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Description: This is the main chest exercise.

Motions trained: This trains pushing things away from the chest.

Main muscles used: pectoralis major,
Other muscles: triceps, shoulders.


How to do it: For the narrow pushup, which has the hands close to the body, lay on the floor, put your hands on the floor on either side of your chest, so that you could touch your own nipples if you extended your thumbs. Feeling the floor through your palms at all times, extend your arms, keeping your upper arms in as much contact with your torso as possible. Lower yourself with control and repeat. Be sure you keep your back straight, so your hips don't sag in the middle and come down until your chest touches the floor.

For the wide pushup, move your hands out about a handspand.

How to work up to it: There are two parts to doing a good pushup. The first is arm strength and the second is abdominal strength to keep your body straight. Work these separately first. For the arms, start out on your knees rather than your feet. To train the body to stay straight, get a bench or stable chair. With your feet on the floor put your hands on the chair with your elbows and body locked. Hold for up to 30 seconds. Your body is at 45 degrees to the floor and to increase this, just get a lower chair or raise you feet.

When you can do good pushups on your knees and can hold your body straight, start doing these in full form, minding the daily goals for building up.

Ramping it up: Once you really get these down, go for sets of 25. You can lift a foot too. You can also strive for doing these one handed (the narrow version is the only one you can really do one-handed). To work up to that, go back and use the bench at 45 degrees to raise the upper body and reduce the load. Once you have worked up to it in regular position. Lift a foot.
Working up to a one handed-pushup by elevating the upper body. Do a two-handed
pushup first to make sure you have your angles and spacing right.
A one-handed pushup on the floor. Eventually lift a foot and raise the lower

Ultimately, try doing them with two hands and both feet off the floor. This is vicious on the core muscles in the extreme, routinely reducing burliest athlete to quivering jelly. A favorite of 8 year-old female gymnasts the world over... A couple more versions are on a stability ball or with small dumbbells:

Using a stability ball. Using a pair of smaller dumbbells to work grip strength and stabilization.
Make sure your dumbbells are a single cast piece rather than the cheap welded
ones, since the latter will break.

Another good version is to clap while you do them.

Do's and don'ts: Keep your body straight! This gets your core muscles. This also means you shouldn't stick you butt up in the air, although some people with back trouble find that helps them do the technique. Don't go for extra-wide or strange hand placements. Learn the best angles for your body to generate power from and use those.

Comments: One little comment is on rowing pushups (aka karate, kung fu, judo, taekwondo, ... pushups). Some folks love these, but I find not too much benefit from them, that people tend to cheat a lot and many people's shoulders grind, causing pain. I get shoulder pain from them and don't do them. Do them if you like them and they cause you no problems.

I would probably work up to being able to do 25 pushups in a row, whereas I usually just suggest 10 of any exercise. This is because so endurance for the chest is a good thing and this motion happens very often.