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Animation of a full press-up


press-up (British English) or push up (American English) is a common strength training exercise performed in a prone position, lying horizontal and face down, raising and lowering the body using the arms.

Press-ups develop the pectoral muscles and triceps, with ancillary benefits to the deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis and the midsection as a whole.

Press-ups are a basic exercise used in civilian athletic training or physical education and commonly in military physical training. Press-ups are a common form of punishment used in the military and in school sport.



The American English term push-up has been used since 1905–11,[1] and the British English term press-up was first recorded 1945–50.[2]


In the "full press-up", the back and legs are straight and off the floor. There are several variations besides the common press-up. These include bringing the thumbs and index fingers of both hands together (a "diamond pressup") as well as having the elbows pointed towards the knees. These two variations are intended to put greater emphasis on the triceps rather than the shoulder and chest muscles. When both hands are unbalanced or on uneven surfaces, this exercise works the body core. Raising the feet or hands onto elevated surfaces during the exercise emphasize the upper and lower pectorals, respectively. In any variation of a push up, a person will be lifting about 75% of his or her body weight.

Planche press-ups

Another extremely difficult variation is to perform a press-up using only hands, without resting the feet on the floor. These are known as "planche press-ups". To do this variation, the body's center of gravity must be kept over the hands while performing the press-up by leaning forward while the legs are elevated in the air, which requires great strength and a high level of balance.

Boxer's press-ups

Another variation often used as part of boxing training involves doing the press-up while wearing boxing gloves. The design of the gloves means that the person doing the press-up must do so on his or her knuckles and without bending his or her wrists. This method is also commonly used in martial arts, such as Karate and Tae Kwon Do, but without the boxing gloves.

The intent, aside from building the arms, is to build wrist strength for punching. These press-ups may also strengthen bones and build calluses upon the knuckles to reduce pain in punching.

Maltese press-ups

"Maltese push-ups" are a gymnastic variation of the press-up, in which the hands are positioned closer to the hips (as opposed to the pectorals), but with an extremely great distance between them.[3]

Hindu press-ups

"Hindu press-ups" (aka Hanuman Push-ups or Dive Bomber Push-ups) are a form of exercise prevalent in Indian physical culture and Indian martial arts, particularly Pehlwani. Hindu squats are called Uthak-bethak and the exercise regimen in Indian wrestling often consists of doing the Indian "jack-knifing press-ups", Indian club swinging and squats. The Hindu jack-knifing press-ups are part of the core exercises for building up of strength, stamina, and flexibility of joints.[4] The dand was also a part of the exercise regimen of Bruce Lee.[5] They are commonly called swallowdives in English speaking countries.[6]

The simple set of exercises of dand-baithak (press-up and squats) practiced in the villages of India has a beneficial effect on the spine. It takes off the strain from the spine and makes it fit to fight the other strains on the spine caused by the adoption of an erect posture.[7]

The American College of Sports Medicine (2000) recommends using a press-up test to examine endurance on the upper-body musculature. For a male subject, assuming a dand position, with back straight, head up, and hands placed shoulder width apart, lowering his body with his chin touching the mat; the abdomen should not touch the mat.[8]

Guillotine press-up

The guillotine press-up is a form of press-up exercise done from a non elevated position (either hands on elevated platforms or traditionally medicine balls) wherein the practitioner lowers their chest, head, and neck (thus the name) past the plane of the hands. The goal is to stretch the shoulders and put extra emphasis on the muscles there.

Less difficult versions

U.S. Marines count out push-ups.

There are some less difficult versions, which reduce the effort by supporting some of the body weight in some way. One can move on to the standard press-up after progress is made.

"Wall press-ups" are performed by standing close to a wall and pushing away from the wall with the arms; one can increase the difficulty by moving one's feet farther from the wall.

"Modified" or "ladies'" press-ups are performed by supporting the lower body on the knees instead of the toes, which reduces the difficulty.

