Fitness Friday: weight-less fitness—the pushup

Posted: May 18, 2012 in Health
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You’ve gotta start somewhere! Just start.

OK, I admit the “weight-less fitness” is a teaser.  You can’t improve your strength without using  weight/s.  But you can improve it without buying weights, at least to some extent.  Let me tell you how.

A great upper body workout is the pushup.  Don’t panic if you think you can’t do one right now!  I’ll work out up to it. But if you’re just going to do one exercise for your upper body, choose the pushup.   Here’s how and where you start:

1.  If you’re really, really out of shape, very overweight or have knee problems, and can’t do either a regular or knee pushup, start with wall pushups.

2.  Once you can do 12-15 wall pushups with your own weight, try to move to knee pushups.  If you still find them too hard, have someone apply pressure to your back while you do the wall pushup.  Then once you can do 12-15, move to knee pushups, doing negatives first if you need to.

3.  If wall pushups are too easy, but you can’t do a regular pushup, start with knee pushups.  If you can’t do any with good form, start with a negative.  That means you get into the starting position (see the video below), then slowly lower yourself with body straight, down almost to the floor.  Try to push back up.  Then get back into the starting position however you can and do another negative.  When you can push back up, do as many regular knee pushups as you can and then finish your 8-12 repetitions with negatives until you can do 8 knee pushups.  Work up to 12.  Congratulations!  You’ve graduated to pushups!

4.  If you can’t do 8 pushups, do as many as possible with good form and then finish with negatives.  Work up to as many pushups as you can do with good form.  Way to go!!  You should be feeling much stronger in the arms, chest, back, stomach and various other muscles that will probably hurt at first.  That’s OK.  It means you’re working!

5.  Now look at the videos below, read the tips and do whatever pushups are at your level every other day. Not only do you not need to do them every day, you shouldn’t.  When doing weight work,  muscles need time to recover, so every other day is great.  Once you start doing lower body work, you can alternate days and work upper one day and lower the next if you like or do all your strength one day and take the next to walk, hula hoop or something else.

Here are two excellent how-to videos for pushups.

This video tells you how to do a pushup correctly, how to start with a wall pushup if you don’t have much strength and how to do a modified (knee) pushup as well.  She doesn’t go down as far in her pushup as in the next video, but that’s OK.

Here are some tips from me.

1.  You can make a wall pushup more difficult if you get your feet farther from the wall.  Be sure to keep your body straight even when doing a wall push up.

2.  Feel free to put a cushion under your knees during knee pushups.

3.  Notice that a pushup reverses the usual breathe out- breathe in pattern.  Since the push UP is the hard part, inhale going down, exhale hard when pushing up again.

4.  If you can do 20 or so modified (knee) pushups but are having a difficult time with a regular pushup, do a negative.  That means you get in the proper pushup position and then lower yourself slowly down.  Go as far as you can with correct form, then try to push back up.  When you can’t push anymore, go to your knees, get back into the proper position at the top of the pushup and do another negative, attempting each time to push back up at the bottom position.  Eventually you’ll be able to do one pushup completely, then two, etc.
Don’t feel uncomfortable that the man in this video looks like a body-builder.  He’s very good at teaching the pushup and I really like his idea of doing pushups with closed fists to keep the wrists in line with the arms!  It’s much easier on the wrists.  You can apply this to wall, modified, negatives or regular pushups.

To recap and get started:

  • Do whichever form of a pushup you can do with correct form for at least 8 pushups, working up to 20 or more.
  • Keep your body straight!
  • Breathe in while going down (or toward the wall), out as you push up or away.
  • In ascending order of difficulty–wall, knee, negative if needed, regular pushup (negative ifneeded.
  • If you can do 20 of one type of pushup but can’t do 8 good ones of the next type, do however many good ones of the more difficult form you can do, the finish with as many of the easier kind as you can do.
  • If you get really good and want to do more work or just change your routine, try doing your pushups very slowly in both directions.  Don’t forget to breathe!!

If you have questions, ask.  Then, although I cringe to say it–just do it.

  1. […] next article shows you how to use the push-up to improve muscle strength without using weights.  Don’t […]

  2. […] women in particular, often lack upper body strength, which is essential for everyday living. Fitness Friday: weight-less fitness–the pushup walks you through the pushup as a way to help improve that. While it won’t improve every part […]

  3. Marsha says:

    This is another great post, Janet. I’m great at wall push-ups, I haven’t tried knee push-ups since my injury but I’m ready. Who knows – maybe full push-ups. The purpose of this week’s WQW Fitness post is how to keep fit or get fit when you have illnesses, injuries, handicaps, or just plain lack of motivation.