Part two of this continuing series is a closer look into some exercises that can be done to get a complete chest workout with no required equipment. In the overview, push ups were discussed as the main focus for the chest, but they can be done with a variety of modifications to account not only for different fitness levels, but also to work the complete muscle and minimize the monotony.
The standard push up
The standard push up is one of the exercises that almost everyone is familiar with to some extent, but it is very important to understand the right and wrong way to do them. Form is critical to success here, both for maximizing your results and minimizing risk of injury. Whether performing them with feet on the ground or knees on the ground, the basic mechanics should remain the same.
- Place hands on floor several inches beyond shoulder width on each side. Push up stands can be used if available to minimize stress to the wrists and increase the available range of movement.
- Keep the entire body, from the legs to the head, in line throughout the movement.
- Keep core and gluteus muscles tight throughout the exercise. The upper and lower body should move together as a unit with your chest and arm muscles (primarily pectoralis major, triceps, and deltoids) moving the weight up and down.
- Inhale on the way down, exhale on the way up.
- Arch the back upward or let the lower back sag toward the ground.
- Rest on the ground between reps.
- Take shortcuts- Go all the way down and all the way up on each rep.
Once the basic mechanics of the push up have been mastered, variations can be added to get a more complete workout.
- Wide hand placement: Move hands slightly wider to focus on the lateral aspect of the chest.
- One leg raised: Lift one foot off the ground to add extra resistance to the movement.
- Feet on a chair: Place both feet on a chair and move hands forward slightly to focus more on the upper area of the chest. Keeping proper back alignment is critical here!
- Plyometrics: Explode up from the push up with hands leaving the ground momentarily from the momentum. This is an advanced movement and proper form is important to prevent injury.
- Negatives: Slow down to 3 seconds on the descent. Pause at the bottom momentarily and push up at a normal pace (1-2 seconds).
- Six seconds: Slow to 3 seconds down and 3 seconds up. This one will tire out even the most hardcore fitness enthusiasts after a few sets.
These are just a handful of options that can be performed to add variety to the workout. Both the Idea Health and Fitness Association and American Council on Exercise websites provide free exercise libraries containing pictures, videos, and explanations of some of these exercises among many others.
Exercise for the back will be examined more closely in the next addition to the series. Stay tuned.