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Essential Exercises: the push up


Push ups require no equipment, so they can easily be incorporated into classes

As exercises go, it's hard to get more fundamental than a push up. Even the most physically inactive person has probably done a few at some point. Drill sergeants and martial arts instructors everywhere love it for the ease with which it can reduce a roomful of people to groaning sacks of meat. Of course, the push up has value as more than just an instrument of torture.

If you lack the upper body strength necessary to do even a single push up, it becomes an exercise for building maximal strength. If you’ve reached a point where you can crank out hundreds without stopping, it’s an endurance exercise.

If the push up itself isn’t challenging enough, you can vary it up.

  • The knuckle push up is useful for helping to develop wrist strength and proper hand positioning while punching.
  • Finger tip push ups are excellent for developing grip strength, which can be particularly useful for grapplers (though anyone can benefit from a better grip).
  • The dive bomber push up is a more challenging variation that requires more body movement.
  • One-armed push ups and handstand push ups transform the push up back into a maximal strength exercise, but both require some practice (and for the handstand push up, a high ceiling).
  • The plyometric (clapping push up) is great for developing explosive power in your upper body.

There are dozens, if not hundreds of other variations out there. Whatever variation you choose will depend on your own goals, training, and capabilities.

One word of caution; while high repetition push ups can be a great way to develop endurance, it is possible to do too much of a good thing. If you find that your form is starting to badly degrade while you’re exercising, change push up styles, or do something else. Likewise, if you’re experiencing a great deal of pain in your joints, particularly your shoulders or elbows, you may be overdoing it.

Where can you do push ups in Boston?: Anywhere you want. That’s the great thing about a push up—if you have enough space to lie down, you have enough space to do a push up. So get to it.

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