Fit for Life…Everyday Exercise 2 of 10

PUSH-UPS! This is the second exercise of ten in the functional fitness series. Remember a functional exercise will engage your body in multiple planes of movement (front/back, side/side, rotational, etc.) or engage multiple joints at one time during the course of the given exercise.

During the push-up exercise several muscle groups in the chest, arms, forearms, shoulders, triceps, back, and neck work simultaneously. And because push-ups are performed in a prone, front leaning position, they also help develop core and shoulder stabilizing strength which aids in good posture.


The above graphic illustrates the body position progressions for the push up exercise. For the standing push up, moving the legs further away from the wall will make the push up more difficult. After the wall push up, the next transition would be to a table or counter height push-up. When performing the last two push ups variations (knee and classic), make sure the wrists are directly below the shoulder joints.

How To Progress: You should be able to complete 2-3 sets of 8 to 12 repetitions of each push-up variation before progressing onward to the next level of difficulty. Instructions for performing a push-up in the classic position follow below. Use those guidelines to adjust and modify your hand and feet positions for all push-up progressions (wall, counter, knees, toes).

For the classic push-up, start on your hands and knees, with hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. You may angle your hands to accommodate a position that feels best for your wrists. Knees can be spread from hip to shoulder-width apart; find a position that feels comfortable for you, engage your core and butt muscles and raise yourself up to a high-plank position. The closer your feet are together, the more challenging the exercise will be.

Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles; no sagging or piking at the hip. You will use your core strength to maintain this body position throughout the downward and upward phase of the exercise. As you lower your body down towards the ground, make sure that you achieve at least a 90-degree angle at your elbows; lowering your chest to the ground will increase the intensity of the exercise. Pause for a moment in the downward position before pushing yourself back up into the starting position.

Once you master the basic push-up, you’ll be ready to add some variety to this exercise. Here’s a brief list of the different types of push-ups you can perform to further strengthen and challenge you:

  • Narrow (diamond) push-up
  • Single leg push-up
  • Spiderman push-up
  • Staggered push-up
  • Decline push-up
  • T push-up
  • Push-up to Forearm Plank to push-up

If you would like explanations or pictures for the push-up variations, just attach your comments or questions to this post. Functional fitness exercise number 3 of 10 will be posted mid-week. In the meantime…drop and give me 10!

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