If you have followed me for a while now you'll be well aware that I believe everyone should be doing some kind of resistance training on a regular basis. Not only do I believe it (and let me be clear that is not just a personal opinion based on emotion, it's an evidence-informed fact) but just recently the the World Health Organisation updated their physical activity guidelines. Here's the highlights for adults aged 18-64:
The reasons for are the benefits your body experiences from adaptation to exercise are numerous, in relation to physiological and mental health. It just makes sense to look after your body with as much meticulousness as you might look after your finances, your children or your graphic novel collection.
The benefits to having better physical strength are immeasurable. Being stronger and comparatively more muscular is metabolically superior and makes it easier to manage your weight, improves quality of life, improves insulin sensitivity, reduces injury risk - including risk of falls in the ageing - reduces the risk of bone demineralization and many other really important things. It's not just about having big muscles and lifting really heavy things.
Because strength is subjective and what one person considers heavy another person can lift with ease not everyone can start with lifting heavy barbells or swinging kettlebells. That's why I came up with this simple challenge. Now, in my experience as a personal trainer most women really struggle with press ups. Sure, there are some women who are very strong and very good at press ups, and yes, some men are weak as shit. But most women possess considerably less upper body strength than most men. However, I have noticed that many male endurance athletes also struggle with these. Why, because they don't do them, that's why!
Endurance athletes tend to only do cardio and maybe some stretching. I have already covered the importance of strength training for better endurance performance so I won't go into it here. But, let me just ram this point home one more time BEING STRONG IS BETTER THAN BEING WEAK FOR EVERYONE. That's regardless of gender, age or sporting preference. String, of course, is subjective, but if you can't at least lift your own bodyweight, you really should consider getting stronger.
Therefore, press-ups are a really good exercise to measure the muscular strength and endurance of your torso. It requires a good core, hip and shoulder stability. They strengthen your shoulders, triceps and chest and if you can't do at-least 20 full bodyweight press-ups there's no point in even doing bench press because you won't have sufficient muscular endurance or stability in the stabilisers or strength of the prime movers to perform them either safely or effectively.
Alignment is important, when doing a full press-up you need the spine to remain neutral. Slightly tuck the tailbone under and clench your Glutes (buttocks). Brace your abs like you are about to be punched in the stomach - to practice this press your fingers into your obliques (love handles) and then cough, to feel how to 'engage' your core. Lift your chest towards your chin, keeping your neck neutral. DO NOT turn your fingers in to face each other (why on earth so many women do that I'll never know it's a terrible technique). Place your hands directly under your shoulders pull your shoulder blades down your back and rotate your shoulders as if you are trying to turn your elbows inside out without moving your hands. Keep your bum and core tight as you lower down, allow your elbows to flare to about 45º from the mid-line, then push the floor away from you, think about pressing from your armpits as you do so. This ensures that you are engaging the stabiliser muscles in your mid-back and takes some of the tension away from your Anterior Deltoids (the front of your shoulders).
Breathing is important too. Inhale at the start of the rep, brace your abs, then complete the entire rep before exhaling again near the top of the movement. Holding your breath while you move creates intra-abdominal pressure and prevents laxity in the torso. Keeping the core and Glutes tight should stop you from looking like you're trying to hump the floor. Make sure you breath through your teeth and squeeze your abs on exhale, don't just blow out and relax.
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I posted this series of videos on my Instagram a while back. If you are very weak/inexperienced you can start with the wall presses and go from there. But you start at whichever point you feel confident doing so. The idea is that you do your press-ups every day and add 2 reps each week. If you start getting sore take a day off and then carry on where you left off. By the time you can do 20 reps with strict form it's time to move on to the next progression. Film yourself doing them so that you can check your form, better still post them on social media and tag me in. Be aware that progression is as much about mindset as anything. If you are telling yourself that you are weak, that you can't do then you will fail to progress. But if you push yourself out of your comfort zone and make yourself squeeze out one more rep, you'll make good progress. You are stronger than you think. A common mindset mistake that beginners make is that exercise is easy for fit people. It's not. It never gets easy, you just get stronger!
Hopefully, within a month or two you'll be considerably stronger and looking more ripped and it won't have cost you a penny.
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