Hot!Tips on Learning Pushups

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mlb
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2010/03/03 15:35:29 (permalink)

Tips on Learning Pushups

Here are a few tips on making the transition from Pushups on your Knees to Pushups on your Toes

1)  According to The Women's Health Big Book of Exercises, when you do a push up on your toes you are lifting 75% of your body weight.  When you do a modified pushup, on your knees, you are lifting 65% percent of your body weight.  From now on when I take information from this source, I'll abbreviate it as WHBBE.

2) But other than that obvious weight difference....the other reason that the toe push is so much harder is that the toe pushup involves a great deal of core stabilization to keep your body in a plank or straight line.  Often when people train their abs, the exercises involve flexion of the torso, as in a crunch.  Core stabilization is different in that you are training to keep your torso stabilized, to avoid bending or twisting.    

3)  Core stabilization can be done many ways, but perhaps the most helpful exercises is the Plank. (WHBBE:  Start to get into a pushup position, but bend your elbows and rest your weight on your forearms instead of on your hands.  Your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Brace your core by contracting your abs as if you were about to be punched in the gut.  Hold this position for 30 seconds while breathing deeply.  If you cannot hold the plank for 30 sec, hold it for 5-10 seconds, rest for 5 seconds, and repeat as many times as needed to total 30 seconds)  There are many variations.  Another variation is the extended plank where your arms are straight. 

3) Another technique to help with the transition is to start by doing wall pushups.  When those are easy, do your pushups using the back of a couch.  You can also use the stairs to work your way in to a horizontal toe pushup.  Start on a higher stair...and as you get stronger use lower stair.  If you have a step bench, practice with your hands on the bench with all the risers in place.  Work your way down by removing risers until you can do a set of 12 on just the 4 inch step.  Remember, you are also training your core stabilizers to maintain the correct form. 

4)  Once you get to the ground position, the easiest part of the pushup will be at the top, when your arms are straight.  So often people will start at the top and that is a good place to start to begin to gain both chest and core strength.  If you have trouble lowering your body from there, practice pausing and holding.  Think of the ground being  "0", and the top position as being "100".  If you can only lower to "75", go to "75" and then to hold that position.  WHBBE has a pushup variation called the Triple-Stop Pushup.  In this variation, you start at the top, and when you get to "75" you pause, then continue to "50" and pause, if you can get lower, go there and pause.  According to WHBBE: "Pausing briefly at each point increases strength at that joint angle and 10 degrees in either direction.  So this method eliminates any weak point you might have.  It also increases the time your muscles are under tension, stimulating growth. 

5)  Other ways to help with the transition is to use barbells and dumbbells to do chest press and chest fly exercises, until your strength increases.  I personally found this helpful, as in the beginning, my shoulders were my weakest link, and I was able to increase strength with a chest presses without irritating my shoulder.  If you use weights, the flat presses work, but incline and decline presses are helpful also.  However, you don't get the core stabilization benefits as much, so be sure to also work on your core with special focus on planks.

6)  At some point you may get where you can knock off a set of toe pushups, BUT you seem unable to lower your torso close to the ground each time.  Basically, this means you are starting at 100, and lowering to 75, or 50, or 25, or whatever your personal strength is.  You can't seem to be able to progress to get lower.  You've reached a sticking point.  One technique would be to practice going as low as you can, and practice the pause in that lowest position that you can maintain, as I described earlier.  (But you can also practice another technique, which I described in another thread and will add to this post. 

(I have no formal credentials.....just writing in part from personal experiance, and part from the WHBBE)
post edited by mlb - 2010/03/03 18:03:29
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29 Replies Related Threads

    mlb
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/03 16:07:18 (permalink)
    PART TWO

    7)  A sticking point refers to a place in the range of movement where the muscle is weaker and prevents you from completing a desired movement.  In the pushup, the most difficult part, or the sticking point is often when the torso is closest to the ground.   The pectoral muscles must engage and fire when the chest muscles are in a more expanded position which is more difficult.  You can use any of the other methods to gain strength, but you can also work on the problem from the opposite direction which I will describe.  Working from the top often failed me because as I got  too low, my muscles would fail and I'd be on the ground, and my muscles never got the change to "work" and get stronger in the position I need it most. 

    8)  Get on the floor face down with your full body in contact with the floor.  Put your hands and toes in position for a pushup, but do NOT push yet.  Now visualize that you are going to start your pushup from this position.  Engage your core and try to imagine your body as stiff as a board. Next imagine that you are pushing your hands into the floor AS IF you were going to raise your stiff body ONE inch of the floor.  Contract the core and chest muscle you would need to do this movement, but don't actually raise your body.  Instead, try to focus on your chest muscle, and try to be aware of what it feel like when you contract to start the push and when you relax into the ground.  Try contracting with different strengths, and become aware of what that feels like in both the chest, and the core.

