In many ways the press-up is the definitive bodyweight exercise. It’s a simple move, requiring zero equipment and minimal space, and there’s a fair chance that it’s the first bodyweight exercise you ever did. When someone barks at you to drop and give them 20, there’s only one exercise that comes to mind.
It’s also tough. The press-up is a savage test of a host of upper-body muscles, especially the chest, shoulders and triceps. Your core will also benefit from the standard press-up, and if you introduce a few basic variations on the move you can recruit even more muscles.
Before you start varying your press-ups, however, it’s important to ensure your form on the classic move is correct. Even if you’ve done a million press-ups in your time, make sure you check your form against the following technique guide. It’s a bit like watching the air stewards when they show you the safety procedure. Sure, you can look cool by ignoring it, but you’re going to wish you paid attention when you attach the oxygen mask to your neck by mistake.
- Start on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart – moving your feet further apart will make it easier, while bringing them closer together makes it harder.
- Straighten your arms. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders throughout the movement.
- Lower your chest towards the ground by bending at the elbows, keeping them by your sides. Flaring your elbows works the chest more, while keeping them close to you targets the triceps more. The closer your chest gets to the floor the better, unless you end up just lying down. That’s not going to help anyone.
- Press back up. Then do it all again.
The 30-Day Press-Up Challenge
Once you’ve mastered the form, it’s time for this challenge designed by Maximuscle expert personal trainer Paul Olima. The first few days build up with regular press-ups, but before long some variations are thrown into the mix, so make sure you know the form for each press-up style before beginning.
This is a very tough challenge, so if one look at the below makes you tremble with fear, rather than excitement, then it might be worth first taking on our more accessible 30-day plank challenge, or our 30-day burpee challenge which can be scaled up or down in line with your current fitness level.
Day 1 20 press-ups
Day 2 25 press-ups
Day 3 30 press-ups
Day 4 35 press-ups
Day 5 2 sets of 20 press-ups
Day 6 2 sets of 25 press-ups
Day 7 2 sets of 30 press-ups
Day 8 2 sets of 35 press-ups
Day 9 45 press-ups
Day 10 30 press-ups + 10 diamond press-ups
Day 11 35 press-ups + 15 diamond press-ups
Day 12 35 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups
Day 13 40 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups
Day 14 40 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups
Day 15 45 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups
Day 16 50 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups
Day 17 2 sets of 30 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 18 2 sets of 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 19 60 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 20 30 decline press-ups + 30 press-ups+ 30 diamond press-ups
Day 21 35 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 22 35 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups
Day 23 40 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups
Day 24 40 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups
Day 25 40 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups
Day 26 45 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups
Day 27 45 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups
Day 28 45 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups
Day 29 50 decline press-ups + 50 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups
Day 30 100 press-ups