Sometimes it pays to keep things simple when trying to improve your fitness, and if you’re looking to add just one exercise to your regular routine then Evie Cant, head trainer at F45 Camden, recommends the push-up.
“The one bodyweight move everyone should be doing is the push-up,” says Cant. “Push-ups work the upper body and core—more specifically the chest, triceps, biceps, delts, traps and abdominals, making it a killer all-in-one exercise.”
The reason Cant says we should all be doing push-ups is because even fairly active people don’t tend to exercise their upper body much through a normal daily routine.
“For the person that lives a relatively active lifestyle, walking and standing for part of the day, the lower half of our bodies get used a fair amount, however our arms don’t,” says Cant. “While it’s still crucial to train the lower half of your body with exercises like squats and lunges, adding a few push-ups into your daily routine can make a big difference.”
How To Do A Push-Up
“Start in a high plank position,” says Cant. “You want to have your shoulders over your wrists, arms straight and core engaged. Your back should be neutral, and your bum shouldn’t be high in the air or dropped towards the ground. Start with your legs straight and slowly lower your chest down to the ground. From there, push the ground away from you, returning to a high plank.”
If the standard push-up proves too challenging for you at first then start with the kneeling version of the exercise.
“Bend your knees and rest them on the ground when in your plank position,” says Cant. “The further away your knees are to your arms, the harder it’s going to be, so play around with how far away you can get them.
“Once you’re finding kneeling push-ups easier, start working on some progressions. One step between a kneeling push-up and a full push-up is to lower your chest to the ground without the assistance of your knees. Once your chest is just above the ground, drop your knees and use them to assist you on the way up which is the hard part. Make sure this is a slow controlled movement and that you are not relying on gravity to drop your chest to the ground.”
How To Make Progress
“When starting out, aim to complete 3-5 push-ups, take a minute or two to rest and then do a further three sets of 3-5 reps with a minute or two of rest in between,” says Cant. “Slowly, you’ll be able to increase your reps to 8-10.
“From there, rather than continue to increase your reps per set, consider incorporating some more resistance. You can do this by placing a weight plate on your back—though take great caution to not injure your lower back in doing so. Another way you can increase your resistance is using a resistance band. Put one hand in each end of the band and stretch it out over the top of your back.
Need help choosing? Our round-up of the best resistance bands can help.
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Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.