Build Lean Muscle with New Pushup Variations
Many people don't realize that you can build muscle without using any fancy gym equipment -- in fact, simple bodyweight exercises like pushups can be effectively used in your muscle workouts.
It's easy to underestimate how effective pushups can be at building your chest and arms. Pushups might appear plain and boring on the surface: down up, down up, down up -- that's it. And that's true to an extent. But many people outside of the fitness circles are only familiar with the standard pushups that they were taught in their high school gym classes.
There are many kinds of pushups that you can use to focus on different muscle groups, but we're going to concentrate on five styles in this article. These are not necessarily the best five for all people, but they will open your eyes to the variety possible with simple functional exercises.
Wide pushups: traditionally, pushups are performed with your hands being placed at shoulder width. Wide push ups, sometimes called "wide-stance pushups", require you to extend your hands beyond the width of your shoulders. Wide-stance pushups work your chest muscles more heavily than military-style pushups, so if chest definition is what you are looking for -- wide pushups are one exercise that will help you meet your goals.
Fist pushups: Sometimes referred to as "knuckle" pushups, require the use of your fists, instead of the palms of your hands, to bear your body weight during the pushup. Fist pushups are beneficial because they target different areas of your body than traditional pushups, and may actually increase the effectiveness of your workout.
Yogi pushups: also referred to as "divebombers," you start the pushup in the yoga downward dog position, which is similar to a pike. On the down rep, you transition into the upward dog position in a motion that is similar to sliding under a fence, reversing this movement on the up rep. These pushups are brutal and really work your shoulders.
Diamond pushups: Diamond pushups, also referred to as "heart to heart" pushups, require you to place your index fingers and thumbs together in the shape of a diamond during your push up workout. While diamond push ups tend to work your triceps more than your chest muscles, the benefits of modifying your hand placement during pushups, even if only a tiny bit, are undeniable.
Fly pushups: adding another layer to wide pushups, fly pushups require you to begin the pushup with your hands a normal width apart at the top position. When lowering your body to the ground, you should slide your right hand out roughly 12 inches, and then slide it back to normal width on the up rep. On the next repetition, you would perform this motion with your left hand. Hint: place your hand on a towel, piece of cardboard, or similar item to assist with the slide, or "hop" your hands in and out.
Decline pushups: Instead of placing your feet on the floor, or using your knees, place your feet on a platform so that your head is lower than your feet. You can use a chair, a stepstool, or a bench -- pretty much anything that will allow you to raise your feet up so that they are higher than your head. These types of pushups work your upper chest muscles.
Incline pushups: Incline pushups are the exact opposite of decline pushups -- instead of placing your feet higher than your head, your head should be higher than your feet for this exercise. Any sturdy surface that will allow you to perform the pushups unencumbered can be used. Incline pushups work your lower pectoral muscles.
Deep pushups: If you are working out at home, you can perform raised pushups with the help of three sturdy chairs. By placing each of your hands on an opposite chair, and your feet on the third chair, you can increase the depth of your pushup and thereby increase the effectiveness of your workout routine. A similar, but less intense, movement can be performed with pushup stands. The "Perfect Pushup" bars work wonders.
Here is a more comprehensive list of pushup styles to achieve muscle weight gain: wide, fly, diamond, military, yogi, fist, incline, decline, stacked, deep, inchworm, and prison cell pushups.
To get the most out of your pushup workouts, add some weight once the pushups begin to get easy. You don't want to push out 50 easy reps. Rather, struggle with 20 or 30. Also be sure to add variety by varying your hand position for each of the above types of pushups.
Push ups are a great way to strengthen your upper body and exercise, build muscle at the same time. If you keep it interesting by mixing up your hand positions and trying a few different styles of pushups you can increase the effectiveness of your at-home exercising and relieve the boredom!