Push-Ups Can Be Tough

I’ve always been physically active. I was into sports at an early age and I was never one to sit still and do nothing the whole day. As I started going to Rec Xpress, I was pushed to do workout routines I never thought of doing.

I’ve done push-ups before but as I did more of it at the gym, I’d catch myself getting winded. It’s as if I’ve lost all of my strength within doing 5. What can be so hard about pushing your body away from the ground?

Push-ups are pretty simple, straight-to-the-point exercises but it makes use of various body parts. What people forget is that our core – the abdomen – plays an important role when we do push-ups. Do you feel the burn around your tummy? Mine hurts after doing just one! It feels as if my guts have been punched senseless. No exaggeration there.

Let’s also not discredit the power of our deep unconsciousness. What we think, we become, and if we think we can’t do a push-up, our bodies will most likely act like we can’t. It might have been a past experience or a sense of self-doubt that makes you think that push-ups are pretty much a no-no in your workout. Regardless, I wouldn’t be surprised if it has made an impact on your aversion to doing push-ups. It’s high time to cast those fears away and start pumping!

The Right Form

As with any exercise, doing it the wrong way can not only be a waste of your time at the gym (because it’s ineffective) but it can also do some damage to your body.

I knew that the only way for me to do a proper push-up was with the help of a trainer. I needed someone to point out the careless mistakes I’ve been apparently making all these years.

How To Do A Push Up: Why You've Been Doing It Wrong

The proper form:

Set your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Your palms should be pressed firmly on the ground. As you go down, your bent elbows should be at a 45-degree angle to your body. While this is considered a standard push-up form, listen to your body and do what feels right for you. It’s completely fine to adjust. Your arms might feel more comfortable with it being slightly closer to your body, or even wider.

Imagine your body as one straight line. A common (and pretty funny) mistake I’ve been doing is looking like a bumble bee. I might have worked hard at it (Tips to doing squats here) but this does not, in any means, give me the license to do my push-ups with my ass high up.

When you imagine your body as one straight line, your core is engaged and your back is flat. Push-ups feel even harder to do when your core is engaged plus you’ll be missing out on the core-strengthening benefits of the exercise. One way to properly engage your core is to imagine that you’re about to be punched in the gut: tighten your abs and clench your butt.

As for your feet, keep them together or shoulder-width apart. Experiment and see which feels better for you. Generally speaking, the wider your feet, the more stable you’ll feel as you do push-ups.

Your line of sight should be slightly ahead as this will help you create the illusion and feeling of your body being in a straight line. If you feel better staring at the gym’s floor, go ahead and look down.

How to do a push-up:

  • Your arms should be straight, core engaged, and butt clenched. Lower yourself in a steady manner until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle or less.
  • Your elbows should be close to your body, and not look like as if you’re about to flap yourself away to Neverland.
  • Once you’ve lowered yourself and your elbow is at a 90-degree angle, wait a moment and then lift yourself back to starting position. Some people like to lower themselves until their chest or noses touch the ground as these are good gauges for going for the same distance every single push-up.

Variations of a Push-Up

Can’t do push-ups? No problem. There are other variations of the exercise that you can do:

Wall push-ups

  • Standing in front of a wall, place your hands slightly shoulder-width apart. Engage your core and clench your butt.
  • Walk back one full step until your arms are fully extended. Your weight should be supported by your arms.
  • Imagine yourself again in a straight line. Lower yourself steadily until your nose touches the wall
  • Push yourself back to starting position

Elevated push-ups

The elevated push-up sounds exactly as it is: doing push-ups on an elevated surface like a counter top or park bench. Once you’ve mastered the wall push-ups, the elevated push-up is a great next-level exercise. With the same form as the wall push-ups, do elevated push-ups on a surface that’s as high as a few blocks or as high as a table.

Knee push-ups

Wall push-ups and elevated push-ups too easy for you? Try knee push-ups. Your upper body has the same form as a regular push-up but instead of your feet stabilizing you, you’ll use your knees. Your feet should be crossed at the ankles and your knees are supporting you.

Getting Better At It

Push-ups are hard to do in the first place. There’s the form to think about, then you have to focus on balance and stability… sometimes it can be overwhelming. Here are some ways to help you get better at doing a push-up:

  • Start getting healthy – fitness is about 80% nutrition so losing those extra pounds means you’ll be working out with a much lighter body.
  • Stop when you’re tired – when you feel your body getting tired, stop. Forcing yourself to do those last few push-ups in bad form is not advisable. Take note of how many reps you can do today and try to beat that number next time.
  • Don’t push yourself too much (pun intended) – you’ve just worked your muscles out. Give them time to rest. 48 hours is long enough for them to rebuild and recover.
  • Fill yourself up with protein after a workout – Protein helps muscles rebuild themselves after a workout.
  • Strengthen your core – do planks so that your core won’t be a problem with your form. Many people complain of a burn in their abs while doing push-ups. Their core might not be strong enough yet. Planks are great at building your core. It’s also a way to practice your “straight line” form when doing push-ups. After all, a push-up is a moving plank.
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Your Exercise Routine, Only Better

Keep yourself in top form as you include push-ups in your exercise routine. The benefits most definitely outweigh the risks — you know, the risk of looking like a bee like I have — when you do push-ups. Not only are you building upper body strength and physique, but you’re also engaging your abs to a tighter and stronger core.

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