When you don’t have time for a full workout but you have five minutes to spare, make push-ups your go-to exercise. Long after the Thighmaster and Tony Little’s Gazelle disappeared, push-ups live on. Why? You don’t need fancy equipment, the mechanics of the exercise are super – simple and they involve every muscle in the body. Push-ups specifically target your chest muscles, but they also do an amazing job of defining your triceps, shoulders and core muscles.
“I include them in all of my clients’ programs unless they have serious health issues or neck or shoulder problems,” says Kari Galasso, a personal trainer from Kingston, Ont. The most common mistake people make when attempting the exercise is choosing a variation that’s too difficult, says Galasso. She recommends that most women start with a basic version and gradually work up to the challenging hands-and-toes version. Excellent technique is your ticket to the increased strength, improved posture and bragging rights that come with conquering any type of push-up.
Here are instructions for several of the most popular versions:
Standard version: Position yourself face down on the floor, balancing on your hands and toes. Your hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders and your body in a straight line. Engage your core muscles (by pressing your navel toward your spine) so you don’t sag at the waist or chest, and don’t stick your bum up into the air. Lower your body toward the floor until your elbows are at about 90 degrees. Exhale, and push back up.
Easier version: Perform the standard version but with your knees on the ground.
Easiest version: From a standing position, step back three or four foot lengths from a wall. Place your hands on the wall letting your heels lift slightly. Bend your elbows, and lower your forehead toward the wall.
Harder version: Perform the standard version but with your feet elevated on a step, or place the toes of one foot on the heel of your other foot.
Whichever version you choose, try two or three sets of 10 repetitions on alternating days gradually increasing the number of repetitions.
Barb Gormley is a certified personal trainer and a freelance health and fitness writer. You can contact her at www.barbgormley.com.