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12 Days of Fitness 2018: Day 9 – The Best Exercise You’re Probably Not Doing

December 19, 2018 0 Comments

(This is part 9 of a 12 part series to provide you with some helpful health and fitness tips over the holiday season)

Gym, or PE programs in schools are not what they use to be. Back then, we participated in physical activity; good old fashioned physical activity. I remember competing in the President’s Physical Fitness Challenge, performing physical tasks like sit ups, pull-ups (chin-ups), running shuttles, and of course, push-ups. The push-up is a great stand-alone exercise that many say that can’t do very well if at all so they avoid it. It’s time to reconsider that thought.

Push-Ups Get No Respect.

While other bodyweight exercises like chin-ups and dips boast devoted fans from all corners of the fitness industry, the lowly push-up is likened as the spoiled step-child of the training world. Most women can’t do them and those that can, can’t do them correctly. Men seem to have an easier time with them but they’re not immune from head shaking either. Arms flare out; core sags; partial reps are performed. Why is an exercise so simple and effective performed so inconsistently if at all with both sexes? It doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

 Understanding the Push-Up

The push-up is as much a core strengthening exercise as it is an upper body exercise. The abdominal muscles are king when it comes to spinal stability during push-ups. The rectus abdominis is the primary stabilizer for preventing hip sagging, while the obliques do most of the work to prevent lateral shifting and twisting. Push-ups of course are also about arms and chest as well as the back. Hand position plays an important role. A narrow base push-up position significantly increases stress on the elbow joint, but also involves higher muscle activation in the triceps and pecs. Internally rotated hand positions were also shown to produce greater and potentially injurious forces on the elbow joints. Depending on your goal, you’ll want to do different push-up progressions.

Common Push-Up Errors

Ask 10 people to perform a push-up and you’ll likely see 10 different presentations but including some of these most common errors:

  • T-Set Up – hands are positioned high and wide
  • Caterpillar – hips sag and back is tilted
  • Stopping short – just as the name implies, not complete reps

In all three instances, there are distinct muscle weaknesses/imbalances that need to be addressed before push-ups can be safely completed. Most “egos” don’t allow or permit those things to be addressed so you have a bunch of people performing what they think are push-ups. There are literally hundreds of exercises you can do in the gym to build a healthier, stronger body, but sometimes the basics are the best. Of course, you don’t need to stop what you’re doing and start doing push-ups but perhaps it’s time to give the much-maligned push-up a second look.

See you tomorrow for Day 10 of the 12 Days of Fitness

Til next time, train smart, eat well, and be better.

 

Just in case, here’s what you might have missed:

Day #1 – Weight Loss Once and For All
Day #2 – 10 Pieces of Equipment Everyone Needs to Work Out at Home
Day #3 – Are You Afraid of Eating Fruit?
Day #4 – Healthy Foods?
Day #5 – 21 Ways to Combat Emotional Eating
Day #6 – 8 Reasons Why Your Workout is Failing You
Day #7 – The Problem With Added Sugars
Day #8Dieting Made Simple

About the Author:

Jeff Harrison is a fitness coach based in Pottstown, PA. He received a BS in Exercise and Sport Science from Penn State University and is an NSCA Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS), NSCA Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT) and ACE Advanced Health and Fitness Specialist (ACE-AHFS). Jeff's articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals as well as consumer oriented websites and magazines.

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