Chances are you’ve battled it out with more than one iteration of the push-up. There are chaturangas (in yoga), “dead-stop push-ups” (which you may heave through in HIIT class), and, of course, there’s version 1.0 of the move (from those scarring high school gym days). If you’re still confounded by how all these variations translate to toning various muscle groups though, the answer comes down to three factors: the angle of your body, how much space is between your hands, and where your hands are relative to your shoulders.
According to Brock Armstrong, coach and host of the podcast Get-Fit Guy, tweaking your form in one or more of these three ways allows you to optimize the move for your muscle group of choice, reports Quick and Dirty Tips. Meaning, you get to decide if you want to burn out your core, chest, biceps, triceps, or all of the above. Learn how to do so below.
Try these pushup variations
Work those angles
Variation 1: Put your feet on a bench so that they’re slightly above the plane of your head, and you’re working your chest muscles.
Variation 2: Place your hands on the bench, and you’re working your chest and abs simultaneously.
Move your hands closer or further apart
Variation 1: A closer grip pushup with your hands almost touching will target the muscles near the middle of the chest and the triceps.
Variation 2: A wide grip will work the outer chest muscles and the biceps.
Place your hands higher or lower than your shoulders
Variation 1: If you move your hands closer to your hips, you’ll be forced to shift your torso forward when you lower towards the ground, which will activate your chest more than your triceps.
Variation 2: If you move your hands slightly forward from your shoulders, you’ll be forced to shift your torso back when you lower, which will activate the triceps more than the chest.
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