Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Push ups: a closer look

Push ups; what do you think when you hear those two words? If you're a beginner exerciser, maybe you think push ups are only for the elite, very fit athlete.

Wrong! Push ups are for everyone, from the beginner to the advanced exerciser and are a great addition to any workout routine.

Let's take a closer look.

Benefits: Why are they so great? First, you can do push ups anywhere. You don't need any equipment and little space. Second, if done properly, push ups strengthen not just the upper body, but they give a great core workout, and can help strengthen the lower body as well.

Muscles worked: The main muscle group is the chest, but it also strengthens the triceps and deltoids (anterior). By stabilizing and holding proper form, your upper back, core (torso) will also benefit. If you are performing push ups on the toes, the quads will come into play a little.

Technique: Get on the floor facing down (prone). Start with arms straight, hands on the floor at chest level and slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

From head to toe (or, if you're doing them on the knees, head to knees) keep your body straight. Pull the abs in tight, shoulder blades pulled back and down (if you were standing, this would be good standing posture).

Inhale, bend elbows, lowering your body toward the floor stopping when your chest is about 2-3 inches from the floor. Remember to keep the posture you started with.

Exhale and push back up to starting position. Repeat until they get very difficult but before your form breaks. 1-3 sets of 8-15 repetitions, 2-3 times per week will produce great benefits.

Where to start: If you're new to it, performing push ups on the knees instead of toes is a good place to start. If you're unable to keep your form while on the knees, you might try doing them against the wall.

Progression: Once they start getting easier, it's time to try them on the toes (see picture). Don't be afraid - they'll be difficult at first, but keep practicing!

No time like the present to start. Up and at 'em!