Ask Alfonso: How Do I Perform Proper Pushups?
How do you build up to doing pushups on the toes from the knees? It kind of feels impossible for me but I don’t want to give up.
Is there any particular technique that can aid in this transition? Also, what is the muscle recruitment for a pushup? Does it require more use of the shoulders, or chest and back muscles?
Thanks for reading!
Hi Jasparina, thanks for the great question.
It seems as though pushups are one of, if not THE toughest exercise for women to complete in standard fashion. The reasoning why is really simple – women biologically hold more weight, strength and musculature in their lower body as compared to their upper body. With men it’s the exact opposite and this is millions of years of evolution at it’s finest. I still see in my weekly X-Treme Boot Camp classes multiple women who are nowhere close to achieving a full pushup.
Now I’ll be honest and tell you that in some instances your weight has a lot to do with this. If you’re an individual who’s 30–50 pounds overweight, then you’re pushing a lot more than you should. In this case pushups may seem elusive. In addition if you’re really tall and skinny, as in the ectomorph body type, pushups may also be very hard. The longer your limbs are the less leverage you have and the further the distance traveled. In both instances I’m NOT suggesting that pushups can’t be attained, just that they may be more difficult.
With that said here’s what I would do, and I’ve suggested this before. I like pushups in a rack or a Smith Machine that has an adjustable bar. Grasping the bar with your hands, I’d set it to a height that allows for 6–8 pushups. In 2–3 weeks time, I’d lower the bar one level and keep working my way down every few weeks till you reach the lowest point. After than you’d be looking at trying floor pushups. The entire process could take 2 months or more but it’s worth it. Additionally you could add in some weight training to build up the muscles that help achieve a pushup. It’s usually the chest, triceps and shoulders that get hit hardest (in that order) so exercises like dumbbell and barbell presses, triceps pushdowns and shoulder press will help you along. But your main focus should be on working really hard with the bar pushups I’ve mentioned.
Lastly, and probably most importantly I need to discuss body position and breathing. More people fail at pushups not due to lack of strength, but bad form and improper breathing. First, make sure your legs are rigid and flexed, your core is tight with flexed abs and you don’t have a saggy lower back – think plank position. Next, make sure your hands are in the right position – they should be wide enough that when going down to the floor your arms make a 90 degree bend and that your hands, elbows and shoulders are all lined up – in other words aligned over one another. Your head should stay fixed and neutral. Now, while holding the top position take a HUGE breath in as you lower yourself down (keep everything tight and locked) and as you push up from the floor slowly exhale. I know it’s a lot to remember but trust me it makes a huge difference in your ability. Try it and let me know how you do.
Above all, stick with the plan! If you truly want to be able to do a pushup – you can and will. Try the suggestions I’ve given you and check back in a month or two.
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about 1 year ago - 6 comments
Hi Alfonso, I was just reading your article Top 10: Ways To Gauge Your Fitness. I found it very interesting, however, I am absolutely terrible at pushups. I am always wondering what’s the best way to build up strength to complete a gorgeous pushup with perfect form? Are there certain weighted exercises I could perform?…
about 1 year ago - 8 comments
Hi everyone! I’m really excited to share this installment of Exercise Rights And Wrongs with you, our video series where I demonstrate the correct way to perform a given exercise. The reason – I can’t tell you how many people I see performing planks and push-ups the wrong way. On paper they seem like such…