your bench press set or dumbbell flies is a great way to intensify your workout and keep your chest under tension.

Pike Push-Up: A pike push-up places emphasis on working your shoulders. First, get into a normal push-up position then walk your feet towards your hands while keep your legs straight, until your body resembles an inverted V shape. Bend your elbows until your head touches the ground then push yourself back-up and that’s one rep. On a shoulder day you can super set 10 repetitions of this exercise with lateral raises or shrugs.

Close Grip Push-Up: Similar to the standard push-up, the close grip push-up will target your triceps. Get into the same position as a standard push-up, but bring your hands inward, closer than shoulder width apart. Drop down and push yourself back up, feeling the squeeze in your triceps. If a chest/triceps day is part of your split you can perform these as a super set with your chest exercises or you can super set this push-up variation with a biceps exercise on arm day.

Wide Grip Push- Up: Using the standard push-up position, move your hands even further apart for a wide stance. Wide grip push-ups will put the emphasis of tensions on your back. Super setting these push-ups with lat pull-downs or cable rows will help you build a stronger, thicker back.

HIIT Session and Body Weight Training

The push-up is the godfather of body weight exercises and can also play a large role in HIIT training. Whether you are a body weight athlete, wanting to ditch the treadmill for an epic HIIT session, or looking for a quick body weight circuit to perform on your active rest days, this push-up focused circuit is a great way to work both your upper and lower body.

HIIT Circuit (Approximately 12-15 Minutes)

• Standard Push-Up: 10 reps
Burpees: 5 reps
• Close Grip Push-Up: 10 reps
• Burpees: 5 reps
• Pike Push-Up: 10 rep
• Repeat all 5 exercises back to back, no rest and that’s 1 circuit. Rest 45 Seconds then repeat. Complete 3-4 circuits

Body Weight Training Session

If performing a body weight exercise day on one of your active rest days you can use the same format as the HIIT Circuit above, but increase the repetitions and rest period. Perform 15-20 repetitions of each push-up exercise, 5-10 burpees, and rest 90-120 seconds between circuits.

Build Serious Muscle with the Push-Up

Add some weight

As with any exercise, the key to building muscle is through progressive overload. We are always striving to lift more weight and placing our muscles under a constant state of tension is how we build muscle.

If you can do 10 or 20 pushups with correct form without blinking an eye then maybe it’s time to add some weight. Adding some weight to your back, without compromising your push-up form, is a great way to make your push-ups more difficult, put the muscles under a higher degree of tensions, and build some serious muscle throughout your upper body.

Push-Up Your Core

The push-up is also a great exercise to utilize for core work because the push-up position can be used for exercises that target strengthening your abdominals and obliques. Some simple, yet effective, core exercises that incorporate the push-up position include:

Mountain Climbers: Start in a standard push-up position. Bring your right leg forward towards your body, bending it, as if you were trying to touch your chin with your knee, and then move the leg back to the starting position. Repeat with the left leg and that counts as one rep. Alternate between your left and right leg at a moderate pace, keeping your core tight, and maintaining proper push-up position.

Knee-To-Opposite-Elbow Mountain Climbers: Similar to the standard mountain climber describe above, except you will slightly twist your body when bringing your leg up, trying to touch your right knee to your left elbow. This slight twist will target your obliques. Alternate between your left and right leg at a moderate pace, keeping your core tight, and maintaining proper push-up position.

Push-Up to Plank: Start in a standard push-up position. Bend your right arm down, bringing your elbow to the ground so the lower part of your arm is now touching the ground. Now, repeat with the left arm so your body is now in a plank position. Hold the plank for two seconds, push yourself back up into the push up position one arm at a time, and that counts as one rep. Repeat going up and down from push up to plank position.

Ab Circuit Example:

• Standard Mountain Climbers – 30 Reps
• 10 Second Rest
• Knee-To-Opposite-Elbow Mountain Climbers – 30 Reps
• 10 Second Rest
• Push-Up to Plank – 10 Reps
• 10 Second Rest, then repeat 4 times

This is a quick, 6-7 minute efficient ab circuit that will get your stomach burning and highlights the versatility of the push-up.

Great Upper Body Finisher

Ending your workout on an upper body day with push-ups is a great way to keep the blood flowing throughout your upper body and get a high intensity pump before leaving the gym. Once finished with your normal upper body lifts finish your workout with 100 push-ups. If you can do 100 straight push-ups then crank them out, you’re a beast. If not, perform 10-20 standard push-ups, rest 20 seconds, and repeat until you’ve completed 100. Depending on your lifting split you can perform these 2-3 days a week, incorporating an additional 200-300 push-ups into your training routine.

Brently Rousset

Brently Rousset is an INBA Men's Physique Novice champion and is currently studying to become a certified personal trainer. Fitness has been a part of his life since he was a kid from basketball to surfing to now bodybuilding. Brently is passionate about spreading his knowledge and experience to beginner lifter's looking to start their own fitness journey. He plans on competing for his pro card on the Men's Physique stage within the next year. Brently's true passion is writing and providing others with exercise, nutrition, and lifestyle advice.

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