They're old-fashion, terribly boring and time-consuming. Yes, they're pushups. You know the exercise we all had to do in gym class to test our physical fitness or coach's favorite punishment for the player who missed a tackle during practice. Most of us were happy to abandon such training as soon as we graduated from grade school or were strong enough to bench press a modest amount weight in the gym. However we may have been a little too hasty in our decision to remove this exercise from our workouts. For instance, fitness guru Jack Lalanne and NFL Hall Famer Herschel Walker have each attributed their upper body strength to pushups. Likewise, our Armed Forces have long used such callisthenic training to improve the physical fitness of new recruits.
A couple of years ago I begin adding pushups into my chest workouts and I noticed that my chest and shoulders were becoming larger and fuller-looking. In addition, I had gained greater control of my chest while flexing and I could stabilize the barbell better during bench presses. After doing some research, I learned that this was because pushups have the ability to work the entire pectorals (chest muscles) and part of the deltoids (shoulders). The movement also mimics bench pressing therefore it strengthens the muscles needed to stabilize the barbell like the triceps. For these reasons, pushups have become a staple in my chest routine. I use them both as a pre-exhaust exercise and as a way to quickly achieve a fuller look (i.e. pump) after my chest workouts.
When I am doing pushups as a pre-exhaust exercise, I will complete two sets of thirty to fifty reps and then go straight into incline bench pressing. When using them as a pump exercise, I will do two to three sets with each set going to failure after my regular chest workout. I usually rest for one minute between each set and try to maintain a moderate speed and full range of motion during the movement.
An ideal starting position for pushups is palms on the ground spread a shoulder width a part with both legs straight and feet close together. The body is parallel to the ground with the face looking forward and toes tucked under the feet. The entire body remains rigid and the weight of the body is supported by the arms and feet throughout the exercise. In the first part of the movement, the arms straighten as they "push" the body "up" off the ground. In the second part of the movement, the arms bend to return the body to its starting position. At no time in the exercise will the chest or legs touch the floor.
For best results, keep pushups with your chest routine which should be done once per week. This will give your muscles adequate time to recover and grow in between workouts. Beginners should start with two sets of twenty pushups, while intermediate to advance levels should do at least thirty reps per set. I guarantee that by adding this exercise to your training regime your chest will become larger and thicker in a matter of weeks!