Previous installments in this series can be found here.
Hello, fitness enthusiasts. I had had a rough plan to give you some actual physical work to do for me this week, but the trainer I was charting it out with sprained his ankle playing rugby (dang fitness-obsessed people driving up all our insurance premiums with their costly joint injuries, am I right?) and I am letting him recover. Let’s point out that he somehow did not damage said ankle while making this super-grainy video of his 52 inch box jump (I’ve seen him do 55 inches and stick it, which is wild):
So, instead, I’m going to ramble at you about pushups, since they are a) bodyweight-based, and therefore very individual, and b) my FAVOURITE THINGS, and c) the source of many message-board arguments, and d) free as the air you breathe and the sugar packets you steal from diners.
PUSHUPS. Oh, God, they’re so great. And, look, if you’re new to this, they can be scary. Not, like, clown-scary, or anything, just hard. Maybe you feel your lower back, and you sense that you shouldn’t (you’re right, stop doing it) or you can lower yourself about half an inch and then fall on your face, or maybe you can get all the way down and cannot possibly get back up. That is how they feel for everyone at first. More so for women, though, generally speaking, than men, because of the patriarchy or wizards or something structural.
OKAY, LET’S TALK ABOUT THAT. Not all of you are women, I am sure. Hi! And some of you who are women probably are actually built in such a way that pushups are a total breeze and you’ve never even thought of doing one before, and you just tried and can do ten in a row.
Congratulations, how wonderful.
No, that’s great. But for the rest of you, hey, they did not come easily to me either, not one little bit. Two years ago, I probably couldn’t have done a single “real” pushup to save my life. I’m not sure how that would come up, exactly? There are lots of action movies that suggest you might have to do a single pull-up to save your life, like, when you’re dangling off a ledge and the villain just assumes you’re going to fall off, because you’re a woman with inferior upper-body strength, and walks away. But we’ll come back to pull-ups.
So, you say, what about Lady Pushups? I do not mean Lady as in the opposite of Real, as it is frequently used, because I think that Lady Pushups are completely legitimate and have a role in everyone’s training regimen. Me, I call them Lady Pushups as in Lady and the Tramp, Edward Said’s understandably least-favourite animated motion picture of the 20th century.
(That is an amusing aside about Orientalism, because our fitness coverage is highbrow as shit.)
Lady Pushups are classy. Lady Pushups have a lot of bravery, but maybe they don’t have as much swagger as Tramp Pushups. Tramp Pushups (believe me, we’ll get there together) are how you’ll make Peggy Lee fall in love with you, but Lady Pushups are sassy and a little coy and have really soft ears. But you gotta treat ’em right.
What does that mean?
It means that Lady Pushups are easy to make useless when done incorrectly. And the useless ones will not meaningfully prepare you for Tramp Pushups. Here is a correct Lady Pushup, done by what appears to be a character from Grand Theft Auto:
See how you always want your hands to be right under your shoulders? It’s so, so much easier to do them if your hands are out in front, but then you’re working a totally different set of muscles. Always ask yourself, “are my hands shooting straight down from my shoulders?” Yes, yes, they are.
See how you are not resting your shins on the floor? The two points of contact are your hands and your knees. You want to be hingeing solely with your elbows. People get super-fussy about where your elbows go in a pushup (back, out to the sides, etc.), but I generally find your elbows will go where your body wants to put them, provided you are doing other things right. If you find they get painful, you can play with it a bit.
Keeping your body in a straight line is not something you necessarily walk in able to do right away. When I think back to my fitness journey, holding my core integrity and maintaining straightness took a long time to build. Until you can do this, things will be a little harder. When you feel your back twinge, or you see (in a mirror, or via a buddy) that you’re bending at the hips or anywhere else that isn’t your elbows, stop, rest, readjust.
I still do Lady Pushups when I hit failure mode on Tramp Pushups. Especially if I’m not getting enough depth, because it’s starting to fall apart. Lady Pushups are a great way to work on going ALL THE WAY DOWN TO THE GROUND, which is a really important part of Tramp Pushups. Get used to going all the way down with Lady Pushups, and your Tramp Pushups will one day thank you. And they’re fun on their own, when done right.
Now, if you are further down your road to complete physical fulfillment than some of the others, and you can already do Tramp Pushups, my advice is pretty simple.
Sidenote: I’m going to be mentioning some pieces of gear in this section. You don’t need to buy anything, ever, really, but if the nice people who manufacture this gear want to pay me, everything I mention here DOES contribute positively to my fitness, and I’ll be happy to do lengthy sponsored posts describing all the blissfully painful things you can do with each and every one of them.
1. Do them all the time. Do them constantly! Do ten right now. Do ten later when re-watching the last season of Breaking Bad. Do them while listening to Robyn.
2. Do different kinds!
– If your gym has a pair of Perfect Pushups, give ’em a try. I find they’re really good for my wrists.
– Do close-grip pushups on the edge of a weight bench.
– Flip a Bosu ball over so the rounded side is down, hang on to the outside edges, and do pushups on that.
– Put your feet on a weight bench and your hands on the ground and do pushups there.
– Find a TRX strap (they’re all over my gym, and I use them every single time I train, they are SOLID GOLD) and do pushups on that.
– Put your hands on the outer edges of one of the big exercise balls we’re supposed to sit on, do pushups.
– If you’re a total bad-ass, go get a medicine ball from the rack, put it under one of your hands in normal pushup stance, do a pushup, roll it until it’s under your other hand, do a pushup. When you start to die, get into Lady Pushup stance and push it until you are totally and irretrievably cooked.
These are all just Tramp Pushup concepts to tease you, because you’ll get to see them in the wild come our fall fitness video roll-out, and then those things which confuse you now will be horribly, beautifully real to you.
3. Keep your goddamn tailbone low but with a little tuck in your abs, come on now. You’re supposed to be a plank, right? Bend at your elbows and nowhere else. I can tell your butt is too high from here.
Love you guys. Death will come for us all, but if we work on it, we’ll be able to shove him physically away from our bodies without tweaking our lower backs in the process.
Ed. note: if you are not quite ready for Lady Pushups, or if your boobs are too big to do any kind of standard pushups, head down to the comments where I’ll talk about open doorframe options.
See you Thursday after next. Get ready for an all-bodyweight full-body workout for beginners, with some suggestions on how to amp it up for non-beginners. And maybe I’ll give you one of my own workouts, just for fun. KETTLEBELLS, man.
Nicole is an Editor of The Toast.