There’s nothing better than being able to have the go-to-go with the show.
Being able to do press-ups at the drop of a hat is one of those tricks everyone needs up their sleeves.
I’m writing this after one of my clients went away for a break to LA and managed to beat her cousin in a press-up challenge. He challenged her to a press-up challenge as she looked great and her family wondered if she had the strength to back it up.
After his 30 press-ups, she nailed 31 before stopping, winning the challenge, and putting to bed the questions she had about her fitness.
Often overlooked and underutilised in workout programs, here’s why you should be adding press-ups into your routine and why they’re too important to skip out entirely.
Press-ups work your scapula in ways that other pressing doesn’t. If we look at a bench press or a DB shoulder press your scapula (shoulder blade) works in a fixed motion. Therefore we’re not taking your shoulder blades through a full range of motion to improve their functionality. Working these barbell or dumbbell movements will just compound the lack of mobility we already may have and make it worse.
Sitting down at a desk job all day, hunched over, you’re likely already not moving your scapula much, which could lead to shoulder pain. That’s why I always add a free-moving scapula-pushing motion into every plan. A press-up is one exercise and a half kneeling landmine shoulder press is another. It gets movement into an otherwise gritty joint.
Not only that, but this study in 2019 followed 1104 active firemen across 10 years. What they found was those men who could complete 40 press-ups, reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 96% compared to those who could do less than 10. In a nutshell, those who could do more than 40 press-ups were least likely to get heart disease.
So not only do press-ups build an impressive, pain-free upper body that fills your t-shirt out, but it’s also a great indicator of your risk of heart disease.
So now you know the importance, how do you do them?
A common issue with press-ups is people think about pinning their shoulder blades back and down – much like a bench press – but this is different if you want to stay pain-free. They should be able to glide freely over the rib cage on the way down, before retracting quickly and forcefully on the way up.
Chances are, the way you’re currently doing press-ups is leading to a little shoulder pain.
Here’s how to do them safely and effectively:
Spread your fingers apart when doing press-ups and try to grip the floor. Doing so will allow for better centration at your shoulder (better stability through the joint) and should allow for greater force to be produced on the way up.x
Keep your elbows about 45º away from the hips. We don’t want to see your elbows in line with your shoulders. That will aggravate the shoulder at the AC joint in time.
Push the floor away through your hands and as you reach the top, think about spreading your shoulder blades and driving your spine up towards the ceiling.
If you can’t quite do them yet, what’s the best way to get to 10?
To start with, set up a barbell at a height on a squat rack that allows for a full range of motion for 10 reps. With each week passing, try and drop the bar down a level to keep challenging your form and strength.
Once you get to the point where the rack can’t be lowered anymore, and you’re still not able to do full press-ups on the floor grab a yoga block and stack it under your chest to the point where you are lowering yourself till your chest is able to touch it before driving up and away again.
The yoga block has three varying heights, so work through three stages for the amount of reps you’re able to complete with perfect form.
Once you’ve worked through all three heights, you can move on to an eccentric press-up. That will be lowering yourself to the floor for 3-5 seconds before rising up from the floor on your knees. You can see a demo of this on the fifth carousel above.
And now you’ve done this, and can lower yourself down for 5 seconds for 10 reps, you’re now ready to complete your first rep.
Is there a good strength standard to achieve?
Well, you’re probably thinking you need to do 40 press-ups. That would be great but the below are strength standards I tell my clients to achieve.
A simple way to build press-ups into your workouts is through the two challenges below.
1 – 10 Press Ups
Start with 1 press up, before resting in the bottom position with your hands off the floor, squeezing your elbows up and away off the floor for 5 seconds. Repeat this for 2, 3, 4 and so on up until 10 reps. Each squeeze gets harder and harder.
10 – 1 Press Ups
Complete 10 press-ups, rest for 10 seconds, then move on to 9 press-ups and a 9-second rest, and so forth until you get to 1 press-up with a 1-second rest.
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