If you are working out at home without access to much fitness equipment then the push up is a great exercise that should be part of your home workout routine. Whether your goals are to gain muscle, lose weight or improve your strength, push ups are one of the best ways to succeed without building your own fully kitted out home gym.
The only problem with push ups is that once you have been doing them for a while they become too easy and you can find yourself doing 30 or more push ups per set to feel the same level of exertion as you did when you first started. This is a problem because doing lots of reps of an exercise isn’t going to help you once you get past the 10 or 12 rep range. To make them effective again you need to make them more difficult.
So How Can You Increase the Difficulty of a Push Up?
One way to make the humble push up more difficult is to work your way up to doing the one armed version. Doing push ups with one arm is almost impossible the first time you try (I know it was for me) but if you follow this guide to doing one armed push ups I wrote recently you can see that, if you follow the right route of progression, you can work your way up to doing single armed push ups without too much of a problem.
How Elevated Push Ups Can Increase Exertion
Another way to increase the intensity of a push up is to put your legs up on a step, bench or chair. These are called elevated push ups and they are a great way to make this exercise more challenging and therefore more effective. The higher your feet are elevated off the ground, the more difficult the exercise will be. If you are just starting out then I recommend you don’t elevate your feet too high. However, as time passes and you get stronger you can really increase the height for maximum rewards.
Try Swiss Ball Push Ups for Extra Intensity
There are two types of Swiss ball push up you can try. The first type works on the same principle as the elevated push up as you place your feet on the ball. But not only do you get the benefit from increasing the intensity by having your feet off the floor but the issue of stability comes into play. The whole point of the Swiss ball is that your attempt to control and eliminate the wobble created by resting on the ball forces your core muscles to work even harder. Using a Swiss ball in this way makes this exercise even more difficult!
Another way to use one of these balls is to place your hands on the ball when doing the push up. You will lose the benefit from your legs being elevated, but the muscles in your shoulders will have to work extra hard to keep you stable.
Suspension Push Ups
Another way to make push ups more difficult is to use a suspension trainer. These are excellent pieces of fitness gear that can massively increase the number of exercises you can do at home and on the road while traveling. Check out this article I wrote on the products available to find out which is the best suspension trainer for home workouts.
By placing your hands in the suspension trainer you can make your press ups much more difficult as you will have to work harder to keep your upper body stable. The lack of stability that occurs when using suspension straps is what makes them such a powerful piece of equipment to have in your training arsenal, and when it comes to suspended push ups they are no exception!
Another option to increase the difficulty when it comes to doing push ups with your suspension straps is to put your feet in the straps. For this version you will get the extra benefit of doing elevated push ups as well as having to try and prevent your lower body from swinging and wobbling around. This is a great way to work your core muscles even harder when doing push ups.
Add Some Weight to Increase the Intensity
Even if you aren’t lucky enough to have some weights at home, you can make do by wearing a backpack filled with heavy objects. It could be water bottles filled with sand, pebbles or even plain old water. You could stuff all those worthless health and fitness magazines into your bag or even a stack of books. Whatever you have lying around can be made into a weight that can be used to increase the difficult of a regular press up. You can even ask a friend to sit on your back while doing your push ups, just make sure they aren’t too heavy!
Over to You
So that was a quick list of the various ways you can increase the intensity of the classic push up exercise. Some didn’t require any extra equipment at all and some relied on some effective pieces of home exercise equipment you might want to think about investing in such as the Swiss ball and the suspension straps.
Do you know of any other ways to improve this exercise? Leave us a comment with your home exercise tips and tricks.