You just can’t say the p-word

Posted on March 7, 2011. Filed under: Exercise | Tags: , , , , , , , |

I have a wonderful new exercise for you.

This all encompassing exercise will stabilize you rotator cuff, shape your shoulders, and bring out a nice v-taper to your body.  It will tighten and strengthen your arms, no more bat wings.  It stabilizie and strengthen your core all around, from your abs to your lower back.  It even isometrically works your legs, calves, and back.

Are you ready for the ‘secret’ exercise?

It’s . . . push-ups!  Yayyyy push-ups!!!  😀

Oh, don’t look like that.  Every time I bring up push-ups to a new client, they look at me like I just asked them to euthanize a puppy dog.  But it’s no lie, done correctly push-ups will work every muscle from fingertips to toes.  The emphasis obviously is doing them correctly.  So why push-ups over a regular bench press?

Push-ups are a more natural fitting exercise.  Using your body through free unrestricted motion, it allows you to recruit your body as a unified balanced unit.  Where as a chest press, although beneficial in certain ways has short comings.  The biggest I find is when someone exclusively does chest presses too often.  Shoulder issues are quite common.

Unfortunately because they have been used as punishment for so long.  Many avoid them, when usually those who do the reap the most benefits so let’s hit the deck.

  1. Chest out. Beware, this is harder than it seems. Most of us battle with weak scapular stabilizers and tight pecs because we’re constantly sitting—at work, in the car, or playing video games and watching television. In order to keep your chest out properly, you must seat your scapulae, driving them down and together. This puts your scapulae in the correct position to do their job during the push-up, which leads us to our next point.
  2. Tense your upper back (lats).  Do not let your shoulders shrug forward when you do push-ups.  Believe it or not, done correctly you should feel your push-ups in your back as well as your chest
  3. Scapular retraction during the push-up. When you go into the bottom portion of the push-up, your scapulae should retract or “come together.”
  4. Push from your armpit.  It’s an odd visual cue but it helps to focus on your form.  To often people fail in a push-up because they are focused on pushing through their arms and are not properly recruiting the rest of the body.  So when you push don’t think of pushing down with your arms.  Think of pushing away with your armpits.
  5. Grip the ground hard with your fingertips.  This will allow you to isometrically recruit more muscle fibers for stability and strength.
  6. Low back neutral. This is one of the biggest issues I see whenever someone is doing a push-up. Everyone thinks she’s staying nice and tight in her core, but the truth is she probably isn’t. Get a video of yourself doing push-ups from the side and you will get a much more objective perspective of what your push-up really looks like! In order to stay neutral, draw your abs in tight toward your spine throughout the entire movement. This will take any unnecessary stress off the lumbar spine and actually turns the push-up into one of the best core strengthening exercises out there.
  7. Glutes tight. You should be squeezing your glutes like you’re holding a $100 bill in there! Keeping your glutes tight will help stabilize your core and pelvis while performing the push-up. I know it isn’t an easy task to concentrate on keeping every area of your body tight at once, but you will gain more strength with every tight push-up you perform than you would with ten mindless ones.
  8. Elbows at 45 degrees and go through the full range of motion. OK, this one might be preaching to the choir, but just to cover my bases, flaring your elbows out to 90 degrees is hard on the shoulders and should be avoided. If you aren’t getting full range of motion, you’re just fooling yourself. No one else in the gym is impressed with 100 elbow twitches or the physique that comes with it.
It seems like a bit to remember but like any skill, at first it seems complicated.  But as your body gets used to the form, it becomes more natural a movement.  If you can not do a regular push-up I advise doing an incline push-up, not the modified version on your knees.  This is how I train my clients.
I’m sure other coaches may disagree, but in my opinion your muscles have no independent brain, they only know leverage, exertion, intensity, etc.  It is better to learn the proper form doing push-ups on a bench, table, even wall to begin with.  This way your body gets used to recruiting your muscles in the proper sequence, and thus gives a greater overall benefit.

And overall benefit is what I want.  My goal as a coach is to help my client accomplish their goals, but also to contribute positively to their overall health.  I have had situations where I had to fire or turn down a client because their goal was strictly about an aesthetic look and not health, and I do not regret it.  So follow my advice, start with a wall if need be ad work your way down.  Your body will thank you for it.

Best Health,

Coach W


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One Response to “You just can’t say the p-word”

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I ❤ pushups. Good way to prevent the ( . ) ( . )s from sagging! haha

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