The pushup may well be the best exercise for women. Why? Regularly adding pushups to your workout won’t just strengthen your chest. It will also shape your shoulders, triceps, and glutes while toning and tightening your entire core. Working all those muscles at once torches tons of calories and can even help give your girls an extra boost. Really, could you ask anything more of a single exercise?
Learn the basic version with these tips from Adam Campbell, author of The Women’s Health Big Book of Exercises, and you’ll soon be able to do all the pushup variations shown on the right, too.
To do: Get into plank position, with your hands under but slightly outside of your shoulders.
Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor.
As you lower yourself, tuck your elbows, pulling them close to your body so that your upper arms form a 45-degree angle when your torso is in the bottom position of the move. Pause, then push back to the starting position as quickly as possible. Keep your core braced the entire time.
If your hips sag at any point during the exercise, your form has been broken. When this happens, consider that your last repetition and end the set.
If it hurts your wrists to put your hands directly on the floor, place a pair of dumbbells (use a pair with flat edges, like hex dumbbells) at the spots where you’d position your hands. Then grasp the dumbbells’ handles and keep your wrists straight as you perform the exercise.
MODIFIED PUSHUP (EASIEST)
Look, Ma, No Knees! In the pushup spectrum of easiest to hardest, lots of women get stuck in the modified (read: girlie) stage because they find the incline pushup too tough. Here’s a clever trick: Set a barbell in a power rack at about chest height. Place your hands on the bar and get into pushup position. Try to do 12 pushups with perfect form. If you can do more, lower the bar one notch and repeat until you’re challenged. If you can’t for 12 reps, raise the bar one notch and test yourself again.