Going to the Ground: The Perfect Push-Up
It’s close to midnight, and I haven’t been to the gym in over a week. Oops. College is like that sometimes, I guess. What have I been doing instead? I wish I could say that I’ve been eating well, taking naps, and catching up on Stranger Things. Instead, I’m in the basement of the university library. People are giving me weird looks. Why? Well, I probably stole their favorite study spot. Also, I’m doing push ups between the bookshelves. What else would I be doing?
Chances are, you’ve probably found yourself in similar situations from time to time. Maybe that new promotion has you coming into the office earlier. Maybe a newborn child is keeping you busy around the clock. Maybe it’s just been cold and opening the door for the pizza delivery guy is more of the outdoors than you want to experience right now. Whatever the reason, we all struggle with finding the time to stay moving and take care of our health.
Did you know that you can work out your entire body with only three exercises? You could do only these for the rest of your life, a few times per week, and be more in shape than half of the population. These exercises are pull-ups, push-ups, and squats. They can be done at any time, they don’t require much or any equipment, and they are some of the most versatile and effective bodyweight exercises that exist.
We’ve already covered how to do a perfect pull-up in a previous issue (head to Fit815.com if you need a reminder!). Now let’s look at the push-up–how we can approach it for beginners, some useful tips and variations once we’re there, and how we can progress once we’ve mastered it. Can you already do a push-up? Get on the ground, raise yourself on your hands (shoulder-width apart) and toes, lower yourself almost to the floor and push yourself back up, all while keeping your core tight and body flat. Count how many you can do while keeping good form.
If you’re not yet able to do a push-up with good form, you can make the movement easier by positioning yourself at an incline, doing push-ups from your knees, or performing the negative portion of the movement as slowly as you can. These variations will help you to quickly build the necessary strength to tackle a more proper push-up.
When you’ve built the strength to do a regular push-up, there a few things to keep in mind. To make the exercise effective, push inward with your palms to maximize the contraction in your chest. I often hold on to a landmine attachment for this purpose, and plyometric push-ups can work in the same way. Make sure to keep your back straight, and always keep good form to avoid muscle strain and injury.
Up for a challenge? There are countless ways to make the traditional push-up more difficult. Some of my favorite ways to alter the exercise are by changing the angle, targeting different muscles, and making your whole body work harder to stabilize yourself. Try positioning yourself at a decline by putting your feet against the wall. If you’re feeling adventurous, go for a handstand push-up against the wall to really work your shoulders and triceps! You can prepare for harder exercises like the planche by doing pseudo push-ups (with your hands by your hips) and the handstand by doing pike push-ups. Break a serious sweat by placing your hands on a medicine ball, or join me in working toward the one-arm push-up!
As you can see, the push-up is utterly simple but virtually limitless. Try it the next time you’re pressed for time, when you can’t make it out to the gym, or in between your study sessions. Staying healthy really can be as simple as moving more and eating better. With something as accessible as the push-up, you won’t have any excuses for those New Year’s resolutions.