Push ups. Some love them and many hate them, but either way they are a great upper body and strength building exercise. Push ups are a part of many of my weekly workouts, and if you've done my StrongHer challenge you know this first hand. They have been around for a long time and are not going anywhere any time soon. So, if you still dread it every time you see push ups in a workout, follow these few simple tips to improve your strength and conquer those push ups once and for all.
Strengthen your core.
Many people don't realize that your core is a very important part of a push up. A weak core can lead to a sagging lower back which will cause an improper angle of the shoulders and lead to injury and diminished results.
To fix this you should do core strengthening exercises like the plank. Planks will increase core endurance leading to the ability to hold a classic push up position for a longer duration. Here are a few exercises you can do to strengthen your core.
Plank hold (both elbow and palm): hold the plank position for as long as possible. Repeat 3-4 times a week.
Plank arm reach: hold the plank position while alternating raising one arm forward at a time. Do 3 sets of 10-12 reps.
Elevated (or palm) side plank hold: Lay on your side with legs and feet stacked and hand placed directly under your shoulder. Raise your hips off of the ground. Hold for as long as you can and then repeat on the other side.
Raised leg plank hold: start in the same position as a normal plank, but raise one leg at a time. Hold plank position with one leg raised for 30 seconds and then repeat on the other side.
Remember to always keep your core engaged when pushing off the bottom of a push up. If you are struggling with pushing up from the bottom, then do the above exercises 3-4 times a week to strengthen your core.
Make sure your form is correct.
Flat back, butt down, core engaged, keep hips from sagging, head in neutral spine. There are many things to think about while doing a push up. It can be overwhelming at first. Tip: try filming yourself to see if you are performing them properly. Filming yourself will give you a better idea if you are doing them properly without straining your neck to look in a mirror. Below is a video of improper and proper form.
Start with modified, but don't stop there.
Beginners commonly start with a modified (on your knees) push up, but if you always do modified push ups you will only strengthen push ups on your knees. If you can do one proper push up, do that and then modify the rest. Every time you do a set push ups try to do as many as you can (with proper form) before modifying. The more you practice a proper push up, the stronger you will get.
Make sure your hand placement is correct.
Hands should be directly under your shoulders with your fingers spread and slightly bent. Press through your palms when pushing your body off of the ground.
Strengthen your quads.
Yes, your quads. Weak quads will keep you from fully extending your knees and holding them there through out the entire exercise. You can strengthen your quads by doing good ol' squats. Many women are afraid of weight training (that's a whole other topic for another day), but what they don't realize is that weight training will help strengthen your body to perform other exercises and every day tasks with ease.
Practice, Practice, Practice.
Like I mentioned above, the only way to get better is to PRACTICE. Try these push up progression exercises to help you reach your goals.
I hope all of these tips will help you master those push ups once and for all. Like always, if you have any questions please don't hesitate to contact me.
If you are looking for more ways to strengthen your body, stay motivated, and be equipped with the tools to make a healthy lifestyle change, join my StrongHer challenge. Click here for more info.