What’s the deal with push-ups? They’re included in almost every kind of general fitness test, from military and law enforcement preparedness requirements to high school gym class fitness assessments. They’re an integral part of athletic training, and almost every personal trainer and bootcamp instructor loves to torture their clients with them.
That’s because the push-up is a test of more than just upper body strength. In addition to chest and arm strength, a standard push-up also requires strength through the core and legs, as well as wrist and shoulder mobility, body awareness, and control—all valuable measurements of physical fitness.
Nevertheless, there are plenty of strong, fit women who struggle with the standard push-up, whether due to a lack of strength or mobility in a specific body part, or issues with technique. So, if you can still be fit without doing them, do you need to do them?
Here’s the thing: it’s awesome to have lofty training goals like a 200-lb squat or running a marathon, but I believe that the ability to confidently move your bodyweight through various ranges of motion (such as the push-up) is a worthy goal as well and shouldn’t be underestimated. Functional movements not only improve your overall fitness, but also impact quality of life.
Though a standard straight body push-up may not be part of your current skill set, with the right exercises, it can be. There is a long list of movements you can integrate into your training to build the necessary strength and stability to perform a push-up. Besides tons of push-up variations (such as from the knees or against a wall or bench), exercises such as bench press (barbell or dumbbell), skull crushers, triceps extensions, and even planks are key in developing strength in the muscles required to perform not just a single standard push-up, but multiple reps and sets.
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The push-up is worth training for in its own right, but the bonus benefit of adding push-up training to your fitness regimen is that it’s also a building block for so many other movements you may be trying to master or improve on. From ring push-ups and dips to handstands and heavier bench presses, these goals only become more attainable through your push-up work.
It’s important to note that whether you can perform a standard push-up or not, the movements and strength development that will build towards it should be part of any well-rounded training program. Remember, it’s not about if you can perform a standard push-up right now, it’s the ongoing pursuit of balanced strength and fitness that’s important.