*Scroll down to watch the video!
We have the tendency to think of working out and heading to the gym as a competitive “exercise” in vanity, one where we’re constantly “fighting” with our bodies to look a certain way. The issue of whether to go to the gym, or not go to the gym, becomes polarized in our imagination: either I exercise, or I don’t.
While our initial drive to start exercising might be for aesthetic reasons—to lose weight and build sexy muscles—other things start to happen as a result. You start to experience your body in a new way. You become more aware of your body and how it works. You learn that your body isn’t something you need to fight with; your body is an amazing machine designed by nature to be strong, confident, and functional.
I like to think of push-ups as a “gateway” exercise into the fitness world because they give you a wonderful taste of what your body can do, instilling a sense of confidence and awareness that goes beyond vanity. While the push-up is not only fantastic for beginners, it’s also a foundational movement for even the most elite athletes. The list of benefits are endless, but below I’ve listed a few of the main ones.
Four Reasons Why the Push-Up Is Your Friend
The Push-Up Is a Safe Exercise
The push-up uses your own body’s weight—weight you’re accustomed to carrying around with you all day. This helps to prevent injuries associated with isolation movements. For the most part, the worst thing that can happen with a push-up is if your muscles reach failure and you flop onto the floor. Be mindful of push-ups that are shoulder intensive (like a grasshopper push-up) as the shoulder can be vulnerable to injury.
The Push-Up Is a Compound Movement
Compound movements are those that engage multiple muscle groups, which must work together to complete the movement (as intended by nature). The push-up engages the chest, shoulders, triceps, core, and even your butt a little bit.
Compound exercises like the push-up are beneficial because they require more mental focus (you gotta maintain that form!); they are functional movements (things your body was built to do naturally); and they are higher intensity (you’ll sweat more!).
The Push-Up Helps with Posture
The push-up helps you develop the mind-muscle connection, especially in the upper body. The more connected you are to your body, the less likely you are to have poor posture. A strong, firm chest is a great confidence booster, and after doing a routine of push-ups you’ll naturally feel your chest puff up and your shoulder blades squeeze together.
The Push-Up Requires No Equipment
And perhaps best of all, the push-up is incredibly practical, requiring no equipment to be effective. There are variations that do use equipment, but most push-ups can be done anytime and anywhere.
Push-Up Tips for Beginners
- Keep your abs and your butt squeezed throughout the motion
- Keep a natural curve in your spine—don’t sag at the waist
- Don’t crane your neck—hold it at a natural angle
- Avoid moving awkwardly through the movement—it should be one fluid motion
Watch the Video!
Check out my video of 24 different push-up variations you can try, ranging from the basics to more advanced variations. I’ve categorized each push-up below as well, from the basics up to very challenging variations.
24 Push-Up Variations Listed from Easiest to Hardest
The basics for beginners:
- Knee push-up
- Standard push-up
- Military push-up
- Wide push-up
- Incline push-up
- Knuckle push-up
More challenging variations:
- Single-leg push-up
- Leg raise push-up
- Sloppy push-up
- Mountain climber push-up
- Staggered push-up
- T push-up
- Diamond push-up
Even harder variations:
- Plank push-up
- Slow push-up
- Spiderman push-up
- Decline push-up
- V push-up
- Pulse push-up
- Gecko push-up
Very challenging variations:
- Row push-up
- Grasshopper push-up
- Clap push-up
- Hindu push-up
*Note that I’m not a fitness professional, so please be careful and do any movements at your own risk.
Photo credit: Getty Images
Video credit: YouTube/Mike Dineen