For many women, the push up (performed correctly) is impossible. Depending on their age, The Army Basic Training Physical Fitness Test requires women to be able to do 11-13 push ups yet, the average woman in the U.S. can't do one. I once came across a statistic that said if a woman can do 1 strict pull-up, she's stronger than 99% of all women in the world. I'm confident that the push-up statistic is very close to this. Probably 95%. So, how do you go from zero push ups to one, then from 1 to 11 or 13 or 20? Here are three things you can do.
1. Work to develop your core strength & stability.
What is "the core"? The core is a complex series of muscles including the abdominal muscles, spinal erectors, transverse abdominals, diaphragm, gluteals, and many deeper muscles around the pelvic floor. The primary role of this musculature is to stabilize the trunk and to transfer force from one extremity to another. The core is involved in almost every movement the human body performs and core weakness should be one of the first things addressed for anyone starting a fitness quest or, any high level athlete looking to improve their performance in their sport. The main exercises we prescribe to develop base core strength are:
- Hollow Holds
- Hollow Rockers
- Planks (on elbows)
- Side planks
- L-Sit / L-Hang
- Knees to elbow / Toes 2 Bar
From the top of the push-up plank position, lowering the body down to the floor in one solid piece is the "negative" or eccentric part of the movement. Performing negatives is a great way to strengthen the muscles in the arms, shoulders, chest, back, and core that will be responsible for, eventually, pushing you up. It is critical that this movement be performed on the toes and not on the knees. The only thing that doing push-ups from the knees is good for is getting you better at doing push ups on your knees. This is not what we're after. We are training to be able to perform the real deal in the shortest amount of time possible. If you are unable to perform a negative from the plank position on the ground, place your hands on a counter-top or box and perform the plank negative. This is, essentially, like performing a decline push up. It's a little easier than the negative on the ground because you are de-loading your body weight. The higher the surface you place your hands on, the less of your bodyweight you will be pushing/lowering.
3. Do it daily
Unlike weightlifting, most bodyweight training exercises can be performed daily. How often you do these drills will likely be determined by whatever timeline you have given yourself to get your first push-up. It's hard to say how long it will take you to achieve a push-up because it heavily depends on where you are starting, how often you do the exercises, and how fast your muscles adapt. It could be as short as a few weeks or as long as 6 months or a year. Regardless, "perfect practice makes perfect execution" so take the time to learn the proper mechanics of each of the training exercises mentioned above. It goes without saying that bodyweight movements become easier when we have less bodyweight to move so if you have some extra pounds due to excess body fat, incorporate a healthy diet and high intensity interval training into your life. This will help you improve your overall fitness level and get you even closer to getting that first push-up. Consistency is key.
If you are interested in group or personal fitness training and would like to consider joining the Ternion Athletics Strength & Conditioning Program, click here to set up your free one-on-one consult and free visit. Regardless of your current level of strength or conditioning, our comprehensive approach to training, nutrition, and recovery, can help get you where you want to be in a very short amount of time. Get in great shape and have fun doing it!
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