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Mastering the Pushup

Drop and give me 50! Whether in movies, school gym class, or at the training facility, we have all been faced with doing everyone’s favorite upper body exercise (just admit it!), the push up. Arguably one of the most effective moves in workout history, the push up has been providing the human body with quick and anatomically safe chest/arm movement for almost everyone on their fitness journey.

Indeed, its application for everyday strength, posture, and overall upper body development has ensured its importance on the grand stage of exercise moves. However, many of us have no idea where to start when it comes to attempting the push up, and perhaps most importantly how to continually improve once you have begun to master the basics. In attempting to shed some light on the issue, this article will consider how we can develop an effective holistic strategy to mastering the push up, and in the end, become push up masters ourselves!
We’ve all heard the phrase “we need to walk before we run”. The same goes for push ups! To achieve that perfect push up, we must first establish a baseline from which to start. And to understand this starting point, we need to be aware of our body and how it intends to complete the intended movement pattern. For example, when doing a push up, we must effectively utilize our chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles in unison to both lower ourselves down to the ground and come back up. However, a true push up requires more than just those muscles – we also need good core and back strength to keep our torso straight, and stabilization in our hips/lower body to keep our legs off the ground. With that in mind, it is important to remember that first and foremost we need to develop our body as a whole first before we can complete the push up. That’s right, all those forearm planks, squats, and chops are in your program for a reason!
Thus, we must establish the base and develop from there. This will be ongoing and needs to be ever-present in any training program. With that in mind, let’s begin with the push up itself. Remembering that we are going against gravity, our first mode of attack will be to increase the angle from which we start. In short, we can begin by elevating our hands from the ground and onto a bar or bench. Start with higher repetitions, as this will begin to develop your endurance muscle fibers first and foremost. Fifteen or so is a good place to start. However, it is important that your form for this movement is flawless: if you find your lower back arching, or you can’t bring your chest close to the bar, then you need to increase your angle by either raising the bar or bench. Next, we need to consistently do our push-ups at this level for at least two to three times a week for a month at a time. This is key!
As we approach the four-week mark (can vary depending on the person), most of us will see that we are beginning to adapt to this angle of movement. So, what do we do? We make it harder! That’s right. For our push up to get better, we need to overload the body once more and begin a new cycle of push ups, but at a different angle. For example, a second month push up regimen can include lowering the bar closer to the ground and going for say twelve to fifteen repetitions, or perhaps doing a band assist push up from the floor. Again, consistency is vital! We need to hit up this new routine for another month, and as you can guess, for the next month after that and so forth – progressively making each month more difficult as you go along. Should you have any specific questions on how to develop this program specifically with numbers, or some finer details on push up form, refer to your Movimento Trainer!
Finally, our diet needs to be addressed as well. For your push up to get better, you need to fuel your muscles accordingly. As you challenge yourself over time with lower body, core, and upper body exercises, your muscles will break down as they get put under stress from those exercises. Fear not! This is a good thing, as the muscle building process in fact stems from creating “micro stresses” in your muscles through exercise (breakdown, and rebuild). However, for your muscle to rebuild, you need to ensure it is receiving an optimal input of amino acids (protein), healthy fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, and minerals from healthy eating. Otherwise, we lose that chance to effectively grow those muscles needed to get better at our push up. And remember: the more excess weight you have to push up, the harder your push up will be!
So, while there are certainly many components needed to get better at our push ups, we can close by remembering that perhaps our greatest tool is in fact within us; the determination and will to improve. If you really want to master the push up, you will make it happen no matter what. We can understand that all the pieces have to come together to find any effective results. And while there may be setbacks along the way, we remind ourselves to leave it behind us and focus on that next workout, that next meal, that next repetition. The day is ours to seize, and you are always in control of your choices. Here at Movimento we are here to make your goals reality, and with the right plan in place, anything is possible – yes, even the push up. Now drop and give me 50!