Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Push Ups for Fun and Profit

While very few people, least of all yours truly, have the desire to wake up every morning of the year to practice pushups, they are an excellent exercise to add to your fitness routine. They are a great total body workout that build strength and muscle tone. Although I don't do as many pushups throughout the year as I should, I do include them regularly in my home workouts. Since my annual PT (physical training) test is approaching in October it is now time to spend a couple of months concentrating on getting into top shape. With that in mind, I am going to share some pushup secrets that have worked for me in the past so that you can use them in your own exercise routine.
First, lets remind ourselves of the benefits derived from doing pushups:
Primary muscles used: pectorals, anterior deltoid, triceps
Secondary muscles used (stabilizers): abdominals, quadriceps
Movements similar to pushups: chest press, bench press, reverse punch, overhead serve
Three planes: regular, incline, decline
Remember to use perfect form and only perfect reps count.
To check your form you can do your pushups in front of a wall mirror or have a friend watch and give you gentle reminders when you falter. You can place a broom handle or hockey stick on your back and use it as a guide to keep your head, shoulders, and butt in line. Always remember to keep your abs pulled in tight and avoid having a saggy mid section while you are exercising. Also try to avoid having a left-right imbalance. If you notice one arm doing more work than the other you can try some extra strength training on your weak side using dumbbells or exercise machines at your local gym.
Training techniques: The best training results come from Periodization and Volume training. The way it works is that you chose a number of reps that are a small percentage of your maximum and then do lots of sets throughout the day. When you look at your daily total you will find that your daily total (number of pushups X number of sets) is much higher than if you had simply trained to failure during one workout. Here are some techniques:
Technique #1:
1. Choose a number that is approximately half of your max. If you can do 50 reps before failing, start at 20-25 reps.
2. Do one set every hour from the time you wake up until an hour before bed.
3. Add 5 - 10 reps to your set every week, depending on how you feel.
Technique #2: (ladders)
1. Do one rep.
2. Come to your knees for the time it would take a partner to do the same exercise.
3. Do 2 reps and rest.
4. Continue like this (3, rest, 4, rest, and so one) until you are within 2-3 reps of failure. Take 1-3 minutes rest and start at 1 rep again.
5.Every time you start over counts as one set. Do as many sets as you can.
Technique #3: (push and recede)
1. Do some rep staggering: 25, 15, 25, 20, 25, 30, 15, 25.....
2. Stagger the days: Day 1, 25 reps per set; Day 2, 15 reps per set; etc
3. Stagger the exercises: Day 1, regular pushups; Day 2, incline pushups; Day 3, decline pushups
Technique #4: (quick sets)
1. Choose 6 exercises and do them one right after the other - this will make one set. I like to do diamond pushups, situps, regular pushups, leg lifts, wide pushups, crunches.
2. Choose a number of reps that is about a quarter of your max. Perhaps 6 to 10 of each exercise is plenty.
3. Do 10 sets of all six exercises. Take a 60 second rest break in between each set.
Remember that the body adapts over time so you will see gains for a month or two and then you will hit a plateau while the body rests. To push through the plateau you can try changing up your exercise routine and challenging the body in new ways. Here are some great (and painful) pushup ideas to add to your routine for fun and profit.
one leg up, alternate legs
speed, 10 reps -10 sets
block decline
block incline
block one leg up, alternate
60 second max rep
hop-ups, in place, moving forward, moving backward, moving left and right
unstable with one hand on block and one hand on floor
unstable with one hand on medicine ball and one hand on floor
isometric hold in upward position, 3 inches lower and 1 inch off floor
plyometric explosive clapping
plyometric explosive using block up and down
plyometric explosive moving left and right
plyometric explosive moving left and right cross country
head to head team
marine style 1-10 cumulative with salutes in between
declining counting from 20 - 1 cumulative
standing wall
slap high-five alternating with partner head to head
the "Z" while crossing left hand to right shoulder and right hand to left shoulder
resistive - 30second hold, 30 second partner pushes on back
circle of death - 7 pushups counting by one holding and waiting for your turn
stability ball pushups
stability ball pushups with jackknife


patricia said...

I expect that 'plyometric explosive clapping' is exactly what we were doing at the Folk Fest for some of the fabulous workshops and also some of the mainstage performers. That plus running up and down the hill to the beer tent constituted a huge amount of aerobic exercise!

Balcony Babe said...

Running back and forth to the beer tent sounds very energetic. Did the family's Lounge Lizard gene kick in at any point to convince you to move your festival gear right into the beer tent and stay there for the remainder of the weekend?

Chris said...

Hilly, how's it going with your push-up routines? I have a few questions. Where should the stability ball go under the legs? Should it be at the knees, calves or ankles? Also, what are diamond pushups and block push-ups?