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Pushups are a go-to exercise to work various muscle groups, no matter what age you are. Doing them right requires arm strength and the ability to lift your body from the ground to the length of your forearm. The upper body strength you will develop is essential in daily life, from picking up your children to picking yourself up off the ground.
Perform a standard pushup by lying horizontally on the floor with your hands palms down and out to your side slightly wider than your shoulders. The American Council on Exercise recommends keeping your abdominal muscles engaged to brace your torso. Put all your weight on your hands and toes, and push yourself up while keeping your back straight and using your arms to support your body's weight. Add a weighted vest or change the distance of your hands from your shoulders to increase or decrease the difficulty of the exercise. Use a mirror to evaluate your form, including if you are in a straight horizontal position.
Pushups typically focus on the pectorals, triceps and shoulders. A standard pushup works all three muscle groups equally. Adjust the distance of your hands from each other to focus on a specific area, such as widening them to work your chest. Decrease the distance between your hands or raise your midsection in the air in a pike to add increased tension to your arms and shoulders. You can increase or reduce resistance respectively, by placing your hands on an elevated bar or bending your knees. The variations work different muscle groups and add to your workout routine.
Pushups have become more difficult for people to do than in years past, notes "The New York Times." A general increase in obesity among the population means fewer people have the upper body strength to match the weight of their bodies. Children in school districts with shrinking budgets may also miss out on regular physical education classes where this exercise is emphasized. Natural aging is also a factor, causing people to lose up to 30 percent of their strength between 20 and 70 years old if they don't regularly work out.
Pushups, like any exercise, can address this decline by enlarging muscle fibers and adding to your core body strength. Healthfinder.gov suggests pushups as one way people with a disability can stay in shape.
Benefits and Application
Pushups use your own weight and resistance, eliminating the need for bulky equipment or expensive gym memberships. You can perform this exercise almost anywhere at any time, which is one reason the military and FBI use pushups as a cornerstone of their fitness programs. Pushups allow your heart to pump blood faster both during and after the exercise. This increases your metabolism long after your routine, helping you to lose weight, tone your body and strengthen your upper body. Regular performance of this exercise will help you gain cardiovascular endurance.