I was supposed to be studying for my Exercise Science exam I’ve got going this evening but you know what? Maybe I should write something first, and then get back to it later. For someone who has insanely short attention span, I regularly need to find activities in between my studies to do something. Dance, walk around the house like a possessed woman, sing, doodle, sing again, or do a few push ups and write this tutorial.
YES, PUSH UPS.
You heard me. How amazing is this body weight exercise? Whoever invented the push up seriously deserves a Nobel award (and a big fat thank you kiss from me!).
You don’t need any equipments, you can do it anywhere, it works a wealth of different muscles in your body, there’s a hundred ways to do them and it develops strength, aesthetics and all the good things that comes from physical training. WIN!
I’ve been doing push ups for as long as I can remember. Perhaps it was when I was 12, when I was told by some teacher/squad leader/crazy person to do a set of push up. Back then, I have no idea what it is, why we do it and how to do it. I just simply did it.
After years of learning and teaching fitness, I realise how important it is to do this right. Doing it wrong does not only put you in a risk of hurting yourself but it is a complete waste of time and energy. You’d better just sit and watch reruns of HIMYM. Yep, I said it.
No really, it makes me sad when I see people in the gym doing it wrong.
If you’ve never done a single push up in your life before, this is definitely for you. If you’ve done a couple in the past, this is for you too. If you’re regularly doing it now, it doesn’t hurt to check your form and see if you’re doing it correctly, so this is great for you too.
So let’s get started, on PAF very first movement tutorial. I am thinking of doing this regularly in the future, with different exercises so let me know what you want to see and I will gladly write it up for you.
What Is The Push Up?
A push up is basically an exercise, a movement used in physical training. Although it is predominantly a chest exercise, the push up activates your arm, back, abs and to a certain degree, your butt and leg muscles, making it one of the best whole body exercise you can find out there.
Setting Up For Your First Push Up
As a trainer, the most important thing I look for in my clients is their form. I will make sure I’ve got my clients set up correctly, even if it takes a couple of sessions before. Form is crucial everyone.
Here’s how to set yourself up:
Set your hands on the ground slightly wider than shoulder width apart. I like to do mine with my fingers slightly spread, some do it with closed fingers and some really spread it out to the max. This is a comfort issue so find one and stick to the one that works for you.
The distance between your hand and your shoulder should be the same. It should be in a straight line. Don’t go too far out to the top of your head or too far in to your chest.
Position your head so that you are looking straight down and ahead of you. In other words, do not tuck your chin and your body should be in a straight line from your head to your heels.
Spread your legs about the same width as your hands. The wider the space, the more stable you are, the easier it is to complete a push up.
Completing Your First Push Up
From your starting position, keep your arms straight, squeeze your butt and abs. This activates your core (aka the muscles in your body that stabilizes you) and gives you a little more strength to complete a rep.
Inhale and slowly lower yourself to the ground. It is important to take note how low you go, and try to remember it the next time you do it. This should be your bench mark. Lower yourself down till your arms reach a 90 degree angle, or for those left brainers out there, till your chest is about 10 cm off the ground.
Exhale and slowly straighten your arms back to the starting position.
Hurrah you have done one repetition of the PUSH UP! Do as many as you can before your form starts to get out of shape or you can no longer go down to the required depth. If this is new to you, you may only be able to do 3 or 4 as a start, and that’s okay! I used to train a client who couldn’t even do 1, and at the end of our training program together, she could smash out 25 in one go. Start slow, and build it up. Do not lose hope and most importantly, keep trying.
Easy Push Up Variations
If you can’t do the standard push up above, check out these 3 variations below. The goal here is to ultimately get you to do 3 sets of 15 standard push ups. If you have never done a single push up in your life before, start with the wall push ups and work your way through.
Wall Push Ups (Stage 1)
Stand in front of a wall, with your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Walk yourself backwards till your arms are fully extended, and you’re standing on your toes.
Inhale as you lower yourself towards the wall, remembering to squeeze your butt and abs. Lower yourself till your nose touches the wall (or close) and push yourself back to the starting position, exhaling.
