About a month ago, I decided to start conquering one of my most dreaded fitness feats: The Push-Up. No, I didn’t choose to do push-ups for the Arnold Schwarzenegger arms, or for the perky chest, or for the high school boyish bragging rights, although those were all naturally added perks. (Let me tell you ladies, do a few push-ups and you can stop going on that endless search for the perfect push-up bra. Push-ups naturally push-up what yo momma gave ya.) I chose to take on push-ups because for me, they’re one of my biggest challenges, and I simply thrive on challenge. A fellow blogger actually implanted the idea into my head a few months back when she was conquering the push-up, and I thought, “I’ve got to do this!”
Don’t get me wrong, as much as I love a good challenge, I certainly wasn’t looking forward to doing push-ups everyday. But I did love the thought of being able to test my body in new ways and set a goal that, with some effort, was almost undeniably achievable. After a few months of practice, I wanted to make the act of doing more than a few push-ups not just look easy but feel easy too.
When I started, I could do ten full push-ups and make each one of them look easy. Sure I could do a few more beyond that, but they sure wouldn’t look like the ones those macho men on TV do (not that my first ten really did either). Each push-up beyond reaching ten, I’d look like a dying kangaroo with a bottle of hot sauce spilled down my face, while probably sounding like I was literally drowning in my own sweat at the same time. Not a pretty site, and it didn’t feel like it either.
Even the first ten push-ups didn’t feel amazing, probably because I would hold my breath after the first five (no wonder I sounded like I was drowning). However, when I saw other people doing push-ups, they not only made them look comfortable, but like they actually felt good! I was determined to get to this point.
When I first started, I really wasn’t making much progress beyond ten. The whole holding my breath thing was really hindering me. I decided to look at a How-To website to fully implant in my head a correct knowledge of form and technique for the proper push-up. I’m not sure why I didn’t do this at the outset of my challenge, but I think it’s because I thought push-ups were common knowledge. I’ve been told to do push-ups since elementary school, shouldn’t I have known how to properly do them by now? Obviously not. Here’s what the How-To tutorial taught me was the correct way to do a push-up:
1. Hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width, feet should be together and parallel to each other with the toes tucked under.
2. Head should be slightly tilted up and should remain still during the up and down motion.
3. At the top position, keep the arms straight but not locked. This makes the muscles contract during the entire push-up, enhancing what your muscles get out of each one.
4. Lower the body between the hands until the inside angle of the elbows reaches at least 90 degrees. Make sure to keep the body straight and palms in place.
5. Exhale as you straighten the arms, coming back up to a plank position. (This was what I was missing!)
6. Pause, then inhale as you lower your body back down until the inside of the elbows reach at least 90 degrees. Once your chest grazes the ground, begin to straighten the arms, exhaling as you come back up.
That my friends is the proper way to do a push-up, or so they say. I’ve taken this knowledge and have put it to use, and have now progressively worked my way up to doing 30 full push-ups at a time. The first 2o or so look easy and surprisingly feel pretty good too! I’m working on the last ten or so. My goal is to reach an effortless 50…we’ll see!
If you are a beginner like me and want tackle the push-up, here’s what I recommend:
- Start by learning the basics (see above).
- Next, determine the maximum number of push-ups you are able to do without feeling like you’ll collapse.
- Make a set by combining the calculated number of full push-ups with the same number of “girl push-ups”- For girl push-ups, simply start out with your knees on the ground, and proceed with the regular push-up instructions. Make sure you remember to breathe!
- Over the next couple weeks, as the first half of the set, the full push-ups, begins to feel easy, gradually start to increase this number, increasing the number of modified push-ups in the latter half as well.
- Once the number of full push-ups in the set reaches a fairly high number, you can decrease the number of corresponding modified push-ups per set. For instance, I started by doing 10 full push-ups and 10 modified push-ups. Then I did 15 full push-ups and 15 modified. Once I reached 20 full push-ups, I only did 15 modified. Now I do 30 full push-ups, and 10 modified.
- To speed up your progress, do more than one set per sitting. This will boost your endurance and muscle building at a quicker pace.
- As always, tailor the practice to meet your needs.
Do you do push-ups? What’s your method of increasing the number and achieving an effortless set of push-ups? What fitness feat do you find really challenging?