The right push up
Mar 06 2014
In my opinion, push ups are one of the best exercises ever invented — they require zero equipment, build strength in all right places, have plenty of variations to make the workout interesting and are easily quantifiable, so keeping track of progression is easy. Moreover, I have always found that a properly done push up routine is also an excellent core strengthening exercise. When it comes to push ups though, your technique is crucial. Each push up needs to be done perfectly for you to maximise its benefits.
When down on the ground, set your hands at a distance that is slightly wider than shoulder-width. Your feet should be set up in a way that feels right and comfortable to you. Think of your body as one giant straight line. If you have a problem getting the proper form with your body, clench your butt and tighten your abs. Your core will be engaged.
If you’ve been doing push ups incorrectly, this might be a big change for you. Your head should be looking slightly ahead of you, not straight down at the top of your push up. Your arms should be straight and should support your weight. Now, with your butt clenched, lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle or smaller. Depending on your level of experience, age, and flexibility, 90 degrees might be the lowest you’re able to go. Keep your elbows close to your body (they start to fly out when you get tired). Exhale and push your body up to the starting position.
For those of who don’t have the required strength to do a proper push up, you can start with a wall push up. Follow the steps described above, but do it standing up against a wall with your feet slightly away the wall. Once you build up strength, you can then attempt push ups on the floor. Another alternative is ‘half or girlie-push ups’: place your knees on the ground, transfer your weight forward so that your knee caps don’t support your body weight and do push ups.
Once you get comfortable with the basic push up, you can try out different ways of doing push up.
One foot push ups: The easiest variation, but your body needs to stay in balance throughout.
Staggered push ups: Adds a degree of difficulty by placing your arms one in front of the other.
Decline push ups: These work your shoulders and triceps more so than normal push ups.
Tricep push ups: Keep your arms tight at your side, rotate your hands outward, and keep your elbows tight as you lower your body.
Wide or rectangle push ups: Keep your legs wide apart to form a rectangle to target chest muscles.
Diamond push ups: Keep your hands close to each other with the thumbs almost touching and bend your elbows to work your triceps more.
A combination of the different variations and good technique will not only give you a great and interesting workout, but will also give you a strong body. The best part is that if your work involves extensive travelling, you can do push ups in your hotel room without even having to go down to the hotel gym. This way, you can create a routine that can be literally done anywhere and gives you fantastic results.
(The author is a wellness expert and runs a fitness centre in New Delhi)