Press ups are tough stuff, there’s no denying that! But as with everything, if we split our goals into small steps, we can get there! Girls can press up too ;)
During the press up we predominantly use two major muscles: the chest (pectorals, or pecs as most people know them) and the triceps (the muscles at the back of the arm … the ones that help contribute to our bingo wings!!).
Here are three ways to work towards a full press up.
1. Utilise the effect of gravity:
Start off doing press ups standing against a wall, then gradually complete them on more and more of an angle – improvise using things like a chair, bench, box, step etc for different heights / angles. This way you are using the same muscles that you use in a press up, and you’ll be hitting that floor in no time!
Tip: a great way to increase strength is to perform “negatives” – this is when you complete the lowering phase of the push up slowly (try doing it in four counts). During the lowering phase our muscles work eccentrically (lengthen under tension) and it is when most muscle damage (that is needed for muscle strength gains) occurs.
2. Reduce the lever length of your press up
A longer lever increases the resistance created, so we need to reduce the lever length. Sounds techy but it’s quite simple. The lever in this instance is you! So to make it easier, start with a “box” press up. It also makes it easier if you have your arms slightly wider than shoulder width apart (I tend to do quite wide press ups, but when you find full ones easy, you can start to bring the elbows tighter to your sides). Once you have mastered this you can move on to the classic “knees down” press up (some people call these girlie press ups, but we’ll show them that’s not true ;) ). Only move on to the full press up once you have established proper “form” or technique – i.e. make sure your body is in good alignment (without your booty way up in the air like it just don’t care!) … imagine a plank running from your head to feet.
3. Work the major muscles doing other exercises.
You can help enhance your progression by working the major muscles that are used during a push up through different exercises. Good exercises for the chest include the bench press, dumbbell press and dumbbell flies. Triceps are worked during pressing exercises (when your arms straighten against a resistance) - dips on a bench or overhead extensions with a weight are great tricep exercises. Some of these can easily be done at home.
It is also critical to make sure you have a strong core as this needs to be engaged when doing a press up to keep your form. Simply practicing a plank with straight arms (i.e. the starting position of a press up) and holding it for 30-60 seconds for a few reps will help you do this.
And remember … practice makes progression – which makes perfect! So keep at it a few times a week … Come on girls, we can do it!