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If there is one exercise that can be done anywhere, at anytime and usually by anyone, it has got to be the good old fashion push up.

What many people don't realize is that push ups not only work the chest, shoulders and arms but they are also an excellent abdominal exercise. It is probably the best exercise for your midsection, therefore, assisting in the burning of body fat.

If a push up is done correctly (it is done incorrectly much more than you think), it can bring some amazing results.

Benefits:

Muscle strength

The benefits begin with the building and stabilization of the core muscles, and as a chiropractor, I must say the majority of back pain sufferers will have a weak core.

We easily can get caught up in sit-ups and crunches, which are all fine, but let us not forget that push ups alone can firm up those abs just as good as any exercise out there.

Losing weight

Most overweight and obese people are also lacking a strong core, so it would seem obvious that ones core needs to be addressed.

If you are attempting to lose weight, aside from cardiovascular exercise, strengthening the muscles are essential in achieving any positive results. Push ups can be a great tool in your weight loss program.

Full body workout

As mentioned earlier, not only does our upper body get a workout but our abdominals and lower extremities as well, working the hamstrings, quads and calves.

Better endurance

If done on a consistent basis, pushups can build our endurance up to go on to other more demanding forms of exercise like biking, swimming or hiking.

Quick and easy

The best part about push ups is that they can be done anywhere, there is no special equipment involved and a push up workout can easily be accomplished in less than 15 minutes.

Injury prevention

I always begin my workouts with a few sets of pushups to get properly warmed up. I have always found that doing my other exercises become much easier after I have started out with pushups. This can stave off any muscle strains or repetitive type injuries.

Techniques:

There are many variants of the push up and mixing it up and doing several different styles is recommended. The reason behind this is because it causes muscle "confusion", and this is what will eventually build muscle.

The basic push up:

1. Lie face down with your body parallel to the floor.

2. Place your hands palm down slightly beyond shoulder-width apart. Make sure your arms are positioned next to your shoulders and not too low next to your belly button or too high next to your head.
3. Look up and ahead rather than down to the ground.
4. Slowly raise yourself up keeping your body straight from the back of your heels to your head.
5. Exhale on the way up.
6. Once your arms are very close to being fully extended pause just slightly, this constitutes 1 repetition.
7. Begin lowering your body back to the floor while inhaling.
8. Once your chin touches the floor (remember your head is looking ahead not down!) begin raising your body back up to repeat the process.

Key Points:


* It's very important to do the motion correctly for maximum benefit. Keeping your body straight is essential. Tighten your abs throughout the entire movement to prevent your butt from rising too high or lowering too low. If you have access to a ground level mirror (or even a reflection from a glass door) try watching your body position a few times until you get it right. Don't waste your time doing push-ups the wrong way.

* Use slow, controlled movements. Going fast may allow you to do more push-ups in a set amount of time; however, you will receive less benefit from each individual push up. Many times people who go really fast don't work their muscles through their full range of motion. Remember the goal is to build muscle not your ego. 10 well-formed, controlled movement push-ups are better than doing 25 sloppy, incomplete push-ups.

There are probably thousands of push-up workouts out there to choose from, but here is a good start:

The idea is to progressively lower the amount of reps performed for each set as your muscles become more fatigued. This allows you to achieve maximum benefit for each set with out sacrificing form and technique.

Here's an example: We'll start with 20 push-ups for our first set. Each set we will reduce the number of push-ups attempted by 2 until we get to 0. We'll rest only moderately (15 seconds to 30 seconds) between sets.

So in this case it would look like this:

* Set 01 - 20 reps
* Set 02 - 18 reps
* Set 03 - 16 reps
* Set 04 - 14 reps
* Set 05 - 12 reps
* Set 06 - 10 reps
* Set 07 - 08 reps
* Set 08 - 06 reps
* Set 09 - 04 reps
* Set 10 - 02 reps

Note: This workout can be adapted to suit your needs. If this seems too hard try starting at 10 reps and counting down 1 each set (10, 9, 8, 7 etc).

If a 20 rep starting point is too easy you could always increase the starting count to 40 or 80 reps and count down 4 or 8 reps respectively (40, 36, 32 etc or 80, 72, 64 etc).

Some other variations:

- 3 minute challenge: Do as many as you can for 3 straight minutes. If you need to rest for several seconds, that's okay.

- Get in plank position, pull in your bellybutton and hold for 15 seconds. Great for the abs!

- Same thing as above but get on your elbows

- Breathing throughout is of utmost importance

- Work the triceps by bringing your hands into a pyramid shape and doing a few sets.

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