It may sound a little odd, but I believe that every able-bodied adult in this world has a responsibility to be able to lift their own body weight. CAN YOU? If you're not sure, get down and try and do a press-up! When I did the same not so long ago, I was absolutely appalled to discover that I was unable to do a single quality press-up. Not one!
QUICK INTERLUDE: For my international friends, a 'press-up' is the British term for a 'push-up'.
I recently heard a friend describe a press-up as 'a necessary life-skill'. As ridiculous as that may sound, when you see that it's more about what that press-up represents, it's hard not to agree. Another friend told me a story of having such poor upper body strength, she was unable to lift herself back into a boat - a task everyone else had performed with ease. I then went on to to think of other practical situations where upper body strength is invaluable. My catastrophic tendencies took me straight to being able to dig yourself out of heavy rubble in a collapsed building; or hold onto your loved one's hand as they dangle, harness broken, from the high rope over a gorge (think Sylvester Stallone in Cliff Hanger). A little extreme perhaps!
However, I do wan't to be able to carry my children with an ease that doesn't stress my posture and low back. I do want to be able to be move heavy furniture around on my own without risking injury. I do want to have the strength to lift myself off the floor, into a boat, out of a swimming pool... you get the gist. Whether it's the military wife in me (who spends much of the time with spouse a-far), or just an innate desire to to be a strong, independent woman; I want to have the strength to look after myself and my family. In my eyes, weak and feeble does not equate to that. Not having the strength to do 1 press-up does not equate to that...
I can hear so many of you saying 'but as women we're not designed to do press-ups'. It's true, press-ups as an exercise are more suited to the male composition and frame, but that doesn't mean we as women can't do them. In fact press-ups are a fantastic full body exercise, particularly good for the core! If you want to live with your weakness by cushioning it with excuses, go for it, but if you want to get fit, get strong and ENABLE yourself, then read on!
I certainly wasn't going to sit around and embrace my lack of strength. Initially I was shocked and embarrassed by my pathetic attempt, but very quickly I became determined to rectify things. What was nice was that it didn't take long, nor much effort to start seeing significant improvements (and tone to my arms). Yep there were many grunts and groans (there still are), but man am I happier in the knowledge that if needs be, I can carry my weight!
Below you'll find the progressive steps I took towards a press-up that were kind to my spine, realistic to my current strength and constantly pushed me onwards.
- CHOOSE YOUR STARTING POINT FROM THE PROGRESSIONS BELOW. YOU SHOULD FEEL CHALLENGED BUT ABLE TO MAINTAIN GOOD FORM THROUGHOUT.
- SET A SPECIFIC PROGRAMME. WHETHER YOU START WITH 3, 10 OR 50 PER DAY, SET A REALISTIC GOAL AND COMMIT TO IT. PERSONALLY I MADE MINE SUPER ACHIEVABLE; I BEGAN WITH 5 PRESS-UPS A DAY BEFORE BED AND THEN WORKED MY WAY UP. TO THIS DAY I STILL DO A MINIMUM OF 15 PRESS-UPS EVERYDAY. NOPE, IT'S NOT MUCH, BUT I CAN DO THEM AND THAT'S WHAT MATTERS!
- PROGRESS. WHEN YOU'RE COMPLETING YOUR SET TARGET WITH RELATIVE EASE, IT'S TIME TO MOVE ON. EITHER INCREASE THE NUMBER OF REPETITIONS OR MOVE ONTO THE NEXT PROGRESSION! MOST IMPORTANTLY, BE PROUD OF YOURSELF FOR THE PROGRESS YOU'VE MADE!
For some this will be too basic, but for others it will be the introduction they need. Stand an arm's distance away from the wall. Place your hands at shoulder height, slightly wider than shoulder width. Lower your body towards the wall whilst maintaining a straight body from head to heels - don't allow the waist to sag towards the wall. To increase the difficulty, walk the feet further from the wall, or move closer to ease up.
Start on all fours, hands directly under the shoulders, knees under the hips. It's important in this exercise to hinge from the hips rather than bend or arch the spine. From top to tush keep the body in a straight line throughout the exercise. Lower the shoulders towards the floor then push back up. Never lock the arms fully when straight - always keep a micro-bend.
Take the knees further back so you assume a straight line from shoulders to knees. As you lower and raise you keep the spine neutral always! Try not to use the feet as a counterbalance; leave them on the floor throughout.
THE HALF- WAY HOUSE
This step was the clincher for me in progressing to a full press-up. It's all about a slow and controlled lowering to the floor then using the knees to assist the press-up. Clearly I need to work on keeping my head more neutral to the rest of the spine... naughty Georgie!
THE WHOLE SHEBANG: A FULL PRESS-UP
It's show time people! Get those knees off the floor and keep that spine straight. Lower the body slowly to the floor to about a fists distance away (or as low as you can get without breaking form). Suck in the tummy, contract those abs and drive through those arms as you press back up. Use those lower tummy muscles to prevent any 'sag' in the body - keep that bottom lifted and in line but not too high! Just don't forget to breathe!! Inhale on the down, exhale on the up.
- Press-ups promote FULL BODY ACTIVATION. Every major muscle group is activated during the exercise.
- Using our own body weight to train is more functional and transferable into real life dynamics than fixed weight training.
- Recruiting all the muscles of the shoulders with a good press-up technique will aid shoulder stability and strength.
- Provided form is maintained, the 'plank position' sustained throughout the exercise is fantastic for improving core stability; your lower back and abs will like it A LOT!
- It's a quick and easy exercise that can be performed anywhere, with zero equipment required. No excuses people!
- Every able-bodied adult in this world has a responsibility to be able to lift their own body weight. ;-)
SO GET TO IT GUYS. I KNOW YOU CAN DO IT! Let me know in the comments below if you're taking on the challenge. I promise you won't regret it!