If you ask people what their favourite floor exercise might be, they probably wouldnt say push-ups. Thats because theyre more often than not associated with punishing exertion and images of muscle-bound GIs doing push-ups under the orders of a fierce drill sergeant.
But it doesnt have to be that way. There are lots of variations on the classic push-up that are safe and guaranteed to work your upper body without placing your body under excessive strain.
Push-ups are a great way to tone and strengthen your chest, shoulders, triceps and the muscles at the back of your arms.
Incline push-ups are ideal for absolute beginners as they will help you develop initial strength and form if you havent exercised for a while.
Stand 2 or 3 feet in front of the object you are going to push against with your feet shoulder-width apart. Extend your arms and place your hands on the object. Keeping your spine straight, bend your arms and inhale as you slowly lower your body to the object.
Hold the position for about 2 or 3 seconds, then exhale and slowly push away. Aim for 10 push-ups in your first attempt, adding another 5 each day until you begin to feel they are getting easier. This means youre ready to progress to the next step
Modified push-ups are sometimes known as cheaters push-ups, but really, theyre a sensible, low-impact technique that will enable you to build endurance and fitness steadily.
To begin, get down on all fours, with your arms extended. Your knees should be bent at slightly more than a 90 degree angle to ensure that you’re resting on the spot above your kneecap. Feet can be in the air or placed on the floor, but don’t cross your feet at the ankles as this can put extra pressure and stress on your lower back. Remember to lower and lift your body as a single unit don’t let it bend or sag.
Bend your arms and inhale as you slowly lower your chest to within 3 inches of the floor. Lower down in a slow, fluid movement and dont allow your chest to slump to the floor. Exhale as you straighten your arms and slowly return to the starting position.
Keep your abdominal muscles pulled in tight and your spine in a neutral position throughout the exercise to eliminate unnecessary back strain.
Where you put your hands during a push-up helps determine what muscles you’re working, so be aware of hand placement. Hands should be shoulder-width apart not too wide. If your hands are too wide this limits the effectiveness of the exercise.
Dont exercise too fast. Count: “1 2 3 down, 1 2 3 up”. If you go too fast, youre not going to give your muscles the time needed to flex and react to the resistance of your body weight.
Above all, be patient with yourself. Don’t push your body to do more than it’s ready for. Beginners may want to start with as little as 3 to 5 repetitions and add more each week. Ultimately your goal should be to complete 3 to 5 sets of 12 to 15 repetitions.
Now youre ready for the military push-up named after the army personnel who do them as part of their basic fitness training. Its not as hard or as intimidating as it first might seem, especially as youve been practising the easier methods and your muscles are now much stronger.
It’s important with the military push-up to keep your body stabilised in one straight line throughout the routine. Keep your abdominal muscles contracted and your spine in a neutral position.
Inhale and bend your elbows as you slowly lower your body to within 3 inches of the floor. Exhale as you push back up to the starting position. If you feel any pain or strain in your lower back, stop and go back to the modified push-ups until you build up enough strength to do this variation.
Take your time to develop proper form and strength. Incorporating push-ups twice a week in your exercise routine will ensure a stronger, fitter and more energised body.
CJ – Fitness