Time to fix those push-ups one and for all! Before people get all bent out of shape and label me a misogynist; I never came up with the term “girl push-ups” and this is really the only way I have heard reference to doing a terrible and somewhat inappropriate looking push-up, on ones knees, that effectively does nothing to help increase ones health. Both men and women are guilty of this atrocity and today we are going to work towards never doing them again. A proper push-up strengthens and tones the arms, chest, back and core as well as works on endurance and stamina. They are a staple, whether you like them or not… you gotta do them!
First of all, girl push-ups don’t do anything for you. Most of the time, people have their butts jammed so far in the air, starting from the “on all fours” position, that they wind up really only training for a bobbing for apples contest. Why do people do push-ups, Grand Master? Make no mistake, I am no Grand Master of push-ups. However, I do specialize in spotting something being done incorrectly and providing advice (asked for or not), on how to do it correctly. Girl push-ups are generally done because people do not yet have the ability to do a proper push-up. Make no mistake, this is 100% absolutely OK. I struggled for years with not being able to do push-ups well, I got better at them by doing them. But, if you never actually force yourself to do something, you will never be successful. Girl push-ups don’t work the muscle enough, nor does anyone ever make the transition to doing proper push-ups, so they are a dead-end. I would compare this to only ever using a tee in baseball with hopes that one day you will be able to hit a pitch, but you never stop using the tee.
Let’s do a quick review of what a proper push-up entails before we get started. Start on all fours, arms slightly more than shoulder width apart. Extend your legs and place both feet side by each (a valid description given that I am part Quebecois French and this is how we take our eggs), lying comfortably on your toes. Your body should be in a straight line; this isn’t a downward dog and you aren’t trying to give your butt a clear view of the room. Your legs, butt, back should all be aligned. Flex your butt and stomach muscle to help you achieve arrowness. Your head will look forward, not down; although I am often guilty of the latter. Lower yourself down, bending the elbows, trying to keep them as tight to the body as you can. Often, we want to bend our elbows outwards, away from our body, but this doesn’t hit the triceps as effectively as keeping them in tight. Lower your body until your chest touches the ground, hold for a split second and push yourself up. This is a perfect push-up and this is where we are going to get.
The main principle in reaching any goal is that you can never hope to achieve a goal, if you never actually start working towards that goal. Our goal is to do proper push-ups. Nobody is asking you to kick out 100 push-ups from scratch. I’m not even asking you to crank out 1 push-up if you are not yet there. What I’m asking you to do is start with the very first position of a push-up, and hold it for 3-2 or 1 second…as much as you can really. Yes, you read correctly. If you can hold that starting point, you are on your way! Hold it for a few seconds if you can and relax. If you can hold it for a few seconds, maybe put a small bend in those elbows just as you would a full push-up! What’s important to keep in mind is that you are working towards doing a proper push-up. Do it in baby steps. I’m happier seeing someone working towards their goal, then I am seeing them give up without even trying. If you are in a class setting, you are there for yourself and not others, not even the instructor. If the instructor tells you to do a girl push-up instead, tell them to go to hell. I fail to see how a god instructor would suggest this anyways, so ignore them. Maybe send them the link to this blog and I can correct them. Let them do their count of 20, you are focusing on yourself. This isn’t a contest. If you have found yourself in a contest, then you clearly should look at your competitiveness issues and perhaps said contest should have some ground rules for entrants. Hold that push-up for as many iterations as you can. Try and go a second longer each time if you can. If you are feeling back pain or other strain, listen to your body and stop. Tomorrow is a new day, try extending how long you hold that push-up each time. Maybe try to bend those elbows a bit. Each day you want to go further than you did the day before. Within a few days, a week, you will get your chest half way down to the floor. Fantastic! Eventually, you will get to the point where you can do a single push-up. Once you get that first push-up in, it’s all down hill from here! Congratulations, you are on your way!
* I have had discussions with some about using a counter top or table to do push-ups, where the body is only partially inclined; I am not exactly a fan of this because it is too easy to cheat and you wind up with a modified girl push-up. I can accept that health issues may require starting with some support, but I am not going to go into detail here to put that thought in your head if you have not been told by your medical practitioner to do so.