Your drill instructor was a son of a you-know-what, but he was on to something when he screamed, “Drop and give me 20!” The quintessential bodyweight exercise is nearly perfect in its simplicity. “The push-up is a great standard exercise because it requires one piece of equipment — you,” says fitness expert Levi Harrison, M.D., orthopedic surgeon and author of The Art of Fitness: A Journey to Self-Enhancement. “This exercise targets the triceps, pectoralis major, deltoids — especially the anterior portion — and the serratus anterior. When properly done, the push-up also can engage your core muscles effectively.”
Main Area Targeted: pectorals (Note that you can change the emphasis depending on your angle: With feet and hands on the floor, you’ll take aim at the midpecs; elevating your feet on a bench focuses on the upper pecs; and putting your hands on a bench with your feet on the floor hits the lower pecs.)
Strengths: Ever try to pack a set of dumbbells and a bench in a suitcase? (Don’t laugh. Many a gym rat about to go on a trip has contemplated it.) Thing is, most exercise equipment is hard to lug around. Weights are heavy — by design, of course. The answer to staying fit on the road is, in part, using your own body as resistance. Push-ups can be done in hotel rooms, parks, prison cells … anywhere you have solid ground to work with.
How-To: In a plank position, place your feet together, toes on the floor, with your hands wider than shoulder width and flat on the floor and your elbows extended. Keeping your head neutral and abs tight, lower yourself by bending your elbows until your chest gently touches the ground, then press through your palms until your arms are straight once again.
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