In my opinion, pushups are the single most effective exercise for improving total body fitness. They offer the benefits of weight lifting, stretching and cardio vascular training all in one exercise. For a beginner, pushups can be very difficult because of how many muscles are involved. Many of which are under trained in the body of a beginner. In fact, even many seasoned bench press veterans have trouble doing high-rep pushup workouts because their secondary and stabilizer muscles are untrained.
Holding the proper form is a great exercise alone, without even performing any repetitions. The pushup form benefits the abdominal muscles in the same way that Arnold Presses benefit the biceps, by simultaneously flexing and stretching. When the lower back muscles contract to stabilize your form, your abdominal muscles are inadvertently stretched. The quadriceps is also relied on heavily to maintain proper form, giving your legs a decent secondary workout.
The actual motion of a pushup trains the chest, triceps and the anterior deltoids, while stretching the biceps and back. Pushups are considered by many people to be the best all-around chest workout. I have found that they are great at increasing muscle size and tone. I have also found that they are easier on the joints than the bench press. Additionally, large pushup workouts are great for circulation and overall cardiovascular health.
When performed in high-repetition workouts, pushups can increase human growth hormone, boosting overall muscle growth. This is the hidden benefit of pushups that many people never discover because they only perform pushups as a supplemental exercise, rather than as a primary chest workout. My article entitled, "Do Pushups to Build Muscle Mass and Boost Metabolism," details how to build up your strength and endurance to completing a 1000-pushup routine. If you plan to use pushups as a primary chest exercise, then I encourage you to perform a lot of sets and reps, and set a goal of completing between 500 and 1000 pushups. Pushups are much more challenging and painful than a standard bench press, but if you commit yourself to them, you can have amazing results.
Written by Rick West. Find more of his work here: BodyMakeoverOnline