As previously mentioned, the push-up exercise has been proven many times as an effective means of strengthening and assessing muscular endurance of the upper body. Specifically, the push-up has been shown to activate muscles of the triceps brachii, pectoralis major, serratus anterior, anterior deltoid, and trunk muscles. Ways to activate more muscles in the push-up has also been explored.
Changing hand positions was explored by Cogley et al.1 They looked at performing conventional push-ups with a narrow hand placement compared to shoulder width or wide hand placement. Results found that an increased number of muscles were activated in a push-up with a narrow hand placement compared to wide hand placement. Doing push-up like this might also have increased risks, however, due to torque at the elbow. Push-up devices have also been explored, such as the Perfect Push-upTM, discussed previously.
But how much weight is really lifted when performing push-ups?
In a study by Suprak et al.2 the amount of weight lifted during a push-up was researched. Twenty-eight subjects performed modified push-ups and full push-ups. Measurements were taken in the up position and the down position. They found that the following percentages of bodyweight were being exerted by the upper body during the push-up:
|Up Position|| |
53.56% bodyweight supported
69.16% bodyweight supported
|Down Position|| |
61.80% bodyweight supported
75.04% bodyweight supported
For a 140-pound person doing a modified push-up, he or she would be lifting:
It isn’t recommended to have a friend sit on your back. Nor is it suggested to put weight plates on your back. But feel free to discuss other ways that you use to add challenge in your push-ups and increase the amount of weight lifted.
1Cogley, R.M., Archambault, T.A., Fibeger, J.F., Koverman, M.M., Youdas, J.W., Hollman, J.H.; Comparison of Muscle Activation Using various Hand Positions During the Push-up Exercise. J Strength Cond Res 19: 628-633, 2005.
2Suprak, D.N., Dawes, J., Stephenson, M.D.; The Effect of Position on the Percentage of Body Mass Supported During Traditional and Modified Push-up Variants. J Strength Cond Res 25: 497-503, 2011.