Push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises you can do and one that requires no equipment. Plus, it’s an exercise you can modify by doing them on your knees or with your hands elevated if you lack the strength to do a standard push-up. But you should always work toward doing full push-ups on your toes.
What’s so powerful about the push-up? Few bodyweight exercises work so many muscles and do it so efficiently. When you do a standard pushup, you work the following muscles:
A drawback to standard push-ups is your muscles will eventually adapt to exercise and you’ll stop making gains. Because push-ups are a bodyweight exercise, it’s harder to use progressive overload to make the exercise more challenging, yet you need the challenge for your muscles to grow and become stronger. That’s why push-up variations, like reverse push-ups, can help. The reverse push-up adds an additional dynamic component to the exercise that boosts muscle recruitment.
Here’s how to do a reverse push-up:
- Get into a standard push-up position on a mat with your legs extended behind you.
- Slowly lower your chest toward the mat until your chest almost contacts the floor.
- In this position, push your buttocks backward as you bend your knees until your arms are fully extended and your buttocks are in the air.
- Push your body forward again, slowly straighten your legs, and return to the starting position.
What Are the Fitness Benefits of Reverse Push-Ups?
The reverse push-up is a more dynamic exercise than a standard push-up since you’re extending your lower body behind you. This makes it a total body movement. Reverse push-ups will also raise your heart rate more for greater cardiovascular benefits. The extra extension of your lower body activates the muscles in your core more than a standard push-up too, so you’re recruiting more muscles than with a standard push-up and doing it in a dynamic manner.
Because you’re pushing your buttocks back with a reverse push-up, you’re also getting an upper body stretch. So, including doing reverse push-ups can improve the flexibility in your chest and shoulders too.
Keep Your Form Tight!
As with all exercises, you’ll get more benefits from reverse push-ups if you use excellent form. When you’re in a push-up position, don’t let your hips or back sag toward the floor. Hold a straight line from your shoulder to your feet. When you push your buttocks back to do the reverse component of the push-up, keep your back straight to protect your spine.
Although reverse push-ups will help strengthen your core more than a standard push-up, you should have some core strength before doing this exercise. Therefore, focus on strengthening your core before attempting this push-up variation. Without a strong core, it will be harder to keep your hips from sagging and your spine straight when you extend your buttocks backward.
Include Other Push-Up Variations in Your Fitness Routine Too
Along with working your core muscles more, reverse push-ups show how important it is to vary the type of push-ups you do and move beyond a standard push-up. Otherwise, you’re destined to reach a plateau. However, there are other ways to make push-ups harder. Try some of these approaches too.
Once a standard push-up feels too easy and you can do 20 in a row, elevate your legs on a bench or platform to make the exercise harder. Likewise, placing your hands higher than your feet makes the movement easier.
You can also make push-ups harder by placing your hands closer than shoulder-width apart. The closer your place your hands, the harder the exercise will be and the more you’ll target your triceps muscles. An extreme example of this is the diamond push-up where you place your hands close and spread your fingers out to create a diamond shape with your fingers. Diamond push-ups are challenging, and you may only be able to do a few when you first start out.
For an even greater challenge, try dive bomber push-ups, a movement that’s even tougher than a reverse push-up. It’s a movement that combines the power of a push-up with downward dog, a yoga pose. Like a reverse push-up, it’s a variation that also works your core, along with your triceps, chest, and back and also stretches your upper body for greater flexibility. Be careful though! This variation places more stress on your shoulders, so stop if you experience shoulder pain.
The Bottom Line
The reverse push-up is a push-up variation that most people don’t do, but they’re missing out on a great way to work their core more when they do a push-up. The added push back of the lower body makes the exercise more dynamic and adds more of a cardiovascular component.
Why not add reverse push-ups to your strength-training routine? But be sure to add some push-up variations that challenge your body too. It’s easy to get into a rut and only do the standard version of a push-up, but your body will change faster, and you’ll avoid plateaus if you work your muscles differently and add more of a challenge.
The push-up is an exercise you can do anywhere, indoors or outdoors, and it’s one of the best bodyweight exercises that work your upper body. Take advantage of the many benefits this classic exercise offers!
Stack.com. “Try Reverse Push-Ups to Build a Strong Chest and Shoulders”
Ebben WP, Wurm B, VanderZanden TL, Spadavecchia ML, Durocher JJ, Bickham CT, Petushek EJ. Kinetic analysis of several variations of push-ups. J Strength Cond Res. 2011 Oct;25(10):2891-4. doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820c8587. PMID: 21873902.
Ebben, William P1; Wurm, Bradley2; VanderZanden, Tyler L2; Spadavecchia, Mark L2; Durocher, John J2; Bickham, Curtis T1; Petushek, Erich J4 Kinetic Analysis of Several Variations of Push-Ups, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: October 2011 – Volume 25 – Issue 10 – p 2891-2894, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31820c8587.
Origympersonaltrainercourses.co.uk. “Dive Bomber Push Up: Exercise Video & Tips”
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