The pushup builds the muscles on the front of your body but it won't help you lose fat there -- or anywhere. The exercise strengthens your chest, fronts of the shoulders and backs of the arms, and can help create definition in this area -- but that tone will only show after you've lost the fat covering them. Regardless of the variation of pushup you do, you'll have to incorporate cardiovascular training and eat healthfully to lose the fat.
You Can't Target Your Chest
Fat loss happens in a set pattern that is determined by your genetics. You can't whittle away chest fat by doing exercises for that specific area of your body. A basic strategy for weight loss, coupled with pushups and other strength-training exercises, will help you lose weight all over, some of which will come from your chest. This loss of excess body fat will make it so that your chest muscles look more defined.
Exercise for Fat Loss
One of the best ways to encourage fat loss is through interval training, asserts Stephen H. Boutcher in a 2011 issue of "Obesity." Boutcher reviewed dozens of studies on the subject of fat loss and exercise. Interval training involves alternating periods of very high intensity exercise with periods of lower intensity exercise. For example, after a warmup on a treadmill, you run fast for a minute or two and then walk for a minute or two; repeat for a total of 20 to 60 minutes, depending on your fitness level and goals. Interval training performed two to three times per week, while doing some jogging, cycling, walking or swimming at a moderate pace on other days is the first step in your quest to lose chest fat.
Pushups can be a part of your interval-training workouts. Between bouts of high-intensity work, do a set or two of pushups as your low-intensity interval. Master standard pushups first and then add ones that involve rotation and balancing devices, such as a stability ball, to kick up the intensity. Plyometric pushups could also be part of some of your high-intensity intervals, as well. This challenging version has you start in the top of a pushup position with your hands placed on a mat just slightly wider than your shoulders, your torso straight and your toes tucked under. Jump your hands off the floor so your upper body hovers for a brief moment and as your hands hit the floor, bend your elbows into the bottom of a pushup. Repeat immediately, bouncing up and down with your upper body. Go for the entire duration of your interval -- 30 to 60 seconds to start. This option raises your heart rate, as would a fast running interval, and builds power in your upper body. Because of its challenging nature, however, you'll probably only be able to fit one to three sets of this move into your interval workout and will need to do alternative high-intensity moves such as jumping jacks, jump squats and treadmill sprints, for your other intervals to give your upper body a break.
Other Strength and Eating Well
Although pushups are effective at recruiting numerous muscles in the front of the upper body, a fat-loss program requires you to build lean muscle mass all over. More muscle mass gives a boost to your metabolism. Train your lower body with classic moves such as back squats and walking lunges. Work the back side of your body with pullups, rows and pullovers. Complete a total-body strength-routine at least twice per week on nonconsecutive days. Clean up your diet by focusing on fresh vegetables and moderate portions of fruit, lean protein and whole grains. All the exercise in the world won't help you lose fat if you're eating too many calories and lots of refined sugars and grains.
About the Author
Andrea Cespedes is a professionally trained chef who has focused studies in nutrition. With more than 20 years of experience in the fitness industry, she coaches cycling and running and teaches Pilates and yoga. She is an American Council on Exercise-certified personal trainer, RYT-200 and has degrees from Princeton and Columbia University.