When one talks of building muscle, it’s automatically assumed that the only way to do so is to start pumping iron. And, while I can’t say I disagree given my fanatical love of weight training, I think it’s important not to turn out backs on the old, simpler methods: those which don’t require equipment, and which we can do anytime, anywhere.
Possibly the most famous of weight-less muscle building exercises is the push up. For those who haven’t caught it yet, the push up is pretty much identical to the bench press, barring a few differences.
The push up is an exercise which works the deltoids (shoulders), chest (pectorals), the triceps, and – because of the way the body is held up – the lower back. And, yes – under certain circumstances, push ups can and will build muscle.
Just because we are not using weights here, don’t think that the simple, basic rules of building muscle suddenly fly out of the window… no, they still apply. In order to build muscle, and to continue building muscle, a person must constantly be training against increasing resistance (more weight).
So, to an extent – particularly to the untrained individual – push ups will certainly help with a large portion of the upper body and arms, but, unless more resistance is added, even though endurance gains may continue, actual strength and size gains will stop eventually.
If you don’t want to train with weights, but would like to make the best of the gains you can with push ups, I have a tip for you: wear a back pack, and, load it with progressively heavier items as the week’s progress. While you are continually adding more and more weight to the amount you push up, there is no reason why you shouldn’t keep growing – providing you eat enough to sustain the growth, that is.
I would recommend doing push ups no more than 3 times a week, with a days rest in between each session. Try doing 12-15 push ups, and have a rest of 2-3 minutes before doing another set. 3 sets total will be a good way to get you started.
So, yes – push ups do build muscle, but eventually, it’s only inevitable you’ll need to switch to training with weights if you wish to continue building size.