"Three phase" press-ups involve simply breaking a standard press up into three components and doing each one slowly and intentionally. Participants usually start face down on the floor with hands outstretched either perpendicular or parallel to the body. The first phase involves the arms being brought palms down on a 90 degree angle at the elbows. The second phase involves the body being pushed into the up position. The third phase is returning to the starting position. This technique is commonly used after a large block of regular press ups, as it poses less stress and requires less effort.


Two platforms are placed beside the trainee, one on either side. The exercise begins with the hands on either platform supporting the body, then the subject drops to the ground and explosively rebounds with a press-up, extending the torso and arms completely off the ground and returning the hands to the platforms.

Another is simply an explosive press-up where a person attempts to push quickly and with enough force to raise his or her hands several centimeters off the ground, with the body completely suspended on the feet for a moment, a variation of the drop push. This is often done in martial arts with the athlete clapping their hands while in the air.

With press-ups, many possibilities for customization and increased intensity are possible. Some examples are: One hand can be set on a higher platform than the other or be farther away from the other to give more weight to the opposite arm/side of the body and also exercise many diverse muscles. One can perform press-ups by using only the tips of the fingers and thumb. For increased difficulty, press-ups can be performed on one arm or using weights.

Non-training purposes

Push up bars

They are also commonly used as a fitness test or as a mild physical punishment on the spot, to show off physically or as demonstration of submission.

In a competitive or disciplinary context especially, it is not rare to use "nastier" variations, e.g. in mud, gravel, snow or dirt, divested, and/or to make it physically harder, as by putting one's foot or a weight on the performer's back (possibly with sanctions if equilibrium is lost, such as spilling a glass) or to do the exercise resting on the knuckles or not use all fingers (not counting the thumb).

Record breakers and attempts

The world record for most two-handed push back hand ups in one hour is 1,940 by Paddy Doyle of the UK, set in 2007.[9] The record for the most non-stop was 10,507, and set by Minoru Yoshida of Japan in October 1980.[10]

In the animal kingdom

There are zoology observations that certain animals emulate a push up action. Most notably various taxa of the Fence lizard exhibit this display,[11] primarily involving the male engaging in postures to attract the female. The Western fence lizard is a particular species that also engages in this behavior.[12] (It may be noted that in Spanish push ups are called "lagartijas", which means "lizards".)

See also


  1. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House (2006). "push-up". Retrieved 2007-07-06. 
  2. ^ Random House Unabridged Dictionary, Random House (2006). "press-up". Retrieved 2007-09-04. 
  3. ^ "Maltese Push ups". Xercise Factor. 2007-12-29. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  4. ^ Sudhir Kakar (1996). The Colors of Violence: Cultural Identities, Religion, and Conflict pg 83. University of Chicago Press
  5. ^ Bruce Lee and John R. Little (1998). The Art of Expressing the Human Body pg 58. Tuttle Publishing
  6. ^
  7. ^ Dr. Krishna Murari Modi. Cure Aches And Pains Through Osteopathy: Adopting the Correct Posture.
  8. ^ Vivian H. Heyward (2003 ). Advanced fitness assessment & exercise prescription pg 125. Human Kinetics
  9. ^ "Most Push-Ups (Using Back of Hands) in One Hour". Guinness World Records. 2007-11-08. Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  10. ^ Ralf Laue and Charles Linster. "World Record for Non-Stop Push-Ups". Retrieved 2010-02-09. 
  11. ^ Maurice Burton and Robert Burton (2002) International Wildlife Encyclopedia, published by Marshall Cavendish ISBN 076147272X
  12. ^ C. Michael Hogan (2008) "Western fence lizard (Sceloporus occidentalis)", Globaltwitcher, ed. Nicklas Stromberg [1]

External links

Simple English

A Press-up also called a push-up is a exercise move where a person lifts themself off the ground and back towards it with their arms. Press-ups help the pectoral muscles and triceps.

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