Why Push-Ups Should Be a Staple in Your Fitness Routine: The Benefits of the Bodyweight Classic

Cathe Friedrich Doing push-ups in her STS 2.0 workout program

Pushups rule in the world of bodyweight exercises. These bad boys have been around for centuries, and for good reason! They are the ultimate full-body exercise you can do anywhere, at any time, and with no equipment. Even the military loves them! And there’s nothing like the feeling of knocking out a set of pushups and feeling like a boss. But why are pushups the king of bodyweight exercises? Let’s dive in.

Push-Ups Are a Compound Exercise

Pushups work multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them a compound exercise. Compound exercises burn more calories and increase functional strength. This contrasts with isolation exercises, those that work a single muscle group. Push-ups are a multi-muscle and multi-joint movement, making them more effective at burning calories and increasing functional strength. The push-up burns more calories than an isolation exercise because it requires more energy to work several muscle groups simultaneously.

When you do a push-up, you engage your chest, shoulders, and triceps, making it an excellent exercise for overall upper body strength. Plus, because you’re using your own body weight as resistance, you can also increase muscle size. Talk about a win-win!  You can add progressive overload by increasing the number you do and by doing more challenging push-up variations. Also, push-ups are an effective way to improve your posture as you strengthen your core muscles.

Pushing up your own body weight is an effective and efficient way to give your upper body a workout. Start slowly and increase the number of pushups you do over time. Maintain proper form, keeping your core engaged, your back straight, and your arms in line with your shoulders. You’ll soon feel stronger, and more confident with your body and will have better posture. Pushups are an excellent way to jumpstart your fitness journey.

 You Can Make Push-Ups Harder

Pushups work multiple muscle groups, but you can also do various variations that shift the focus toward a particular muscle group in your upper body, like your triceps or chest. Want to work on your chest? Do diamond pushups. Want to target triceps strength? Try close-grip pushups. And for an extra challenge, perform plyometric pushups for an explosive full-body workout that elevates your heart rate too. For your core, try mountain climbers, where your body is in a push-up position. The possibilities are endless.

Some of the most common push-up variations include regular push-ups, wide-arm push-ups, narrow-arm push-ups, inclined push-ups, declined push-ups, and one-handed or one-leg push-ups. Plus, there are clap push-ups, plyometric push-ups, Spiderman push-ups, and even dive bomber push-ups. Each of these variations targets different muscle groups to increase strength and stability.

Furthermore, by changing the tempo, range of motion, and hand placement, you can create other variations to further challenge the body. Who knows? Maybe you’ll develop a new push-up that bears your name! With a wide range of available variations, you can continue to challenge yourself and avoid reaching a plateau.

 You Can Also Make Push-Ups Easier

Another reason push-up are so versatile is you can modify them to fit your fitness level. If traditional pushups are too difficult, start with modified pushups on your knees. And as you get stronger, you can gradually work your way up to traditional pushups and then to harder push-up variations. You can tailor them to your fitness level and goals.

But it’s not just the physical benefits that make pushups the king of bodyweight exercises. They also boost mental well-being. All exercise is a mood booster, but being able to drop down and do a series of push-ups is a self-esteem booster- and if you can whip out 20 at a time, so much the better. Nothing beats that feeling of accomplishment after completing a set of push-ups.

 No Gym Required

But perhaps the best thing about pushups is that you can do them anywhere and anytime. No gym or equipment is required! You can knock out a quick set of pushups in your living room, in the park, or even at the office (just make sure you don’t do them with your hands on the keyboard).

Here’s another idea. Put on some upbeat music and create a pushup challenge for yourself or invite a friend or family member to join you for a quick exercise session. Pushups are the perfect way to get your heart rate up and give your muscles an intense burn without equipment. Your body weight is all the resistance you need to build muscle strength and endurance with push-ups.

 Tap into the Benefits of Push-Ups

Pushups are the king of bodyweight exercises for obvious reasons. They work multiple muscle groups and have a wide range of variations, and you can modify them to fit your fitness level. Push-ups shouldn’t be the only exercise in your upper body routine but make sure you’re including them in your workouts. And remember, with consistency and effort, you’ll be knocking out sets of pushups like a boss in no time.

Here’s another reason to do them Studies find that the ability to do push-ups may say something about the health of your heart. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health researchers made a groundbreaking discovery regarding push-up capacity and heart disease. They found that middle-aged men who can perform over 40 push-ups in one set had a 96% reduced likelihood of encountering this life-threatening condition. So, push-ups could be a marker of heart health. But be aware that push-ups alone won’t guarantee good heart health and should not be relied on as the sole marker for cardiovascular fitness.


Push-ups are a do-anywhere exercise with multiple benefits. So, next time you’re looking for a quick and effective exercise when you only have five minutes to spare, try push-ups!


  • “The rise of push-ups: A classic exercise that can help you get stronger.” 18 Feb. 2019, health.harvard.edu/blog/rise-push-ups-classic-exercise-can-motivate-get-stronger-2019021810165.
  • “Men who can do 40 push-ups far less likely to develop heart disease.” 26 Feb. 2022, studyfinds.org/men-more-than-40-push-ups-heart-disease/.
  • “How Many Push-Ups Can You Do? It May Be a Good Predictor of Heart ….” 20 Feb. 2019, nytimes.com/2019/02/20/well/move/how-many-push-ups-can-you-do-it-may-be-a-good-predictor-of-heart-health.html.
  • “Push-up capacity and cardiovascular events in men – News.” 15 Feb. 2019, https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/push-up-capacity-cardiovascular-disease-events-men/.
  • Kotarsky CJ, Christensen BK, Miller JS, Hackney KJ. Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness. J Strength Cond Res. 2018 Mar;32(3):651-659. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000002345. PMID: 29466268.

Related Articles By Cathe:

How to Adjust Your Push-Ups to Make Them Easier and Harder

Push-Ups: How Hand Position Changes the Muscles You Work

History of Push-Ups: They’ve Been Around Longer Than You Think!

Is a Push-Up the Ultimate Measure of Physical Fitness?

Which Push-Up Variation is Toughest?

5 Ways to Make Bodyweight Exercises More Effective

Related Cathe Friedrich Workout DVDs:

STS 2.0 Muscle & Recovery Workout Program

STS Strength 90 Day Workout Program

All of Cathe’s Strength & Toning Workout DVDs
Total Body Workouts
Upper Body Workouts

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