Do 3 sets of 15 reps of the wall push ups, with a one minute break between sets. This means you smash out 15 reps, have a one minute break, and do another 15 reps, another minute break, and finish with one last set of 15 reps. I know, I may sound silly explaining this, but there are some people out there who don’t have a clue what 3 sets of 15 means so this is really for you. You’re welcome.
If you can do 3 sets of 15, we shall promote you to the next stage. Otherwise, try again the day after tomorrow. Keep practising every other day and you will get there.
Incline Push Ups (Stage 2)
Pick a bench, the stairs in your house or a chair. The lower the incline, the harder it is for you to push back up so choose something you’re confident in starting with. Just like all the other push ups we’ve covered today, position your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
Inhale as you slowly lower yourself down till your arms is at a 90 degree angle. Pause slightly and slowly exhale back to the starting position.
I may sound like a broken record here, but do 3 sets of 15 reps of the incline push ups, with a one minute break between sets, before moving on to the third stage.
Knee Push Ups (Stage 3)
Knee push ups are my favourite on days when my body is extremely fatigued or when I’m making sure I get excellent depth in my push up. Your hands are slightly wider than shoulder width and instead of having your toes supporting your body, you will be on your knees with your legs on the ground, or crossed like I do in the picture.
Make sure you inhale as you slowly lower yourself down, till your arms is at a 90 degree angle and exhale yourself slowly back to the starting position.
Work your way up to 3 sets of 15 (perfect) reps before trying the standard push ups.
How many of you have been doing push ups like this? Maybe you don’t realise it so the next time you’re doing it, do it in front of a mirror. If your body is positioned this way, don’t worry, you’re still working. It’s just not the proper way of doing a push up. And it’s not your fault. That’s why I’m here for.
The primary aim of a push up is to strengthen your whole body. If you’re doing it this way, you’re working on your chest on it’s own, which kinda defeats the whole purpose of doing a push up. So brush it off, follow the step and pictures above and move on doing the right thing. Oh and good on you for trying!
Other common mistakes include:
Putting hands too far out forward (or inward). Your shoulders and hands should be in a straight line.
Not going deep enough. Stop worrying about how many reps your gym buddy can do and focus on yourself. The only way you can get better is to get real and be true to yourself. Which lead us to…
Cheating. If you did 10 reps, don’t harp out to Facebook and say you did 15. Period.
Not breathing. Remember to exhale every time you push yourself up.
Not engaging your butt and abs. Yes I’ll say this again, squeeze em buttocks and abs, sista!
Finally! Some tips to better your Push Up.
Practise makes perfect. It took me 8 months to do ONE standard push up so do not give up. You can do it. I have faith in you.
Do not cheat. If you didn’t go to the depth you’re supposed to, do not count the rep. Stop, and try again the day after.
Strengthen your chest and core muscles. If you’re hitting the gym already, keep doing your bench presses. Do more planks. It is the best exercise for your core no matter how painful it is.
Keep healthy. Move more, lose excess body fat, choose healthier options in your daily meals. Get the good stuffs into your life.
Believe in yourself and want it, bad. It’s all in your mind, my dear lovely friends. If you believe it enough that you can do a push up, you will eventually get there. I am on a quest to do one perfect pull up and I am halfway there. It’s always a work in progress but if you don’t put your whole heart and mind to it, the work is piles up and it gets harder to end. So like Richard Branson favourite saying – ‘Screw it. Let’s do it!’
Take action and start doing push ups! Do it now, right after you’ve read this, or tomorrow as soon as you wake up. Check your form, grab a piece of paper, and record how many of which you can do. Do it in front of a mirror and make sure you’re doing it properly.
If you can do a hundred standard push ups already, there are so many different variations you can try out. Decline. Diamond. Triceps. Dive Bomber. Walking. Rotation. One-hand. Plyometrics. Handstand. You get it. This awesome post here shows about 30 plus variations of push ups. Or this one by John Alvino. Or even, try the Hundred Push Ups Challenge.
That’s it from me for now. I will be working on a Body Weight Exercise Program for Beginners so look out for it over the next couple of days! Might even do a video of how to do a push up.
Have a good week ahead Pretty Awesome people! :)
P.S. Just before I go, tell me how you go with push ups by writing in the comment box below. Do you like push ups? What is it about push ups that you despise most? Share it!
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