Most everyone is familiar with the basic “push up”, right? A simple military movement in which you assume the position–lower yourself to the ground, touch your chest and push back up–the best way to develop upper body strength and mobility. When done correctly a push up will put your shoulder blades through the full range of motion as well as target your serratus anterior (a muscle on the surface of your upper ribs) improving performance and overhead movement. If you are doing the push up correctly by maintaining a rigid torso and straight legs you will also improve core stability.
I can hear some of you now, “what if I can’t do a push up?” First off, lose the “T”, anyone can do a push up. It requires no equipment and can be scaled up or down depending on your strength and fitness level. Let’s start with the Basic Push Up. . .
Basic Push Up
-Start in a full push up position with the elbows locked, hands at chest level, shoulder width apart and flat on the floor
– Toes on the ground, body in a straight, rigid line from the shoulders to the ankle and the head aligned with the spine.
-Core is pulled in tightly against the spine.
-Lower yourself down until the chest touches the ground and push yourself back up maintaining the plank throughout.
Do not let your hips sag or your butt point in the air. Keep your core tight by squeezing your glutes and flexing your abs. This will help to maintain the rigid line. Your head is part of the plank, don’t tilt your chin up or down putting strain on the neck–gaze straight ahead at the ground.
Modified Push Up
There is no such thing as a “Girl push up”, this is called a “scaled” or “modified” push up. If at the present moment you are unable to do a full military style push up perform on an incline, such as a table or counter top, maintaining the same straight line lowering the incline as you get stronger. Another option would be to simply drop to the knees, still maintaining the straight spine with a line from the shoulders to the knees. Lower the chest to the ground, or as low are you are able to using some type of a “governing device” as you did in the squat to gauge your progress, working towards the ground as you get stronger and eventually to the toes.
Explosive Push Up
This is an advanced move, at the bottom of the push up you would explode up, hands leaving the ground pushing into the air or you could add a clap to make it even more challenging.
Dip: In order to do a proper dip you would need a dip rack or assisted dip machine. A modified version which is usually more than adequate for a beginner is a bench, box or table. These can be done anywhere using almost any sturdy object and are great for targeting the triceps muscle or the part of the arm that will wave goodbye with you or jiggle when out of shape and covered with fat.
Regular Dip: Start in the full extended position on a dip rack or assisted dip machine. Lower yourself under control, leaning slightly forward until the upper arms are parallel with the floor taking care that the elbows do not bow out, extend the arms returning to the beginning position.
Modified Dip: Use a box or bench, have the feet slightly in front of you or full extend the legs to make it more challenging. Lower until the upper arms are parallel to the floor and fully extend.
How to Incorporate
Beginners: Learn the movements, study the photos, read through the tips and focus more on technique than how many or how fast. Start with 1-2 sets of 5 to 15 reps of the push up and dips and perform 1 to 3 times per week, allowing at least 1 day of recovery. Listen to the body, more is not always better.
Intermediates: If you have a good basic push up and dip, work on a full range of motion. Do 3-4 sets of 10 to 20 reps, resting 60 to 90 second between sets.
Advanced: Combine the moves into a circuit such as 20 push ups/15 dips/10 explosive push ups. Rest 60 to 90 seconds and repeat 2 to 4 times to “push” those muscles to the limit. If you really want to push yourself to limit, try pushing your vehicle around the neighborhood about 50 to 100 yards (in neutral and with someone steering) and combine with a few short sprints.
Sample Push Up Workouts
Walk, jog or run 200-400 m, perform 10-20 push ups, 15-20 squats. Repeat 2-4 times with as little rest as possible.
Tabata push up/squat intervals: 20 s of push ups, rest 10 s, 20 s of squats, rest 10 s. Repeat, alternating for a duration of 4 to 8 minutes. For a more advanced version, during the “rest” hold in the top position of the push up and the bottom position of the squatïŠ
AMRAP (As many rounds as possible) in 20 minutes of:
200 m walk, jog or run, 10-15 dips, 10-15 lunges per leg,
The combinations are endless, get creative, enjoy yourself and adjust times, distances and intervals to meet your starting fitness level. But as I have said before effort and sweat are necessary so PUSH yourself!
Paula Jager CSCS and Level 1 CrossFit and CF Nutrition Certified is the owner of CrossFit Jaguar. Her exercise and nutrition programs yield life changing results.