Push-ups are an exercise powerhouse—they work your entire upper body and core but what many people don’t realize is that, physically, they’re actually a very advanced move. Fortunately, if you find push-ups near impossible or just unenjoyable there are alternate workouts you can enlist that will work your arms, shoulders, triceps, back, and chest just as effectively.
Bodyweight Exercises—No Gym or Special Equipment Required
Using your bodyweight in workouts is not only cost-effective (no gym membership required) but they are ideal to build upper body muscle, burn calories and improve your aerobic capacity:
If a standard pushup is too challenging, you can modify the entire move by doing pushups against a wall, table, or sturdy chair. This simple move activates a lot of the same muscle groups as a push-up while reducing joint strain. Stand several feet away from the object, use the same standard pushup technique to lower yourself until the elbows are 90 degrees, then raise back up. Keep your core tight the whole time.
One of the biggest drawbacks to doing standard push-ups is the stress they put on your wrists. Side planks done on your forearms reduce this pressure and not only engage your core, back, and legs but can also be beneficial for strengthening your shoulders. Start on your side with your feet together and one forearm directly below your shoulder, raise your hips until your body is in a straight line from head to feet and hold for 20-60 seconds at a time.
Free Weight & Weight Machine Exercises
Using weights for resistance, either free weights or weight machines is a great option when you want to burn fat and build lean muscle as well as more easily track your progress as you increase the load, like:
Using a cable machine or resistance band, tricep pushdowns work all three components of the tricep muscle as well as benefiting your overall strength and endurance by engaging your core, back, and shoulders. With your elbows at your sides, bring your forearm to 90 degrees and press to full extension.
Hold one dumbbell in each hand, with wrists turned in to face each other and dumbbells level with your shoulders. Keep knees soft and core engaged. Press weights up overhead, focusing on fully extending your arms before lowering the weights (with control) to your shoulders. This is a compound movement that will build strength in your shoulders, chest, and arms.
Dumbell Bench Press
Comparable in movement and perfect for toning your shoulders, chest, and triceps is a dumbbell bench press. Grab a pair of dumbells, lay on your back on a bench and, holding the weights on either side of your chest and elbows bent at 90 degrees, press the dumbbells up over your chest. With control, lower them back down your starting point (but not below the horizontal line of your body).
Push-ups are a fitness staple—but anyone who has tried them knows that they’re also a humbling move, regardless of skill level. The good news is that if incorporate some of the above moves into your weekly workouts (feel free to mix and match too!), you will strengthen your upper body, improve mobility, and might just find yourself ready to revisit push-ups in time with a lot less difficulty and a little more ease.