Chances are that if you belong to a gym and lift weights, the push-up isn’t part of your routine. It’s a bodyweight move, after all, and thus inferior to loaded exercises, like the bench press, for building strength, right? Not necessarily, according to Danish researchers. In a study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, they found that both the bench press and the push-up produce similar levels of muscle activation—and lead to similar gains in upper body strength—when performed at the same intensity (in the study, a six repetition maximum).
That’s reason enough to add the push-up back to your list of go-to exercises, and if you do the variation on this page, you’ll double down on its potential benefits. In addition to hammering your chest and triceps, the T push-up strengthens your shoulders and helps build rotational power in your core.
Exercise Instructions for the T Push-Up
Muscles targeted: Chest, triceps, shoulders, core.
Get in a push-up position with your feet hip-width apart, your body straight from head to heels, and your hands in line with (but slightly wider than) your shoulders. Keeping your elbows tucked, lower your chest to within a few inches of the floor. Pause, and then push back up, rotating up to your left and pivoting onto the sides of your feet as you raise your left arm straight towards the ceiling (your body should form a sideways “T”). Return to the starting position and repeat, this time rotating up to your right. Continue alternating sides.
Make it easier: Elevate your hands on a box or bench.
Make it harder: Perform the move while gripping a dumbbell in each hand.
Bonus tip: When you set up in the starting position (i.e., the top of the push-up), brace your core and clench your glutes, and hold them that way for the duration of the set. That will help prevent your hips from sagging—one of the most common mistakes people make when performing the push-up. When your hips sag, your back hyperextends, increasing the stress on your spine and your risk of back pain.