WHAT IT IS: It can take many forms in the weight room, such as a push-up, bench press, shoulder press, or dip. In a push-up, obviously, you push your torso up from the floor. In a bench press, you lie on a bench, lower weights to your chest, then push them back to arm's length. An overhead press involves pushing the weights straight up from your shoulders. A dip starts with your bent arms behind you (your body is "dipped" down below them), and is completed by straightening your arms and pushing your body up even with them.
MUSCLES USED: Even though the push-up and bench press are generally thought of as "chest" exercises, and the overhead press is a "shoulder" exercise, and the dip is a "triceps" exercise, they all start with action in your shoulder joints. The dip, push-up, and bench press mostly activate the front parts of your shoulder muscles, while the overhead press uses the front and middle parts.
The push-up, bench press, and dip use your chest muscles in conjunction with your front shoulders. The overhead press bypasses the chest muscles and instead uses more of the shoulder muscles.
All four exercises use your triceps to straighten your arms at the elbow joint.
REAL-LIFE USES: Many in the gym would consider the two major pushing exercises—overhead press and bench press—to be physiologically distinct. Certainly, you wouldn't do one and expect to get all the benefits of the other. But outside the gym, the line blurs. You're rarely pushing straight off your chest (a chest pass in basketball is one of the few exceptions I can think of) or straight overhead. Most movements are at an angle in between the two extremes.
Imagine this: Your neighbor's car has slipped off the road on a snowy day. You get behind the car to push it back onto the road. How's your body positioned? Chances are, your torso is at a 45-degree angle to the ground. So, although most of your power is going to come from your legs, you're still going to use your chest, shoulders, and triceps to push. That's not a pure analog of any gym exercise. In fact, while it might start off resembling an incline bench press, it quickly morphs into more of a shoulder press as you push the car farther from your torso, and as your torso lowers to a position that's almost parallel to the ground.
Let me take that a step further: If Alwyn and I could design a gym, with no limits on space or expense, we'd probably have a lot set up just for pushing cars around. We couldn't invent a greater exercise for developing total-body strength and muscle mass, assuming we could find a way to rig it so the cars would move in a straight line with no chance of rolling back over an exhausted pusher. Beginners would push stripped-down Mini-Coopers and Toyota Tercels, while advanced guys would shove armor-plated Lincoln Navigators. (Admit it: You'd love to work out in that gym.)
Pushing moves also figure prominently in sports. Most throws are types of pushes, since they finish with you straightening your elbows. For example, a football pass is a combination of a lunge-step forward, a push, and a twist (discussed below). Punches are also push-twist combinations, and the traditional bully's shove is a pure push.
And, although the last thing I want to do here is write a sex book, you can't ignore the fact that the same muscles you use in a push-up are the ones that keep you from crushing your beloved (or at least beliked, however briefly and transiently) in the missionary position.
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Ever since the fitness craze in the 1980’s, we have become a nation increasingly aware of our health and physique. Millions of dollars are spent every year in the quest for a perfect body. Gyms are big business, personal trainers are making a tidy living helping people stay fit, and body building supplements are at an all-time level of performance.