The health and fitness world is ever-evolving, with new diets, workouts, and wellness trends popping up and then fading away every year. However, one exercise has sustained the test of time, continuing to be just as relevant—if not more—as it was over 100 years ago when the exercise first earned its moniker. While most of us already know how to do a push-up, a little reminder about the whys of adding them to your workout routine might be the much-needed inspiration—or push—that you need.
They Work Out Multiple Groups at Once
Kelsey Wells, Sweat trainer and creator of the PWR Workout, explains that push-ups are extremely beneficial due to the fact that they are a compound movement, which means you activate multiple muscle groups at once, rather than targeting muscles in isolation. “Compound exercises are particularly effective as they maximize your training efficiency,” she says. “While most people think push-ups just target their chest and triceps, when performed with correct technique, push-ups also utilize the core, anterior shoulders, and shoulder-stabilizing muscles.”
They Are a Measure of Cardiovascular Health
The more push-ups you can do, the more likely your cardiovascular health is spectacular. One 2019 study published in JAMA Network found that men who could complete at least 40 push-ups in under 30 seconds were at a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular problems—including heart attack and heart failure—compared with men who were able to complete only 10 or fewer.
They Can Be Easily Modified
Okay, so maybe you can’t do a traditional push-up. However, Wells points out that unlike many other exercises, there are many different varieties and they can be easily modified to your fitness level. “Even though push-ups are a well-known exercise and seem simple, simple doesn’t always mean easy. It’s important to start where you are at in your fitness journey and work your way up,” she explains. She suggests finding a push-up that works for you and not to be discouraged if you can’t do them straight away. “Although they are a common exercise, they are actually quite an advanced movement,” she adds. For example, if you are a beginner, you could start with a wall push-up, or push-ups on your knees. “From there you can advance to a standard push-up, decline push-ups, pop push-ups, or tricep push-ups to name a few. There are many different push-up variations to modify or advance depending on your fitness level.”
You Can Even Make Them Into a Cardio-Style Workout
Peloton instructor Olivia Amato points out that while push-ups are traditionally considered a body-weight exercise, you can actually adapt them into a cardio-style workout. “You can create push-up variations by changing up the tempo,” she explains. “If you do fast push-ups, with proper form of course, they can be used as a form of cardio!”
No Equipment Needed
Anytime, anyplace, a push-up is a great exercise option, as you don't need equipment to make push-ups challenging. “Push-ups are a great exercise for people of all fitness levels. They can very easily be incorporated into a home program with no equipment and still be super challenging,” Wells explains. “Whether you are a beginner or more advanced in your training, there will always be a push-up variant for you to challenge yourself.”
They Can Help Improve Your Posture
Push-ups are a posture-improving exercise, says Amato. “If done with proper form, push-ups can be great for our posture, putting us in good positioning instead of being hunched over or looking down, which I find myself resorting back to far too often!” she explains.
They Are Surprisingly Beneficial for Your Core
While we often think of push-ups as an exercise for our limbs, they are surprisingly good for your midsection as well. “They help strengthen your core stabilization muscles, which are the foundation of any strength work we do and a key factor in getting stronger,” says Amato,
They Are a Functional Exercise
Functional training has been around for years but recently surged in popularity. And, as Amato says, push-ups are a great functional exercise. “We do things in life that require the same movement as a push-up,” she explains, offering examples such as pushing a kid on a swing and pushing open a door.
They Improve Upper-Body Strength
Megan Roup, founder of The Sculpt Society, points out that push-ups are a great exercise for strengthening your upper body, including the chest, biceps, triceps, shoulders, and upper back. This will help you not only look good but feel more confident.
They Are Empowering
There is something empowering about a push-up, according to Amato. “They make you feel strong, confident, and capable!” she points out. “The fact that you can push your own body weight up off of the ground and hold yourself up is incredible—and something we should all aspire to do!”
They Help Strengthen Your Bones
A few push-ups a day, will help keep the bone doctor away, according to Roup. “Weight-bearing exercises like push-ups build bone density, which is great for women, who are generally more prone to osteoporosis,” she says.
Yang J, Christophi CA, Farioli A, et al. Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(2):e188341. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.8341