Pushups contribute to strong pectoral muscles without equipment.
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Many women endeavor to tone their shoulders, upper arms and core, but strengthening your pectoral muscles can help you accomplish a large assortment of daily movements without difficulty. If you're the type of fitness buff who enjoys exercising at home without equipment, it's still possible to target your pecs. The best way to do so, according to the American Council on Exercise, is with pushups.
Push Your Way to Greater Strength
When selecting a method of strengthening your pecs, you maximize your workout by choosing an effective way to target these chest muscles. An ACE-sponsored study provides muscle activity data on a number of chest exercises, noting the barbell bench press is the best way to strengthen your pecs. Subsequent entries on the list require the use of equipment as well, but standard pushups -- in the ninth overall position -- is the top chest exercise that doesn't rely on equipment.
No Equipment, No Worry
Even if standard pushups aren't technically the ACE's fastest way to strengthen your pectorals, they remain a valuable addition to your home-based workout plan because of their lack of equipment. Pushups target your pectoralis major muscles but each repetition of the exercise also leads to greater strength in a number of other supporting muscle groups, including your shoulders, arms, core, back and even your legs.
Find What Works for You
At the gym, you can add a challenge to your traditional pushups by performing them with a stability ball or with your upper half suspended from a pair of rings. When you wish to exercise without equipment, however, a couple variations can add variety to your workout. If you find it difficult to perform standard pushups, resting on your knees rather than your toes decreases the weight you must lift with each rep. If you wish to boost the exercise's challenge, have a partner push gently against your back as you push off the ground.
Low Reps, Proper Form
Even if you're in a hurry to strengthen your pectoral muscles, long pushup sessions aren't the answer. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends performing resistance exercises in sets of eight to 12 reps with the correct form and notes that one set per workout is often adequate. Perform your pushups two to three times per week in conjunction with other resistance exercises that strengthen the rest of your body's major muscle groups.