Do you want to know what the best all-around upper-body exercise is? Of course you do! You must be thinking it is something really complex, something you have never heard of and need to spend money to do. Well you’re wrong! This exercise is possibly the simplest most effective exercise out in the fitness world. It requires no weights! That’s right, none. All you need is yourself. That is it!
So enough of introduction, the exercise I refer to is one which most of you are probably familiar. I am referring to the pushup. The pushup and the pullup are tough contenders for the best upper body exercise. But it’s time to spice up the traditional pushup and give you some variations that are even more effective.
A lot of people seem to think that it is not worth doing pushups in lieu of bench pressing. I mean lifting hundreds of pounds off your chest is definitely more effective (and manly) right?
Well, this outlook is flawed. The pushup will always provide solid results. The pushup is unique from the bench press because it is a closed-chain exercise, meaning that during the exercise, your hands and feet remain in constant contact with a certain surface (the floor).
Because of this, the pushup forces you to significantly utilize your chest muscles. This is opposed to a bench press or fly, which is an open-chain exercise, where your hands and feet are free to move. In an open-chain exercise, your body will be in a position where the chance of utilizing other muscles, such as the shoulders, arms etc… be much higher. Thus, the amount of energy being put forth by your chest will be decreased.
Many people dismiss the pushup as being too easy, or unmanly. Yet how many of these big time benchers, the guys who can bench three hundred, could actually do a significant amount of pushups, one hundred for example? Even fifty? I would venture to say only a few.
The beauty of the pushup is that it can be done anywhere, anytime and it costs no money, something a lot of people are probably looking for. Additionally, the pushup is great because there are so many variations and ways to mix it up and make it a little more difficult and interesting.
There are four different variations of pushups, besides for the standard pushup, which I would like to focus on.
– The first is the close grip pushup. This pushup will focus more on the triceps and shoulders but also put some stress on the chest muscles.
– The second is the plyometric pushup. This is the clap pushup. You’re doing a standard pushup except when you push yourself up, you are going to do it with enough force (explosively) that your body will raise and you will be able to quickly clap your hands. This is obviously advanced, but also extremely effective, as it will develop tremendous power.
– The third type is the Incline pushup. You are going to put your hand on a high surface and do a pushup. It is an easier form of pushup and effective, especially if you are new to strength training, and cannot currently do standard pushups
– Lastly there is the decline pushup. This pushup increases the load on your chest. Therefore it is a more difficult form of the pushup. To do it, you must place your feet on a raised surface and your hands on the floor and do a pushup. This style of pushup works your upper chest very effectively.
As you can see there are plenty of ways to build impressive strength and size in the chest muscles, as much, if not more than the bench press. The pushup is called a classic exercise for a reason. It can yield tremendous results for impressive upper body development. I like to utilize all these different exercises in a workout I designed. I take each exercise and do ten reps of each in circuit fashion. If you want an intense full body workout, alternate the variations of pushups with bodyweight squats and lunges to really ramp up your fat burning and full body development.