    9) If you want, you can now try to push some of your body weight off the floor.  But for right now, you want to train your mind and body to be able to maintain the correct form with core engagement.  If you are strong enough for proper form, raise your body ONE inch off the floor and HOLD it there.  If you are not strong enough, just take a little of the weight off the floor.  You want to hold this position, This is like the Triple-Stop Pushup, except, you are just practicing the low part of the pushup. It's called Isometrics, and you can gain strength in this way. If you can hold the position longer than a Pause, you will benefit more.    At the same time, you are using your mind and muscle to create the muscle memory to make this move become easier and more automatic later.

    10)  When you get so that you can start a pushup from the bottom and get up to the top with good form, you may still have trouble going all the way down again without falling out at the very bottom.  No problem, once you can do one, progress should come faster.  At this point, you can start every set at the bottom position so you continue to gain strength at the lower position.  Or you can change your set/reps.  Do single rep sets, one pushup at a time, always starting at the bottom.  Or instead of a 12 pushup set, change it to 4 sets of 3 reps...again always starting at the bottom.  It's not the way you'd normally want to structure rep/set...but it can be useful for obtaining the strength to be able to do a full pushup with the chest close to the ground.
    post edited by mlb - 2010/03/03 18:05:18
    #2
    Mrsprincess07
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/03 16:12:19 (permalink)
    Thats very helpful! I can't do toe push ups and I always felt like I was cheating the motion by only doing the "75" of 100 method. Now I won't hesistate in the future.

    Thank you!
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    RubyRay
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/03 19:31:51 (permalink)
    Hi mlb,
    Thank you so much for posting this.  I appreciate the first part you added today particularly, as it seems I'm not up to lifting from the ground as we discussed last night.  I tried it and the old ship just wasn't coming up, not even a hair. 



    I think it's all about what your first part says here, in that I don't have the core strength yet to go from bottom up.  I think I'm going to try doing what you suggested by going down as far as I can and holding, then repeat.  It's easier to feel what I'm doing with my abs this way.  I'm also going to do the forearm thing, which I have done in a few of my videos---I can hold for 30 seconds, no problem, so maybe I'll throw in a couple of those and try to increase that time. 


    Again, what I love about what you provided is that it is so thorough about telling me what to focus and concentrate on. I'll be referring to it often.   You know, I think this would be a great idea for a video or add on to a video---a work out designed to take you from your knees to your toes!  I wonder if anything like this exists.  


    #4
    Gabytopo
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/03 21:21:26 (permalink)
    mlb, great post!

    Thank you for investing your time in giving us advice

    To set the example is not the main way to influence others; it is the only way. ~A. Einstein
    #5
    Slinks
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/03 21:35:51 (permalink)
    lol ... mission failed ..

    :-)   good one mlb .. I didn't realize how weak I really was !!! wow that was an eye opener ..

    RR .. I was like you, I couldn't get even a hairs breath off the floor from the dead stiff as a board position on the floor .. and I concentrated really hard !!!!

    .
    post edited by Slinks - 2010/03/03 21:40:32
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    mlb
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/03 22:25:28 (permalink)
    Hehe.   It's ok if you don't get off the floor....as long as you are contracting and holding that contraction you will gain strength at that range of motion.  Just practise it for about 30 sec everytime you work on pushups, then go back to starting at the top, and try holding/pausing at the lowest position you are able.
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    RubyRay
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/03 22:26:07 (permalink)
    "I didn't realize how weak I really was !!! wow that was an eye opener .. "

    Hi Slinks,
     I know from reading your posts you have dedicated alot to being fit.  So have I, at least in the last year. Still, these big girl push ups are tough stuff.  I think we have to realize that as women, we are not in the catbird seat here---this movement is absolutely not geared towards our natural biological strengths, like say, bearing and birthing a child is. :)   Which btw, makes push ups look like a walk on the beach.  

    We will have to work harder for the real push up.  And I will do so, because I like a challenge.  But in no way do I consider this a litmus test of my progress.  Only an interesting side challenge. I want to find my personal best, all around and I hope someday that will include a real push up, or 10.  In the meantime I celebrate the strength I have grown, even if I still can't do a good push up on my toes.



    I guess what I'm trying to say Slinks, is that there is nothing about you that strikes me as being "weak."   Yeah, maybe weaker than you want when it comes to push ups,  but that's just one thin slice of the pie, right?  I see you as a strong, frisky woman.
    #8
    Slinks
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 01:11:52 (permalink)
    :-)  thanks RR .. you have a brilliant way of wording things ..
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    Chryssa
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 04:34:04 (permalink)
    RubyRay

       You know, I think this would be a great idea for a video or add on to a video---a work out designed to take you from your knees to your toes!  I wonder if anything like this exists.  


