Uberup? Or uberdown
September 21, 2008 7:29 PM   Subscribe

Uber pushups? Or am I just kidding myself.

Every night, about 3 hours after dinner, I usually do 120 pushups, three sets of 40, or four sets of 30, depending on how I feel that night. Recently, my a friend suggested that I put my legs up on something higher while doing them. So I did. I take my computer chair and crank it to the highest position and put my feet up there. Furthermore, I take two 1000+ page books and I put them on the floor where I put my hands, and put my hands on them. I go down to the point where my face touches the ground. I try an maintain good form (back straight, only toes touching the chair etc)

Now here's the question: It feels like this pushup is a lot tougher than a normal pushup. My arms elbow goes down to make an angle that is less that 90 degrees, and I'm a lot more tired after. (I can't even do the full 120 anymore). But, is this really a good idea? Am I actually benefiting from added resistance? Or even worse, could this be potentially damaging in any way?
posted by Geppp to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
They're tougher because you're working different things in different ways. By putting your feet on a chair, you're making it the equivalent of an inclined bench press - accentuating the upper part of your pecs.

Putting your hands on the books makes you stretch the muscles further, which is why it's so much harder, as well. You're working a slightly different part of your pecs' range. For another kicker, have a (light) friend sit on your shoulders when your arms are fully locked out, then only lower yourself a few inches.
posted by notsnot at 7:48 PM on September 21, 2008

I was on the bodybuilding scene (not as a pro) for a while, and it's true that too much exercise can be counterproductive for non-athletes.

I gather, though, that the more per workout, the better, but limit workouts to 3 times per week (doesn't sound like much, I know, but that's what I've read.)

So it's all good. Also, I gather the reason excessive exercise is counterproductive is the stress hormones produced, so as long as you feel good about this exercise, you are probably on the right track. The sort of stress hormones here (like cortisol?) make you feel, well, stressed out and generally like crud.

Happily, a simple expedient to following all the rules for maximum gain seems to be to basically just shoot for what feels best, really.
posted by Nish ton at 8:02 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

First, you're overtraining. Progressive overload in exercise will stimulate the body to get stronger - given rest. Take a day off (or two) between these pushups. More is not better when it comes to exercise.

You're struggling because you're placing your body in a position less designed for the function of your pectorals and triceps (a pushing motion.) Your chest+arms were meant to press outwards and downwards. By placing yourself on that angle, it's more difficult because the joint form/function isn't optimal. If you were to continue shifting the angle, you'd be doing handstands (or military/shoulder presses.) BTW, with barbells, this is an incline press.

Elevating your feet is an incline, elevating your hands increases the range of motion - so you're doing an incline press with a greater range of motion than you were doing before. This is why you're struggling. Greater range of motion is generally more effective - and there are lots of people who believe that varying the angle is 'good.'

I more of the belief that for work to be progressive, it must become more difficult as you get stronger - a greater overload in the same period of time. Finding ways to make the pushups harder, without functionally changing the way the body's form works.

So, I'll throw two ideas to make your pushups harder (given that you rest at least 48 hours in between).
a) do some set of arm flys (barbell, bricks, anything of weight) immediately (zero rest) before the pushups. With your chest tired, suddenly it's going to work harder (as previously you've been limited by your triceps as the smaller muscle.)
b) Go slower. Much slower. Perfect form. Pushups where you're nearly rebounding off the floor and locking your arms at the top, are just as much about strength as they are momentum. If you took say, 5-6 seconds in each direction, never locked at the top and paused at a dead stop at the bottom of the pushup, it's going to be a damn bit harder to do 30 of them.
posted by filmgeek at 8:57 PM on September 21, 2008 [1 favorite]

You want to lift heavier if you can do that many, not more reps. Get some more resistance, either by wearing a weight jacket, or using weights.

Try and lift (or push-up) something so heavy you fail out and can't do it anymore after 10 or so tries.
posted by spatula at 10:59 PM on September 21, 2008

Benefitting? Yes, definitely. You're using your muscles in a different way at a different angle. And bodyweight exercises are generally much safer than with weights. And they're not damaging unless you bend your back at funny angles or slam your face into the floor.
posted by cyanide at 12:05 AM on September 22, 2008

Suggestion: Break up the 120 into 3 sets of 40 - first set is incline (what you're doing now), second set is flat on the floor (classic), and third set is decline (with your feet on the ground and your hands on a raised surface, like the chair).

This way you're spreading your workout to different parts of your chest / shoulders / triceps, rather than focusing on just one part all the way through.

There are many ways to do push-ups, and you'll be better off incorporating more of those ways into your workout, then just banging out one style all the time.
posted by syzygy at 1:14 AM on September 22, 2008

You could try doing handstand pushups with the feet against a wall...then doing normal pushups afterwards. That would be very difficult.
posted by creasy boy at 3:35 AM on September 22, 2008

I'd be worried about that range of motion, honestly - shoulders can be delicate, and the books-under-the-hands may be too much. Propping your feet up is fine, though - it's just a different set of stresses.

(Nth the "get more rest" suggestions, too - you're doing a LOT of volume on some fairly delicate joints.)
posted by restless_nomad at 7:25 AM on September 22, 2008 [1 favorite]

For some variety, you can make a game of it using a deck of cards -- I've heard it called "Prison Pushups", fwiw:

Draw one card from the deck and do that number of pushups (J = 11, Q = 12, K = 13, A = 15). The suit determines the *type* of pushup:
- hearts = normal
- spades = elevated feet
- clubs = knuckle pushups
- diamonds = hold hands in diamond shape, touch nose to center (Ace of diamonds is the hardest card in the deck!)

Works best if you have 3 or 4 people "playing", taking turns drawing.

My proxy is acting up, but I think there are more comprehensive/interesting rules here.
posted by LordSludge at 10:36 AM on September 22, 2008

I agree with what everyone else said, so long as your form is correct.

(I'm currently doing the 100 pushups thing off the 100 pushups site. Week 3. This business is a tough.)
posted by ProfLinusPauling at 10:39 AM on September 22, 2008

Response by poster: Ah, thanks for all the suggestions! I'm trying to do a little working out in the comfort of my own home without having to go to the gym every other day, and you guys have been a big help. Maybe I'll go get some barbells and throw them into the mix
posted by Geppp at 12:27 PM on September 22, 2008

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