Pushup: THE Bodyweight Exercise

Written By: Todd Kuslikis
March 01, 2016

The 2007 blockbuster 300 depicts the tale of King Leonidas and his brave Spartan army defending their land from Xerxes and the massive Persian empire while most definitely catching pneumonia.

If you’ve seen the movie, you probably know there were more than a couple liberties taken with the historical accuracy of the story: for one, the 300 Spartans were not the only Greeks in the battle of Thermopylae. Ephialtes, the original Benedict Arnold, wasn’t deformed; he was just your run-of-the-mill traitor. There’s also no historical record of Xerxes employing half-goat men to perform at his partiesf


The film did get a few things right, though, not least among them the fact that Spartans were absolutely shredded. Greek and Roman soldiers were expected to train vigorously from ages 13 to 60 to prepare the body for the rigors of battle. And, as you can imagine, there was’t a piece of exercise equipment in sight. Not that that deterred them much — they just did a lot of push-ups.

Push-ups are the quintessential bodyweight exercise: simple yet difficult at its base, yet with numerous variations to continue to challenge you. Most of our readers know that we have, to put it mildly, an affinity for push-ups.

But we’re not the only ones. The elite defenders of the U.S., the Navy SEALs, require applicants are required to do a minimum of 50 push-ups to even qualify for a contract. Though for any hopefuls, it should be noted that the average is 100, and they don’t count if your form isn’t perfect.

Even the first lady is down for a push-up contest every now and again.

Yes, push-ups can certainly be used for good. Some people do them to raise money for a favorite cause, give hope to those with a life-threatening illness, or send sick children to camp.

But like so many other good things, push-ups can also be used by the bad guys. Take Abercrombie & Fitch, the fashion juggernaut with the ethical integrity of a dumpster fire, for example. They’ve been reported to force employees to do push-ups when they make mistakes.

Look, we’re all for getting some exercise in throughout the day, but draconian practices like that don’t belong in a clothing store that sits between Yankee Candle and Build-A-Bear.

Even fictional bad guys get in on the action, as evidenced by Gaston from Beauty and the Beast humiliating a Disney park visitor. (Why do they even let him in the park?!)


Now, if you’re serious about building upper body strength, the push-up should be at the top of your regular exercises. Even still, we often hear two protests in regards to push-ups and why people don’t like them:

Reason #1: “They’re boring.”

Most people think of the standard type of push-up and nothing more. But that’s not even close to what the exercise can offer. Our pal Doug Pruden, whom we’ve written about before, has world records for several different types of push-ups.

Truth is, the number of variations is immeasurable. You can get really creative or stick to the basics.

Reason #2: “I’m too weak/big/etc.

No, you’re not. As we just mentioned, there are many different types of push-ups, even ones to get you started. We’ll get to those in a second. But just know that you can do push-ups if you set your mind to it and work hard. After all, if a 6-ton double decker bus can do push-ups, so can you.

So get good and stretched, hit the deck and get ready for a refresher on that classic, body-sculpting exercise we all know and love. Soon, you’ll be as much a master of the push-up as a lizard — yep, lizards do push-ups. We’re learning already.


Make sure you can 10 to 15 reps of each progression before moving to the next progression.

Wall Pushups

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Video by WellCall

Knee Pushups

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Video by Jesse Hedeen

Elevated Pushups

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Video by Megan Dahlman

Full Pushups

Beyond The Pushup

If you feel adventurous, try these out.

One Arm Pushups

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Video by Dan Jeong Conditioning

Plyometric Pushups

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Video by Team Physix Norway

Lalanne Pushups

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Video by Street Workout

Show/Hide Comments (2 comments)
  1. David P

    The Wall pushups are killer! how long does a whole workout take you? Great travel routine here…

  2. Andrew Fox

    Great article man. You’ve given the “push-up” it due and rightly so. It is the most basic as well as the most potent exercise for building upper body strength, especially when one begins to explore higher progressions. The Lalanne pushup looks pretty damn hard. Going to give a shot on the palms first before the fingertips.

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