    For the part two(working on a push up from the opposite direction) there is this move that mlb describes in K.Smith's {Lift Weight To Lose Weight 2}7120^.  In {Low Impact Circuit}7701^ as well Cathe does similar moves but...hmm... I wouldn't say they are very beginner ones.
    There is also an older video by K.Voight where she does  modified triceps push ups combining knees with toe push ups.
    mlb, thanks from me too for this post....sooo useful!!!
    #10
    MH
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 08:18:38 (permalink)
    MLB-Very informative and helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write that all out as well.

    Question for you or anyone.  Do you think it's better to be able to do 1 or 2 push up from toes and keep working from that point or doing 15+ with the knees?  For example if I am doing a workout and have to do 30 pushups...am I better off just doing what I can on my toes at 75%, even if it's only a few or doing all of them on my knee's at 65%?  Because honestly, it will be a long time before I can get to 30+ on my toes.

    Thoughts from anyone, please.
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    One Fit Lady
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 08:29:05 (permalink)
    MH

    MLB-Very informative and helpful. Thank you for taking the time to write that all out as well.

    Question for you or anyone.  Do you think it's better to be able to do 1 or 2 push up from toes and keep working from that point or doing 15+ with the knees?  For example if I am doing a workout and have to do 30 pushups...am I better off just doing what I can on my toes at 75%, even if it's only a few or doing all of them on my knee's at 65%?  Because honestly, it will be a long time before I can get to 30+ on my toes.

    Thoughts from anyone, please.


    In my experience with pushups, doing as many as I can on my toes and finishing off with knees has really made a difference in my ability to stay on my toes. Also, doing  forever sun salutaitons in Yoga has made me stronger for pushups. You do one on your toes and then get to wait through other poses to do the next one, eventually you do so many pushups you can group them together and do 5 at a time, then 10 and so on (does this make sense?) - anyways, I always do toe ones first and when it's not happening anymore, I switch to knees.
    #12
    miss_mofia
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 10:17:13 (permalink)
    I second what OFL said about first start on your toes and then do the rest on your knees. When I was doing the Push Phase of CLX she had push ups in only one of the 3 workouts. So you only did them once a week. But each week I was able to add 1 more on my toes. I think the muscles had enough time to rest. It looks like just a body weight exercise but it is one of the most challenging ones so I think there is no reason in hurrying through them and really going to as full range of motion as you can. Now I'm doing Jari's and I don't go as fast as she does sometimes, just really trying to get them down.
    #13
    Phoenix
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 11:59:23 (permalink)
    MLB...Thanks so much for posting.  Push ups are the worst for me.  I was just beginning to work them when I broke my wrist.  Obviously, I cant do them now and have been dreading starting all over again.  Your post gave me new insight in starting and I can see how to continue to work at it without the frustration. Thanks for the help.
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    Charmaine
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 15:33:07 (permalink)
    MLB, thanks so much for posting this for us all.  Extremely informative, this is one I will definitely refer back to time and again.  I love push ups but I am not very good a them.  I still do them on my knees, not completely in a table shape, I can do them with ankles crossed with more weight on my arms as opposed to weight evenly distributed between my arms and knees - if that description makes sense.  I know that one of my biggest barriers to doing a full push up is my poor core strength.  This guide you've provided will be very, very helpful in my endeavours. Thanks again!

    I need to stay on the wagon, not under it!
    #15
    flower child
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 16:26:07 (permalink)
    MLB - Great information.
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    MURPH
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/04 19:20:56 (permalink)
    Thanks for all the great info. I can do a bunch of pushups on my knees, but hit failure on my toes. I am going to start on my toes and go to my knees and see how that goes. Great info ladies! I love this site!
    #17
    Cam
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/03/05 08:00:07 (permalink)
    I have finally (at 45 y.o) worked my way up to 15 boy pushups.  Think it took long enough? But I have neck problems and it is amazing how much more I feel it in my neck doing boy pushups. I prefer the wimpy girl ones. It is more comfortable and I know it has given me the strength to do the boy ones. So I only do boy ones once in awhile.
    #18
    mlb
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/10/12 18:48:16 (permalink)
    bump
    #19
    AnnieBananie
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    Re:Tips on Learning Pushups 2010/10/12 21:59:55 (permalink)
    Thanks for reintroducing this thread, and all the info, mlb!!  I've been really working on this as my shoulder still recuperates and starts to get stronger.  Honestly, though, a part of me is very happy with trying some on my toes (usually 7 or 8 before shoulder hurts) and then I feel very comfortable living with the fact that I go from lifting 75% to 65% of my body weight.  I'm not training for any big event and I don't plan to be in any bodybuilding shows anytime soon, (lol) so as long as I'm pushing myself and continue building strength, 65% sounds fine with me.  I feel so much stronger in that position and can do so much more, so I feel even more successful.  I think that's important, too.  But does that sound like a cop-out?

    Thanks again--this is really helpful!!  I want to keep track of this this thread so I can refer back to it : )

    ~~The yogini says to the hot dog vendor, "Make me one with everything."
    #20
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