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Push Push Push

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A client of mine sent me a txt last week, she had just done 5 real pushups for the first time in her life. When I started training her, she had never worked out before. She had some athletic experience with recreational tennis but when she came to me knee pushups were not even an option….the upper body strength just wasn’t there. Her enthusiasm inspired me to write about pushups.

This is a great exercise to routinely monitor the progress of your strength but remember it involves using your entire body. Your core remains engaged throughout, your foot maintains a dorsiflexed position, then the obvious usage of your upper body (triceps, shoulders, chest) that we all recognize. By maintaining a neutral head position (not allowing it to fall forward) you are also engaging the stabilizing muscles of your neck.

NASM describes the proper pushup as follows:
1. Begin in a push-up position with your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your entire body should form a straight line like the image above. Notice the ears in line with shoulder, in line with hip, in line with ankle.
2. Draw in your abdomen and contract your gluteals.
3. Keeping your back flat, slowly lower your body toward ground, by flexing your elbows and retracting and depressing shoulder blades.
4. Stop at first point of compensation (such as your pelvis sagging toward the ground). *it is not necessary to go inches from the floor if you’re not read*
5. Push back up to starting position, by extending elbows and contracting your chest. Do not allow your head to jut forward toward the floor.

Another thing that makes the pushup such a great exercise is you can progress and regress to fit everyone. These are a few of my favorite methods.

Regressions:
1. Pushup on a wall
2. Pushup on a bench
3. Knee Pushup
4. Monitor your range of motion as listed in #4 above. If you can only eccentrically lower 1/2 way to the ground, then do that and complete your reps. You will get stronger and in no time you’ll be doing full pushups.
5. Have a partner (or a personal trainer!). If you struggle raising from the ground, have a partner assist you by lightly lifting you upwards at the waist.
6. Negative pushups, slowly lower yourself towards the ground

Progressions
1. Increase ROM…for example, setup 3 chairs (1 for each hand, 1 for feet). This will allow your chest to drop further than the ground would normally allow.
2. Perform pushup using a stability ball (great for increasing core strength as well)
3. Another incredibly challenging progression would be to using two stability balls (one for each hand) and try to maintain your balance. If you can do this, you’re a pro.
4. Utilizing any balance challenging module which can be used with the hands or placed under the feet.

There are many more options but these should get you started regardless of your current fitness level.

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About the Author:

Taylor Carpenter is a nationally Certified Personal Trainer, Corrective Exercise Specialist, and Fitness Nutrition Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine. Taylor was featured as a fitness expert in the first publication of NASM’s “The Fitness Edge”.

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