Believe it or not, you actually push a lot of things throughout the day. Think about how just today you probably got out of bed, pushed a door open, pushed a grocery cart or a stroller, closed your car door, pushed the door to your washer or dryer shut, or got up off the floor after playing with your dog. You probably even pushed yourself out of a chair with your arms (even though you should try focusing on just using your legs, like I explained in last week’s post about body weight squats). We could go on forever about all the different pushing motions that are done on a day to day basis, but the point is that the push-up is a very important exercise that involves probably a few more muscles than you originally thought.
Many muscles are involved in the push-up including the pectoralis major, triceps, and deltoids. The muscles that help stabilize you during the motion are your biceps and core, including the abdominals, obliques, quadriceps, glutes, and erector spinae. And you thought the push-up just worked your arms! The resistance in this exercise is your own body weight against gravity. This goes to show that when the push-up is done correctly it is a crucial exercise to perform and integrate into your exercise routine. Once again body weight exercises for the win!
Proper form of the push-up:
- When setting up for a push-up you want to imagine your body being in a complete line from your feet to your head like you have a 2 x 4 on your back.
- You should start with your hands about shoulder width or slightly wider apart, fingers pointed forward, or your hands angled slightly outward depending on your wrist strength.
- In the starting position your arms will be straight with your shoulders stacked right over your wrists.
- Your feet should be in a position that is comfortable for you. You can keep your feet together to start, or if this is too difficult you can always start with your feet further apart to feel more stable.
- Keep your head in neutral alignment with your neck and back. This means pick a spot on the floor and stare at it so you don’t strain your neck by looking up.
- During the entire motion of the push-up you should keep your core tight by squeezing the muscles of your stomach as well as your butt.
- As you lower, keep looking at the ground, your back in straight alignment, your elbows close to your body, and don’t forget to exhale through your mouth.
- In the complete down position your elbows should remain close to your body and form a 90 degree angle or less depending on the flexibility in your shoulders. For some being in the bottom portion of the motion means that your chest is actually touching the ground.
- Hold the down position for a second and then press back up, imagining that you are pushing the ground away from you, and making sure to exhale until you return to the starting position.
- As long as your form stays consistent, then you will easily be able to track the progression of your upper-body strength and endurance.
Modifications: Push-ups on your knees, wall push-ups, incline push-ups, and suspension trainer push-ups.
Progressions: Decline push-ups, one foot push-ups, diamond push-ups, plyometric push-ups, wide grip push-ups, dive-bomber push-ups, Spiderman push-ups, and handstand push-ups. This is a small list of all the different progressions of the standard push-up.
*Note the above exercises will be explained in later posts. Progressions should only be performed once the standard push-up has been mastered with proper form.
Ways to incorporate the push-up into your daily life:
- Train like Batman by doing as many push-ups as you can first thing when you get up in the morning.
- Push the door open for a stranger, hold it open for them and say, “After you,” like a true gentleman.
- Push the grocery cart for your girlfriend.
- Take the rotating door into your building instead of the regular door to get more pushing action into your day. Go for multiple laps if you are feeling ambitious.
- Close the refrigerator door closed all the way so you don’t let the cold escape and waste energy. Good, way to be environmentally conscious!
- Practice your push-up form while on the floor playing with your puppy. Try your best not to be distracted each time he tries jumping on your head!
All joking aside, the push-up is a great exercise to stay in shape and gain strength. It becomes even more important as we age because I know you don’t want to end up as one of those unfortunate old people in the Life Alert commercials who has “fallen and can’t get up” just because you can’t do one push-up off the floor.
As my good friend King Leonidas would say, “Spartans! Push!”
Stay active to become Happily Ever Healthy!