Most of us have probably done a push up at some point in our lives. We may have tried them when we were kids or when we first dipped our toes into exercise. While push ups are a mainstay in the army, children's physical education and organised workouts, they're often traded in for the bench press and weights at the gym.
Now there's nothing wrong with bench presses or weights as they play their own unique roles in one's strength training regime, however there are just so many reasons why we shouldn't forget the humble push up no matter where we are on our fitness journey. Here are seven reasons why the push up was awesome when it was first coined in 1905 over 100 years ago and why it’s still awesome today.
1. No need for equipment
You don't need any machines or weights to do push ups. This makes them a great addition to any lifestyle, whether you spend a lot of time in the office or a lot of time in hotel rooms. You can do push ups anywhere as long as you have a floor, so unless you live in the sea, you have no excuses!
2. But you can add equipment if you want
While push ups are traditionally done solely with your bodyweight, feel free to add some equipment in to change things up. For example, you could add in push up bars for a deeper exercise, a BOSU ball for instability or chains for extra resistance.
3. Endless variety
Do you get bored easily? Are you constantly looking for a challenge? If you thought that push ups were boring, then you're wrong. The choices for push ups are endless. Beyond the standard push up, there are elevated, single-leg, hindu, diamond, knuckle, one-arm and superman push ups just to name a few.
4. From easy to advanced
Whether you're a pro, novice or returning to exercise back from injury, there's a push up for you. Beginners can start out by doing them against the wall, while those who are looking for something more challenging can try different variations. This could involve increasing the angle, increasing the number of sets or reps (the current Guinness World Record for the most push ups in 24 hours is 46,001!), or throwing in plyometrics.
5. A full body affair
In contrast to the bench press and isolated chest exercises such as dumbbell flys, push ups are a close-chained exercise. What this means is that when you do a push up, it forces other muscles in your body to get involved. Even though push ups emphasise your chest, shoulders and triceps, your abs, lats and traps need to stabilise them, plus your lower back, legs and glutes must engage to keep your hips from sagging too low or arching up too high.
6. They teach us good posture
Have you ever noticed how straight your back is when you do a plank? Push ups are just like planks, however instead of keeping it static, we move it up and down. Done correctly, they teach us to maintain a "neutral lumbar position" also known as "good posture". This is extremely important as modern day lifestyles commonly demand us to sit in office chairs hunched over computer screens all day long.
7. They're a great test
Ever heard of "drop and give me 20", "the 30-day push up challenge" or "the 100 push up challenge". Push ups are synonymous with testing one's strength. This makes them great for testing out how well your strength training is going every few months, as well as being a simple exercise which you can do with friends to progress together.
If you haven’t done a push up in a while, give it a go and play around with the different variations. You may just remember how much you love them… now drop and give me 20!