Blog · Fitness

Back to the basics: Mastering the push-up

The other day my husband and I were joking about creating a playlist to keep me inspired during labor. At the top of the list were:

  1. Theme song from Rocky
  2. Eye of the Tiger (Survivor)
  3. Push It (Salt-N-Pepa)

I’m not so sure about Push It but the first two songs? They are motivational gold to me!

The Rocky films are my dad’s favorite so I grew up on them. In these films, I saw the underdog rise to the top by perseverance, determination, and discipline and stay true to his good nature and values even when disaster hit. Not to mention all the killer training and fight scenes. I watched Rocky run through Philadelphia, chase chickens, jump rope, carry logs through snow, do crunches hanging from a loft, and complete perfect one-handed push-ups. The man was a machine.

It makes me want to harness my inner Rocky and push myself, my body, to achieve great things.

Now that I’m an adult and can choose my own favorite movies, I have to admit that these are still right up there. I guess whatever my dad saw in Rocky I see too, because I can’t help but to cheer for and love the guy.

So when Mark brought up the Rocky theme song, I laughed but I honestly believe it would make me smile if it was played for me while I was in labor.

And once this baby is born, I can (attempt) to train myself with the same perseverance, determination, and discipline that Rocky had by staying focused and mastering the basics.

Last week, I talked about mastering the squat. Next on my list is the push-up.

Mastering the push-up

Though I can only go as low as my belly will allow me to, I’ve been doing pushups this whole pregnancy. Not very many, mind you, but I’ve tried to maintain my arm strength using this exercise. By the end of 2017, I plan to be able to rock the push-up! This exercise alone will help increase my stamina, core strength, and stability, not to mention body control, which is required for a proper push-up.

Stamina. Core strength. Stability. Body control. Yes! I’m getting excited just thinking about it.

Push-up basics

In case you’re not sure of what a proper push-up is, just do this:

  1. From high-plank position, set your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
  2. Imagine a steel rod going from the crown of your head to your toes, holding your body in a perfectly straight line. This is the position you need to maintain throughout the movement! (Try squeezing your butt and drawing your belly button back into your spine to find and maintain that good posture.)
  3. Lower yourself down until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle or smaller. Do not let your elbows swing out to the sides, but rather bend them back and close to your body.
  4. Touch your chest to the floor and quickly push back up to that high-plank position, maintaining that straight line from your head to your toes.

If you’re still not sure if you’re doing it right, check out a YouTube video such as this one:

The best way to gauge your own form is to complete a set of push-ups in front of a mirror or record yourself with your phone. Watch for any sagging of the hips or lifting of the butt, and make sure those elbows aren’t flailing about.

Push-ups for beginners

If you can’t support your bodyweight with your arms, start by doing wall push-ups. Stand arms distance from a wall, place your hands on the wall, and bend your arms to bring your nose to the wall. Just like the basic push-up, hold your body in a straight line throughout the movement. Once you’ve mastered the wall push-up, try using the counter, and then a bench or step. As you get stronger, you’ll be able to work your way to the floor.

If you still struggle with the push-up, work on your core strength by holding plank pose.

As you progress, add more reps to each set.

Ready, set, go!

Here are a few tips to help you succeed:

  • Quit as soon as your form collapses. Track the number of reps and sets you can do before your form breaks and try to improve on that number with each session.
  • Give yourself a day of rest between each session. Let your muscles rebuild and recover.
  • Eat enough protein to ensure your muscles have the fuel they need to rebuild.

That’s it. This is a perfectly attainable goal, so stay motivated, stick with it, and kick some butt!

I plan to start with 3 sets of 10 reps, which should be a bit challenging but achievable right out of the gate. How many push-ups can you do? How many do you hope to be able to complete with good form by the end of the year?

Check in on Facebook and let us know!

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