Along with the chest which is the main target muscles hit with the basic push up, if done properly you engage your shoulders, arms and back as well. The front of your shoulders assist with the pushing action on the way up as well as helping to control the negative motion. The smaller muscles in the rear of the shoulders and the upper back also act as stabilisers for the upper torso and neck, which help to prevent common back injuries, such as torn rotator cuff, which is very painful I can assure you!
Helping out with ‘the push’ are the triceps while the biceps and elbow flexor muscles aid with control, both on the push and also the lowering movement of the push up. Along with toning the upper arms and building strength, a benefit of this during Kickboxing training means greater speed and power to your straight punches.
To keep the hips up and the back straight, the core muscles of the abdomen and lower back need to work hard. A strong core has multiple benefits, improving your balance, posture, helping to prevent back pain and injury, as well as the obvious aesthetics of having a flatter stomach.
The payback here for your Kickboxing is being able to kick higher with more confidence, improving your footwork with better control of your centre of balance as well as more control of your spinning kicks.
Strength exercises are not often considered to be serious calorie burners, but they can be. The large number of muscles groups engaged by this compound exercise draw on a lot of energy from the body which is in the form of calories. Keep pushing and going for longer means the more the body has to draw on its stores of fuel which in turn burns body fat.
Along with energy, the muscles also need a ready supply of oxygen rich blood to keep working, and the sheer number of muscles involved in the push up means that the heart has to work hard to keep up with the demand helping to keep your heart fit and healthy.
No fancy equipment needed, no gym membership payments or opening times to work around, all you need is a patch of level ground, a few spare minutes and a bit of motivation.
Start slowly. The table-top push up is the place to begin, knees on the floor below your hips, hands flat on the floor below your shoulders. Lower your shoulders towards the floor, stop when your elbows get to a right angle, and push yourself back up again. Always make sure to keep your spine neutral, no arching or sagging and pull in the stomach muscles. Keep your neck straight as well, don't look at your feet or out in front. Control the movement during the lowering phase as well as the push back up, and remember to breathe, slow in breath on the way down and then exhale on the way back up.
Once you're confident with that then it's time to move on to the knees push up. Again it's hands beneath your shoulders and knees on the floor, but this time your thighs are in line with your straight back, so your shoulders hips and knees for a straight line. Now you are putting more of your body weight into the movement. Remember to lower your body down until your arms form a right angle at the elbow, then push back up to the top. Once you can rattle off 10 or so of these, it's time for the next level.
Incline full push ups. With your hands on a sturdy elevated platform, feet on the floor at shoulder width and back straight with core engaged, slowly perform the push up. An ideal platform for the incline push up it a flight of stairs or steps. As your strength and confidence grow you can drop your hands down the steps and get closer and closer to the full push up on level ground.
- Decline push ups - Puts more emphasis on the front shoulder muscles.
- Wide grip push ups - Works the chest muscles more.
- Narrow grip push up - Shifts the focus to the triceps.
- Spiderman push up - Hard work for the core by holding your balance.
- Shoulder touch push up - More core focus, this time around the upper back & shoulders.
- Dumbbell row push up - The next level from the shoulder touch push up, still works the core hard, but also now fires up the bigger back muscles and the biceps.
- Clapping push up - Excellent for developing explosive power in the arms.
- Medicine ball/Football push up circuits - Triceps, core, shoulders, co-ordination, this is a great variation to keep things interesting.
For additional guidance and support or for more push ups with a challenge speak to your coach.