Moving your hands—and by default, your arms—into different positions relative to your body tweaks the type of push-up that you're doing, which switches up the muscles that you're working. "Though all push-ups work your chest, different types require more effort from different parts of your muscles," says Julia Stern, a trainer with Rumble. When your hands are close together and your arms are parallel to your body, your triceps get the brunt of the work. As you move them farther apart into a regular push-up and then into a wide-grip push-up, the work moves increasingly into your pectorals.
So if you max out on the number of reps you do in one type of push-up, pausing and moving your hands will allow you to reset so that you can start from zero on the next variation, since those muscles haven't yet been burned out. In doing this, you'll be able to up your count and work every inch of your chest.
To try it for yourself, cycle through these three moves (either on your feet or knees is fine!). Do as many as you can with your hands in the first positioning, then move onto position number two until you max out on reps, and then move on to the third and final variation. You'll be thrice as strong in no time.
1. Diamond push-ups: Place your hands directly underneath your chest so that your thumbs and forefingers are touching to create a diamond shape on the floor, which will help you target your triceps. Squeeze your core to keep your back straight as you slowly lower down to the floor, keeping your arms pulled in tight to your body. You can also start with a regular tricep push-up, as demonstrated below:
2. Regular push-up: Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders so that you're in a solid high-plank position. Lower your whole body down, with your elbows between a 45- and 90-degree angle away from your chest, then push back up.
3. Wide stance push-ups: With the exact same form that you used in your regular push-up, move your hands slightly further apart than your shoulders. This allows for a smaller range of motion than the other moves, since there's less space between your chest and the floor, and will target your pectorals instead of the backs of your arms.
These are the most common mistakes people make when they're doing push-ups, plus the hardest variation you'll ever try, straight from J. Lo's trainer.
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