The single best exercise for toning your arms and back

Push ups. Love ‘em or hate ‘em, you know they’re good for you.

Personally, I think they’re an underrated exercise – a good push up works plenty of muscle groups, including the chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps and core. They’re a tough exercise, and not many people really do them well. But let me tell you a little secret – the best way to get better at push ups is to do more push ups!

I actually used to be pretty bad at them – chicken wings flailing, chest nowhere near the ground and my butt sticking up in the air like a pyramid. Luckily, at the time I had a live-in push-up coach, who taught me how to do them properly. And now I’m here to do the same for you. Except for the live-in part, that would probably be weird.

We’re going to begin with the basics – the standing push up – and progress right through to toe push-ups. Start where you feel comfortable and work your way up!

The Standing Push Up

Who is it for?

Total exercise novices or those who are unable to complete six reps of the knee push up.

How do I do it?

Stand in front of a wall or fence, feet hip width apart and weight up on your toes. You want to be close enough that your hands can be flat on the wall and shoulder width apart. Keeping your core switched on and your body in a straight plank position, bend your elbows and lower your body towards the wall, go as deep as you can and then push back up through the palms of your hands to return to start position.

The Knee Push Up

Who is it for?

Anyone who is struggling to perform toe push ups or is ready to progress from standing push ups.

How do I do it?

Start on your hands and knees, with your weight shifted forward so you upper body is taking the load. Hands should be directly underneath your shoulders. Lower yourself towards the ground – keeping your elbows close to your body and bending backwards, not outwards – until your nose is almost touching the ground, then press back up through the palms of your hands to return to your starting position.


The Toe Push Up

Who is it for?

Everyone, eventually!

How do I do it?

Start in high plank position, with your hands underneath your shoulders and your weight evenly distributed. Widen your feet if you need a more stable base of support. Switch your core on and lower your body towards the ground, keeping your elbows nice and tight to your body. Get as low as you can then push back up through your palms, returning to your starting position.

Couple of things to watch out for with the toe push up: letting go of your core and dropping your hips (can hurt your lower back), the pyramid effect (bum high in the air, core not engaged), chicken wings (elbows bending out instead of backwards).

No matter where you are on the push up spectrum, with enough dedication and practice you will be able to do toe push ups – and in my opinion that is a goal well worth striving for.

This post originally appeared on Lazy Girl Fitness and has been republished here with full permission. You can also follow Jess on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. 

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