One-Move Wonder: The Push-Up That Will Give You Lean Arms
Hans Neumann for Lucky
There are no shortcuts on the journey to a healthy physique—but there are certain high-efficiency exercises that come pretty close. We seek them out in One-Move Wonders, our series about the quick-hitters that deliver major results in minimal time, straight from some of the best trainers and fitness experts around the world. Grab your water bottle, rev up your playlist and let's go!
We all know we should be doing push-ups. A lot of them, and often. The push-up is the full-body exercise recommended by virtually every fitness pro ever. Yes, it’s an arm-toning, core-strengthening power move, but in a traditional push-up, a lot of the work does remain in your chest. Celebrity trainer Mike Alexander showed us a better push-up. OK, it’s actually two push-ups that you alternate: the diamond push-up and the narrow-hand push-up.
“The prime mover in a standard push-up is the pecs (chest), but you can alter the hand position to put more of the emphasis on the anterior deltoid (front of shoulders) and triceps,” Alexander says. “The anterior deltoid is a great aesthetic muscle that helps add shape and definition on the top/front part of your arm, which is constantly on display in tanks and dresses.”
To achieve lean arms, Alexander says you need to a high number of repetitions (20), and you need to work hard for all of them. That means start with your body in a long, strong plank, and only when you feel yourself losing form can you drop down to your knees.
Emphasis on triceps.
- Place your hands on the ground below the middle of your chest. Touch your right index finger to the left index finger, and right thumb to left thumb, to form a diamond shape between your hands.
- Contract your abs and stay straight at the hip (no bending at the waist). Keeping your chin down and head neutral, lower your body by bending your elbows out at 45 degrees to the sides, and bring your chest down to your hands.
- Raise yourself to starting position by focusing on contracting your triceps and extending the elbows.
Note: If you come down to your knees, keep them bent and together, and cross your feet over, keeping them off the ground throughout the movement.
Emphasis on anterior deltoid and triceps.
- Place your palms on the ground, shoulder-width apart and in line with your lower chest.
- Contract your abs and stay straight at the hip (no bending at the waist). Keeping your chin down and head neutral, lower your body by allowing the elbows to drop straight back toward waist, keeping them tight into your sides.
- Return to starting position by flexing your shoulders (think of raising your hand like you have a question) and extending your elbows.
Note: If you come down to your knees, keep them bent and together and cross your feet over, keeping them off the ground throughout the movement.
And the fringe benefits? Alexander noted that the involvement of the pecs helps firm up the under-armpit area (you know, that small region you try to hide when sporting sleeveless tops). And now for the not-as-great news: “Anytime you hope to achieve ‘lean’ anything, there must be an emphasis on losing fat (i.e., diet) in addition to adding muscle.” Oh those personal trainers, always bringing us back down to reality.
Will you try alternating these diamond push-ups and narrow-hand push-ups? Tell us how it goes below!