Whether you train as a professional, as a hobby or you are just starting, push-ups and its variants are the most common exercise done in any workout level.
You work the entire upper body: chest, shoulders, back, biceps, triceps and core with your bodyweight.
Also, you can do them in as many ways as you want without getting bored. If you add push-up equipment to the mix, you’ll get an even more efficient version of this popular bodyweight exercise, as well as an increase of range of motion within the push-up. This last property enhances the quality of muscle grow, doing it faster and better.
Before going through the best push-up equipment, it’s necessary to clarify how a push-up is correctly done. Here is an amazing explanatory video, that hopefully will clear your doubts.
Now that the correct push-up has been addressed, choosing the best push-up bars can be a bit of a challenge. First let’s talk about the characteristics of the most common equipment:
Push Up Bars
Also known as “parallettes”, they are a very simple, yet powerful tool. First, they are very easy to pack and cheaper than other equipment. I really like the fact that I can carry them with me. The push-up bars save time, space and energy when going from one place to the other, and give me many options when it comes to training.
With this product, you can change the angle of the bars. You decide exactly where to put it and it can help you if you have some kind of pain on your shoulders or arms; maybe all you need is to change the position just a little to do the exercise properly and painless. Also, this feature lets you work different muscles and isolate group muscles as well.
They protect the wrist. You don’t have to bend it to do your push-up. Instead, you keep it in a neutral position. Also, the space between your hand and the ground allows you to increase the range of motion (ROM).
Here is an amazing article explaining the benefits of using push-up bars, with recent studies about ROM.
These features (wrist-protection and ROM increase) aren’t exclusively from the push-up bars; the push-up board and the power tower have them too (we’ll talk about them next).
If the bars slip, it’ll be harder to perform the movement but you’ll work many secondary muscles and their stabilization response. Also, there’s another kind of push-up bars that let you rotate them as you go up or down. This allows you to target multiple muscle groups within one single push up repetition.
Make sure to purchase sturdy bars that can support your weight if you plan to do it with a weighted vest or someone sitting on you, for example. The handle must be non-slip, but they can either come with non-slip functionality.
This is a board with predetermined handlebars variations. You put the handlebar in the position you want to work with and do your usual push-up.
It also increases the range of motion and protects the wrists. You can choose the angle of the bars to work different muscles or isolate certain muscle groups. As the angles are predetermined, you force yourself to maintain the posture, but you won’t have the freedom of an exact position to work with.
If you’re thinking on buying a push-up board, make sure the handle is non slip and you have plenty of angles to choose (close to your body, far from it and different position to work many muscle groups).
Stability Ball: An Unusual Push Up Equipment
This is also known as the “swiss ball”. Even though it’s not specifically intended for push-ups, it can make your exercise more challenging. If you place your hands on the ball and do the push-up, you’ll increase the activity of the shoulder stabilizers and it will enhance your coordination. Some studies have proven that it signiﬁcantly increases the activation of the triceps, pecs and core muscles, compared to a regular push-up or with the push-up bars.
You can get creative with the swiss ball. I use it a lot; the stabilization response improves and it’s a fun way to work your core muscles.
If you want to go all the way, check out the world record of push-ups in a minute on four (yes, four) stability balls:
He makes it look like a piece of cake.
Power Towers: All In One Equipment
You can also use certain power towers for doing push ups.
It’s a piece of exercise equipment that allows building the upper body and abdominal muscle strength in general.
Not only push-ups but pull-ups, chin-ups, dips, knee raises, etc.
Focusing on push-ups, if you’re interested in buying a power tower make sure it has handlebars on its base to do them.
The distance between the bars isn’t adjustable, so it won’t give you the independence of individual push-up bars.
If you’re looking for an equipment that can offer you more than push-ups, this could be a good option for you. It’s really useful when it comes to a complete home-training equipment. Just remember that the variety of push-ups will be very restricted.
You can combine the equipment mentioned with other things to increase the difficulty of your push-ups. For example, just elevating your feet. It can be done with a bench or even the swiss ball (as an unstable surface) to increase the challenge.
A study made in 2012 about the biomechanics of the push-up demonstrated that is more challenging and demanding for the shoulder stabilizers to perform push-ups with the feet elevated and the hands on the ground than with the hands on a stability ball and the feet on the ground. If you elevate your feet 30,5 cm, the body mass that you have to lift with a push-up would be 70% of your total body weight. If the elevation is of 61 cm (double of the elevation mentioned before) the body mass lifted would be 74%. A regular push-up lifts 64% of the body weight. Also, elevating the feet above the hands has a greater stimulus on stabilization of the shoulder blade musculature than just placing the hands on an unstable surface.
A good way to test if you are ready to move forward with a harder exercise (this is applicable to any exercise, not just push-ups) is closing your eyes. If you do push-ups with your eyes closed, it will tease your brain: if the eyes don’t give any visual feedback to your nervous system, your brain will rely on your muscles and joints to gather the information about the current position of your body. Doing some reps with your eyes closed is a perfect way to train your stability response, improve your reflexes and quality of muscle contraction.
Anyone can use a push-up bar. If you feel discomfort on your wrists while doing the exercise or if you want to have more challenging push-ups and don’t want to spend on expensive equipment, this is an ideal choice. If you are bored with regular push-ups, this can be an amazing, practical and powerful option as well.
Even though they’re not 100% necessary, you could benefit from them due to the increase of range of motion, stabilization, and the customization of the exercise.
The push-up bars are my favorite equipment because they’re easy to carry, cheap and offer independence while working the whole body. They adjust to my necessities, make sure the equipment you choose adjusts yours:
Do you like to carry it wherever you go, and have independence in your training? The push-up bars are for you.
You’d rather have more stability? The push-up board or the power tower can be your way to go.
If you like challenges, you definitely have to try the push-ups on the stability ball or just elevating your feet.