Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Glorious Pushups!

No secret my love/hate relationship with pushups. Having tried the 100 pushups program, and made it up to 50, I found that I liked pushups for their effects (excellent shoulders, strong abs and chest), and not so much for the necessity of doing them. The first 10-20 pushups are awesome, and I feel pumped. Get past that (or in multiple sets), and I'm counting down until I get to the end, and I subconsciously start making my range of motion shorter as a way to cheat it easier.

Charlotte reminded me of pushups today in her post about karate, and doing knuckle pushups on blocks of wood. Actually, I prefer knuckle pushups to regular palm ones. Carpal tunnel runs in my family, and plank position starts to feel quite uncomfortable after a while (one reason I ended up dropping to my knees when the number of pushups started to soar in the 100 program). Occasionally I do pushups on my fingers, but lift the heels of my hands off the floor, which also straightens my wrists.

A couple years ago, I participated in a small group training at my gym. The personal trainer would take us to the track on the roof, each of us with a massive weight (one of those big round ones from the weight room - mine was either 25 or 35 lbs, I don't remember which). We'd do various sets of exercises, then sprint around the track, repeat. At one point he had us doing pushups. And my wrists weren't feeling great, so I did them on my knuckles. On that soft cement stuff they make tracks out of (not as hard as sidewalk, but not quite rubberized either). It actually wasn't bad, apart from the divots the cement made on my knuckles. Note: when I do knuckle pushups, I do them with my wrists in facing each other, not facing my toes. I much prefer using a mat, however.

So here's our daily round-up of pushup styles:

1. On the wall: the most basic kind of pushups, perfect for people who are just starting out or who need to modify based on injury (for instance, not being able to support yourself on your knees, where toes are too much). Start 2-4 feet from the wall with your feet (the closer you stand, the easier it becomes), and then bring your face in to the fall. Exhale on your way back up to standing.

2. On your knees: you can do these on a mat or on the bare floor. Actually, I recommend (if you have a good sense of body awareness) trying it on the bare floor. But, mucho importante, NOT on your kneecaps. What you want to do is drop your hips so they're in a straight line between your shoulders and your knees. Keeping your hips in line will automatically keep your kneecaps off the floor (you want to be slightly above the knee). If you're on your kneecaps, your hips are too high. If it's too difficult to do the pushup with your hips in line and you need to raise your hips up (to make it easier), then grab a mat to protect your knees. Another note: keep your hands out a bit wider than the mat. How you know that your hands are wide enough is that when you're as low down as you're going to go, your elbows are directly over your wrists (and not further out).

3. On your toes: Hand position just like #2, but this time, your hips are in a straight line between your shoulders and your toes. Massively important here is to not let your hips drop. This is really easy to do - we focus so much on pushing up away from the floor, that we sometimes let our backs arch (hips lower than shoulders). This can cause back problems. When I was doing the 100 pushups program, I realized I wasn't doing pushups entirely correctly, because I started to feel it in my low back.

4. On your toes, higher intensity options: play with your number of contact points -
(a) lift one foot up in the air as you pushup, or do a
(b) one-handed pushup (yikes!)
(c) cross one ankle over the other to make feet into one contact point (this is one of my faves)
(d) knuckle pushups
(e) raise one hand up on a bench, step, or pilates block
(f) support your hands on two handweights. Do a pushup, then lift one hand with weight up, elbow skimming the side, for a row (back)
(g) start in plank position with your feet on a ball/bench, then do pushups
(h) add a clap at the top of the pushup

5. Tricep pushups, on your knees or toes: take your index fingers and thumbs together in front of you to make the shape of a diamond, a put it down on the floor. Do a pushup while keeping your elbows skimming in against your body. Harder option, put your hands right under your shoulders/armpits and do a tricep pushups with your elbows skimming your sides. I hate these.

6. Pushup craziness: when I took ju-jitsu, there were the craziest pushups we had to do. First of all, they were on the fingertips (unlike what I mentioned above, which is on the entire fingers and top of the hand). Just the fingertips. Now, start with your hips up in the air (almost like downward dog), and then simulate a wave - dive your face down towards your hands, then arch upwards, so your face is coming up first while your chest is down, and you're ending up in a fingertips version of updog. But this isn't zen like yoga. It's hard as all hell. And then hold plank for a while (and one time, I'm not kidding, the 250lb sensei actually stepped up on a guy's back like he was walking over a curb. And the guy held him. That's some serious abs right there). I can't for the life of me find a pic, or I'd totally post it for you.

1 comment:

Charlotte said...

We used to call variation #6 Hindu push-ups or divebombers. They are some serious work! I can't imagine anyone stepping on my back. You go girl with your knuckle pushups!!!