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A push up is a common strength training exercise performed in a prone position, lying horizontal and face down, raising and lowering the body using the arms. They develop the pectoral muscles and triceps, with ancillary benefits to the deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis and the midsection as a whole. Press ups are a basic exercise used in civilian athletic training or physical education and, especially, in military physical training. A push up can also be performed in a standing position against a wall.


In the full press up, the back and legs are straight and off the floor. Several variations are seen, besides the common push up. These include bringing the thumbs and index fingers of both hands together (a diamond pushup) as well as having the elbows point towards the knees. These two variations are intended to put greater emphasis on the triceps rather than the shoulder and chest muscles. When both hands are unbalanced or on uneven surfaces, this exercise also works the body core. Raising the feet or hands onto elevated surfaces during the exercise emphasize the upper and lower pectorals, respectively.

One relatively new, but extremely difficult variation is the Guillotine press up. With hands on elevated points lower the chest, head and neck (thus the name) past the plane of the hands, getting a full stretch of the shoulders, then recover to the starting position.

Another extremely difficult variation is to perform a press up using only hands, without resting the feet on the floor. These are known as planche press ups. To do this variation, the body's center of gravity must be kept over the hands while performing the push up by leaning forward while the legs are elevated in the air, which requires great strength and a high level of balance.

Another variation often used as part of boxing training involves doing the press up while wearing boxing gloves. The design of the gloves means that the person doing the press up must do so on their knuckles and without bending their wrists. This method is also commonly used in martial arts, such as Tae Kwon Do, but without the boxing gloves. Because the knuckles are supporting the body's weight while in direct contact with the ground, this type of training can harden the bone, thicken the skin, and lower the sensitivity to pain in the knuckles. In theory, this should allow more punches to be thrown in a fight.

Less difficult versions

There are some less difficult versions, which reduce the effort by supporting some of the body weight in some way. One can move on to the standard press up after progress is made.

"Wall press ups" are performed by standing close to a wall and pushing away from the wall with the arms; to increase the difficulty, move your feet further from the wall.

"Girl" press ups are performed by supporting the lower body on the knees instead of the toes. A normal press up causes around 70 percent of the body's weight to be placed on the arms. Done from the knees, this reduces the amount to around 50 percent. Over time the muscles of the arms build up strength to the point where they can indeed support up to 70 percent. The reason for girl press ups generally being associated with women is that they are often used as a female alternative to normal press up in several military organisations, for example the British RAF.


There are also a number of plyometric versions of the press up that can be performed.

The aim of the 'clap press up' is to explosively push the body into the air for enough time to clap the hands together (once, or even more), then bring them back into position to cushion the fall.

In another type of plyometric press up, the drop push, two platforms are placed on either side of the trainee. The exercise begins with the hands on either platform supporting the body, then the subject drops to the ground and explosively rebounds with a push up, extending the torso and arms completely off the ground and returning the hands to the platforms.

Another is simply an explosive press-up where a person attempts to push quickly and with enough force to raise their hands several centimeters off the ground, with the body completely suspended on the feet for a moment, a variation of the drop push.

With press-ups, many possibilities for customization and increased intensity are possible. Some examples are: One hand can be set on a higher platform than the other or be farther away from the other to give more weight to the opposite arm/side of the body and also exercise many diverse muscles. One can perform press ups by using only the tips of the fingers and thumb. For increased difficulty, press ups can be performed on one arm or using weights. These forms may cause pain or lead to joint damage if performed incorrectly or excessively.

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