The Diet Detective: The Benefits of Push-Ups

Having strong muscles requires tearing down muscle tissue so it rebuilds even stronger. And yes, muscles burn more calories than fat. One of the best ways to build muscle is to strength train, we asked an expert to share a favorite strength-training exercise and how to do it.

Expert: James Villepigue, CSCS, author of 28 books. His most recent being The Obstacle Race Training Bible: The #1 Resource to Prepare for and Conquer Any Course! (ALPHA, 2012)

Primary body parts: Pectoralis major (chest) muscles, anterior deltoids, triceps, abs

Why you should do this exercise: It's a fun and challenging exercise. Even if you have access to a fully stocked gym, the push-up will provide a very functional compound movement by working several muscle groups simultaneously—and you'll be doing it all using your own body weight and mechanics.

More: Infographic: A 30-Minute Bodyweight Workout

The average person exercises their legs and lower-body muscles more than they do their upper-body muscles. This is often a result of indirect exercise such as walking, stair climbing and standing. Their upper-body muscles are at a disadvantage and they will benefit greatly by including a direct exercise like push-ups in their training regimen. Not only will this exercise stimulate the chest muscles, it will also work the abs, arms, shoulders and even the back, legs and hips.

What you need (equipment): You can certainly do push-ups using your body weight alone. For a more challenging exercise, have someone apply pressure with their hands to your upper back.

How to do it: Position your body face down on the floor. You're going to balance your weight on your toes and hands. Your body should be straight as a board from shoulder to ankle. Begin with your arms fully extended. They should be as straight as possible without locking the elbows, with palms flat on the floor, and fingertips pointing straight ahead.

More: See Results With This Push-Up Workout

Your hands should be about shoulder-width apart, although you may vary hand placement—closer together for accentuating the triceps and wider apart for more pectoral stimulation. Look up slightly and keep your eyes fixed on a spot about 3 feet in front of you. If you have a weak lower back and find it difficult to maintain a straight body, let your butt rise up a bit so that your hips have a slight bend.

Contract and tighten every muscle from shoulders to ankles. Your body should be completely rigid. Maintain this rigid state throughout the movement to avoid stressing the lower back.

Inhale and bend at the elbows to lower yourself to the floor, keeping your elbows pointed out to the sides. Descend slowly and in control in order to work the muscles harder and give them a good pump. Stop descending when you've touched your chest to the floor—but don't rest on the floor.

More: 3 Steps to the Perfect Push-Up

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