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Cathy's Fitness Column: Push Ups with a Twist

25 Feb 2007

Do the back of your arms continue to wave long after you have?  Do you avoid wearing tank tops or spaghetti straps?  If you're guilty of this cover-up, then drop and give me 10 ... push-ups that is!  Push-ups are one of the oldest and most effective exercises you can do to strengthen and tone your entire upper body.

The even better news is that push-ups aren't just for gym class and army boot camp any more; push-ups have had a sexy makeover.

Push-ups are one of the best exercises you can do because they don't require any equipment and are simple to learn. They promote strength, stability and balance which make them a great exercise for developing your core strength.  Push-ups work all the important upper body muscles such as pectorals (chest muscles), deltoids (shoulders), triceps and scapular muscles (shoulder blades) as well as the abdominal, upper and lower back.

Read on to see how you can master this basic but essential exercise as well as learn some variations on the push-ups to add spice to your routine as well as work some additional muscles.

Before attempting any of the other exercises, start with the basic push-up.  If you're unable to do a full push-up, then start with the modified push up.

Modified Push-Up

*1.Start by lying face down and placing your hands near your shoulders with your elbows pointing up.

2. Keeping your trunk straight press your hands into the floor so that your upper body and hips come up off the ground into a push up position.

3. Now you are in a modified push up position from your knees.

4. Bend your elbows so that your chest touches the ground and then repeat by returning to the top position.


The Basic Push- up

1. Lie face down on the floor with hands palm down, fingers pointing straight ahead, and aligned at the nipple line.
2. Place hands slightly wider than shoulder width, and feet should be at hip width with toes on floor.
3. Start position: Extend the elbows and raise the body off the floor.
4. Lower your entire body (legs, hips, trunk, and head) 4-8 inches from the floor.
5. Return to the start position by extending at the elbows and pushing the body up.
6. Remember to keep the head and trunk stabilized in a neutral position by isometrically contracting the abdominal and back muscles. Never fully lock out the elbows at the start position and avoid hyperextension of the low back.


Push-ups on the Ball- more advanced

1.Lie face down with chest on Swiss ball or (couch, bench or chair)
2) Take your hands and walk forward allowing the ball to roll under your body until the top of your feet are supported by the ball.
3) Start position: Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder width, fingers pointing straight ahead, and aligned at the nipple line. Remove one foot and suspend it 4-6 inches above the ball.
4) Lower your body (legs, hips, trunk, and head) 4-8 inches from the floor.
5) Return to the start position by extending at the elbows and pushing the body up.
6) Remember to keep the head and trunk stabilized in a neutral position by isometrically contracting the abdominal and back muscles. Never fully lock out the elbows at the start position and avoid hyperextension of the low back.


Wide push-ups- works more of your pectorals (chest)

1.Lie face down on the floor with hands palm down, fingers pointing straight ahead, and aligned at the nipple line.
2. Place hands than shoulder width, and feet should be at hip width with toes on floor.
3. Start position: Extend the elbows and raise the body off the floor.
4. Lower your entire body (legs, hips, trunk, and head) 4-8 inches from the floor.
5. Return to the start position by extending at the elbows and pushing the body up.
6. Remember to keep the head and trunk stabilized in a neutral position by isometrically contracting the abdominal and back muscles. Never fully lock out the elbows at the start position and avoid hyperextension of the low back.


Diamond Push-ups (works more tricep muscles)

1.Lie face down on the floor with hands palm down, fingers pointing straight ahead, and aligned at the nipple line.
2. Place hands in the center of your chest and form a diamond shape with your index fingers and thumbs. Feet should be at hip width with toes on floor.
3. Start position: Extend the elbows and raise the body off the floor.
4. Lower your entire body (legs, hips, trunk, and head) 4-8 inches from the floor.
5. Return to the start position by extending at the elbows and pushing the body up.
6. Remember to keep the head and trunk stabilized in a neutral position by isometrically contracting the abdominal and back muscles. Never fully lock out the elbows at the start position and avoid hyperextension of the low back.


1 Leg Push-Ups ( also works the gluteals and lower back)

1.Start by getting into a pushup stance with your body straight and your arms extended.
2. Raise one foot off the ground and hold in this position.
3. Proceed into a pushup keeping your foot off the ground for the desired repetitions.
4. Repeat the next set with your other foot off the ground.


Rotational Push ups (also works the obliques and back rotators)

1. Start by completing a normal pushup and then at the top of the second pushup pick your hand up off the ground and rotate your upper body so that your hand is above your head.
2. Proceed to complete this same movement with the other arm. Then return to a normal pushup.
3. Complete this movement for the desired number of repetitions.
4. To make this more challenging, hold a dumbbell in each hand while completing this movement.


Push- up Do’s and Don’ts

Do fully extend your elbows when you come up
Do take your chest right to the floor
Do hold your stomach in as you lower your body to the floor
Do squeeze your gluteals together
Do as many push-ups as you do continuously
Do 2-3 sets with 1-2 minutes rest in between
Do take a day rest in between your workouts

Don’t allow the lower back to sag or arch
Don’t squeeze your shoulder blades together as you lower
Don’t go too quickly – take at least 1 second to do each push up

More Variations of the Push-ups

But wait, there''s still more.  Try some of these other variations:
* Clap hand push-ups build more power
* One-hand push-ups build balance and strength: One hand behind your back
* Finger tip push-ups build strength in the fingers and wrist
* Explosive push-ups build power: Lower your body and explosively push off so that your hands leave the floor and then catch your fall
* Weighted push-ups build strength: Have someone apply pressure to your upper back

With a little practice and creativity you can get a complete upper body exercise with no equipment and a small investment in time. This equals the perfect formula for one of the oldest and most effective exercises you can do ... the push-up.  Give them a try today!!!

*all exercise descriptions are taken from http://fitnessgenerator.com/activeimage . * original article printed for Planet Africa Magazine.

Cathy Morenzie is a Fitness Columnist for AfroToronto.com

Cathy Morenzie is a certified personal fitness trainer, fitness instructor and Pilates instructor. Cathy specializes in providing creative fitness solutions for people on the go and has trained thousands of clients and trainers over the last 20 years.  For more FREE tips like these, visit her site at http://www.activeimage.ca . or call 416-410-8517. Can''t fit personal training sessions into your schedule … no problem - try our online personal training and receive the benefits of one-on-one personal training at a fraction of the cost.

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