A well performed push-up is the most efficient way to strengthen all of the major muscle groups in the upper body. The push-up strengthens muscles in the chest (pectorals), back (latissimus dorsi), the shoulders (deltoids) and triceps (back of the upper arm). Because a push-up requires an exerciser to stabilize the body, important core muscles are also strengthened. These include the abdominal muscles on the front of the torso, and the erector spinae which run down the length of the back.
In this video by the American Council on Exercise, a perfect push-up is demonstrated along with variations for beginning exercisers. Keep in mind, that the most important component of the perfect push-up is maintaining alignment. If doing a “full” push up means that you compromise form, then scale back and lower the knees until you’ve strengthened the muscles well enough to go back to the original version without cheating. Push-ups may also be performed in an upright position against a wall.
Strength training is essential to maintaining good health and fitness. But it doesn’t have to take a lot of time, money, or equipment. The push-up, along with other simple body weight exercises, can be performed at home in five minutes or less and provides the same benefits as an extended trip to the health club weight room.