What if there was an exercise you could do without any equipment, with a minimal amount of space, and provides a ton of physical benefit in a very short amount of time? No, this isn’t Jane Fonda on VHS; it’s push-ups! No leg warmers or leotards required!
While they’re pretty simple to start, doing a long sequence of push-ups is one of the hardest exercises to finish. That’s because they engage so many parts of your body at once. The main reason you have to work so hard to do a classic push-up (with your body in a blank position and your knees above the floor) is because push-ups require you to lift a large portion of your own body weight (from 50-75% of it!). So, while push-ups may not seem like anything out of the ordinary when it comes to exercise, they’re actually working your legs, hips, core, chest, and arms simultaneously to move that weight off the floor and back again, repeatedly.
Push-ups can also provide some very quick and accurate feedback about your heart fitness. A recent study of 1,100 men over ten years revealed that “push-up capacity is a no-cost, fast, and simple measure that may be a useful and objective clinical assessment tool for evaluating functional capacity and cardiovascular disease risk”. Pretty amazing, right? Specifically, the study found that men who could complete 40 push-ups within 30 seconds had a much lower risk of heart disease than those who could not.
While the classic push-up (from a plank position) is the most standard form, there are plenty of variations if that proves too tricky right away:
Pace yourself. Go slowly or break up your sets into smaller segments. For instance, do a total of 30 push-ups in groups of 10 with resting breaks in between.
Try inclined push-ups. Leaning forward at a 45-degree angle against a wall or counter will make push-ups less demanding - and you can still engage 35-45% of your body weight and get good exercise.
Try putting your knees on the floor. This modification is also less difficult than a classic push-up, but yields similar results.
No matter what variation you choose, push-ups have proved to be a quick, convenient way to exercise and provide a reliable test for your heart health. In short, they’re the perfect exercise for our busy lives.