Push-ups are one of the most efficient, accessible muscle-building exercises you can do. You can do lots of different variations to make the exercise easy or harder, it can be done without any significant kit, and it's a great "compound exercise" which works lots of different muscle groups – the triceps, shoulders, core and most famously the chest.
Growing your pectoral muscles is one of the reasons push-ups are the go-to calisthenics exercise for many people, and you can visit our how to do a push-up guide for lots of tips and variations on the move.
However, be wary of common mistakes when you're doing push-ups at home. For example, you might not feel your pectoral muscles engaging very much, while your weight seems to be more on your arms and shoulders.
Enter Hampton of YouTube channel Hybrid Calisthenics (opens in new tab), which has grown enormously popular in recent months as COVID pushed people into trying home fitness. Hampton's latest 30-second video (which has racked up over 400,000 views in a week at time of writing) will help you adjust your push-up form, engaging your chest rather than your arms and shoulders.
Watch the 30-second push-up form video here:
Hampton recommends setting your shoulders back and down, while flaring your elbows outwards. This takes the load off the triceps and places it squarely onto your chest. To exercise your arms more than your chest, you can do the opposite, tucking your elbows further towards your sides.
Another great chest exercise: The bench press/dumbbell press
Want to take your training to the next level? Go down to the gym and grab a barbell, or pick up some of the best adjustable dumbbells to use at home. The bench press is a classic bodybuilding exercise, in which we lie flat on our backs and push a weight or set of weights upwards using our chest and tricep muscles.
The classic bench press is done with a barbell, and you can check out our guide on how to do a bench press for more detail on the minutiae of the move. You can target different areas of the pectoral muscle depending on how wide, or how close together, you grip the bar, so it's a handy and versatile move. It's one of the "big three" lifting moves, along with the squat and deadlift, and is frequently used to measure upper-body strength.
If you don't have a gym membership, the dumbbell press offers similar benefits to the bench press, with added instability. Because the weight is split between two dumbbells rather than connected by a bar, dumbbell presses are actually quite challenging, and you have to work harder to maintain great form. Dumbbells also allow you to perform other chest-growing moves such as dumbbell flys which you just can't do with a bar.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
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