Three Reasons Why the Push-up is my Favorite Exercise

Updated: Feb 3, 2021

Years ago, a client said to me, and I've continued to use this statement:

Most guys can fill out a t-shirt. The question is, do you fill-out the top-half or the bottom half?

Are you shaped like a 'V' or a 'b'? If you're looking to fill out the bottom, drink more beer, eat more carbs, and move a lot less. In case you forget, 'b' is for the bottom half of the shirt, also 'b' is for 'beer.' Someday, I'll write a post about how to drink beer, I just don't see it as a current knowledge deficit. For now, to fill out the top half of your t-shirt, start with my favorite exercise, the push-up. Here's why:

1. The push-up requires no equipment, very little space, and can be done by almost everyone. When I work with men on their physical fitness, the barriers they identify almost always involve a lack of equipment, or a place to workout. When I mention the push-up, they often respond with a statement to the effect of 'Well, that's just bodyweight exercise.'

So? Technically, running is a bodyweight exercise until you don your rucksack. Nobody discounts the value of that shit. Also, if we're splitting hairs, the push-up is a less than bodyweight exercise. A study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found that an average male subject performing traditional push-ups supports 69.16% of his body mass in the standard 'up' position and 75.04% in the 'down' position. Yes, weights are an essential component of strength training, particularly for men, but if you can't even lift 75% of your body mass, you have no business with anything heavier.

2. Get ready for some Latin! It works so much more than your chest! A single rep of a traditional push-up works:

  • The pectoralis major and minor, your 'pecs'.

  • The deltoid, which forms the rounded corner of your shoulder.

  • The rectus and transverse abdominis, your 'core' muscles.

  • The triceps brachii.

  • The erector spinae, which consists of the longissimus, and iliocostalis muscle groups, activate to provide stabilization.

  • The biceps brachii also activates as a stabilizer, as do muscles in your knees (extensors) and your hips (flexors).

  • Finally, because push-ups are so variable, you can position yourself any number of ways to activate stabilizing muscles in your hands and feet. This brings me to number three:

3. Infinite variety. Too easy? Add a weight vest, elevate your feet for a decline, or vary your arm placement. Still too easy? Do that shit on your knuckles, or try to power off the floor at the top, then add a clap. Try it one-armed, or one-legged, or one-armed and one-legged.

Can't do a traditional push-up yet? It's cool, start today. Drop to your knees as a pivot point. This reduces the weight at the top and bottom to 53.6% and 61.8%, respectively. Most importantly, know that it is okay to go to your knees because you're still doing push-ups. Just remember, good-form push-ups done on your knees are better than bad-form push-ups of any kind. As always, any physicl activity is better than none.

Get Moving!


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