I tell my clients and class participants to move ‘like you mean it.’ That means, don’t throw your weight around, literally. Move your body (and/or your weights) slowly and deliberately.
Our bodies are amazing and can do countless wonderful things. Even so, all human movement can be broken down into five basic movements: push, pull, rotation, squat and single leg (lunge) movements.
Let’s talk push. If it’s been a while since you’ve done a body weight push, the thought of a push-up may be intimidating. I’m not going to tell you to “Drop and give me ten.” Instead, try standing arms’ distance from a wall. Press your palms to the wall with the elbows extended. Engage your core (imagine what you’d do if someone stood in front of you and said, “Ok, I’m going to punch you in the gut now.” That tightening in your core is the transversus abdominis, the deepest of the abdominal muscles; it wraps around the abdomen between the lower ribs and top of the pelvis, functioning like an internal corset. It’s important!). Now, with your core engaged, lean into the wall while bending at the elbows. Bring your body close to the wall, without reaching with your chin or face. Keep those legs and hips nice and straight. Slowly straighten the elbows again and bring yourself back to the beginning standing position. The general rule of thumb for safe resistance exercise is a 6-second rep; 2 second concentric contraction (lift), and 4 second eccentric (release).
Once you’ve mastered 15 body weight pushes using the wall from a standing position, move to an elevated surface, such as a strong, low table, a rock ledge in the park (my favorite), a weight bench at the gym, or a park bench. Get your body into an ‘almost’ push-up position in this way. Start off with attempting 6 body weight pushes from this elevated position. When you work up to 15, you know what to do…move to the floor.
A word of caution when it comes to doing body weight pushes: When pushing to the front, as with the most common form of push-up, be very careful to keep your elbows more near the rib cage, than not. The wider your hands and elbows during the lowering of the body, the higher the risk of injury to the shoulder. It is much more difficult to push up in this way, but it’s safer.
If you can only do 8, instead of 15, that’s OK. You’ll be able to do safe push-ups when you’re 75, instead of having chronic pain in a shoulder and unable to do even one.
There are many variations on the basic push-up and I’m always happy to discuss fun ways to mix up your pushing routine.
Feel free to email anytime, or drop in on one of my classes…and remember: It’s never too late to start…Never stop starting! Start today! Move that body…like you mean it!
Sally Windham is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer and Fitness Instructor in Blanco, TX. Please send questions and comments to firstname.lastname@example.org