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A Harvard study: one simple exercise can reduce the risk of CVD

Updated: Feb 11, 2022

Push-ups are a common and practical exercise that are used to improve fitness, upper body strength, and endurance. In fact, doing push-ups is also a very effective way to gain more muscle strength. A push-up is a common calisthenics exercise that begins from the prone position. Push-ups exercise the pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids, with ancillary benefits to the rest of the deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis and the midsection. Push-ups are executed by raising and lowering the body using the arms.

Exercising push-ups may reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases

A study researching association between push-up exercise capacity and future cardiovascular events among active adult men was conducted in 2019. The study followed more than a thousand male firefighters for a period of ten years.

Participants able to complete more than 40 push-ups were associated with a significant reduction in incident cardiovascular disease events compared to those completing fewer than 10 push-ups. In fact, cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of mortality across the world. The results of this study prove that push-up capacity might be a simple measure for evaluating the risk of cardiovascular diseases.

Execute a push-up correctly

The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research published a study, according to which people support about 69.16% of their body mass in the up position on their hands. Their hands support about 75.04% of the body mass in the down position during the traditional push-ups. These are basic principles to perform push-ups correctly:

1. Position your hands a little bit wider than shoulder-width apart

2. Hold your elbows at 45-degree angle to your body

3. Keep your fingers splayed, middle fingers should point directly toward 12 o'clock

4. Keep your body in one straight line, core engaged and back flat

5. Get low enough: at least until your elbows are in line with your shoulders

Push-up variations for beginners

Fortunately, there are multiple easier variations of push-ups. If you are interested in these different variations, you may want to take a look at The Ultimate Guide To Pushups: For Beginners To Advanced Athletes, Over 65 Pushup Variations To Help You Build A Stronger, More Confident You! by David Nordmark. If you have never done push-ups before, it is recommended to start with a variation of a push-up.

The lightest version is to do the push-up with your hands against the wall. This way, you have to lift only a small part of your body weight, as the incline reduces the amount of body weight you will have to carry with your hands.

Though push-ups are a simple, yet effective exercise, it is always recommended to start with a personal trainer, who can advise you on the best possible ways to get started. In addition, your personal trainer can show you the correct way to execute a push-up.

Advanced variations to do push-ups

An advanced athlete can elevate their feet higher than the rest of the body, or in other words, execute the push-up on a decline.

The study of kinetic analysis of several variations of push-ups was conducted in 2011. The study showed that doing push-ups with the feet elevated produced a higher peak vertical ground reaction force than all other push-up variations. In contrast, push-ups with hands elevated and push-ups from the flexed knee position produced a lower peak vertical ground reaction force than all other push-up variations. Also, the study found no gender differences in response to these push-up variations.

Another way to make push-ups more efficient is to increase resistance with a resistance band or weights. Place a resistance band between your shoulders and palms to make the drag heavier

Finally: remember to breathe

Fitness coach Peter O’Reilly has very simple and good advice: "Correct breathing when working out requires you to exhale during the highest exertion. When doing push-ups, you inhale as you lower your body and exhale as you push back up." While exhaling, you automatically engage your core more, which helps you to get the most out of your exercise.

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