push it real good
May 14, 2021 9:10 PM   Subscribe

How is push-up formed?

I seem to remember reading in a recent thread somewhere on this site that a Mefite, over the course of the pandemic, learned how to do push-ups and now their pandemic arms are amazing.

I want Mefite Push-up Hero arms. Heck, I want Michelle Obama arms. But I couldn't do a push-up if my life depended on it. How does one learn to do a push-up (or many)? My pre-pandemic gym accountability buddy got me to a point where I could hold a plank for nearly two minutes (hands and toes on the floor, no kneeling or putting my hands on a bench) so I feel like if I'm capable of that (which I had previously thought impossible), I could learn how to push-up. Tips and resources on push-ups welcome.

(Would also entertain ideas generally about to attain Michelle Obama arms.)
posted by nayantara to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

How far off are you? Can you do a kneeling pushup? A wall pushup?
posted by medusa at 9:30 PM on May 14, 2021

Best answer: Hmm -- so you have the core and wrist strength / tolerance.

Have you tried going from plank-on-hands to plank-on-elbows, repeatedly? The motion basically requires you to do a push-up with one arm on the way up. Elbow elbow hand hand; do a few per each side starting first.

You could also work triceps with some one-armed plank rows -- one hand keeps the plank, your core keeps the plank, the other hand pulls a weight up towards your ribcage. Again, do a few rows per side and switch.

And maybe you're already doing this, but also helpful to me was remembering to keep the back of my neck long. It's one place of ease you can always focus on when the rest of pushup is effortful.

(I got pre-disposed towards push-ups because our state exams required them, and while the mile and curl ups were uncomfortable and impossible without cheating, respectively, I felt like I had a fair shot at push-ups and felt encouraged to get good at them.)
posted by batter_my_heart at 11:01 PM on May 14, 2021 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I stumbled across this zero-to-push-up-hero video yesterday. It’s basically my trainer’s approach to push-ups and I have seen it work pretty well for folks at my gym.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:06 PM on May 14, 2021 [5 favorites]

Incorporate sets of let-downs / lowering yourself from plank to the ground! This was the way I got to a push-up, and I found it really helpful for learning how to maintain good form to not strain my back on the (eventual) way up *from* the ground. That link from supernatural is also as wholesome and encouraging as is humanly possible. You got this!
posted by rrrrrrrrrt at 1:33 AM on May 15, 2021 [4 favorites]

Seconding this suggestion from rrrrrrrrt, especially if you’re at the point where you can do kneeling push ups but can’t bridge the gap to a full push up. Starting in the plank, do only the lowering portion of the full push up, the key being to lower yourself sloooowly (3-5s), then reset once you reach the ground. Keep your spine neutral and don’t let your lower back cave in while doing this. Make sure your setup is good too, with elbows not flaring out too much - try to keep them close to your body.

I used this method to get to my first full push up last year during lockdown, good luck!
posted by pandanpanda at 2:49 AM on May 15, 2021

Body By You teaches you this (and other things like pull-ups) in a series of about 12 progressive steps which you work through slowly one after the other. It’s specifically written for women and so starts at a lower level and progresses more gradually than a lot of body weight programmes. IIRC for press ups you start out doing them on the wall, then the edge of a table, and so on.

My progress eventually stalled because I kept getting pain in my shoulder with one of the exercises and never quite got round to going to a physio to get it checked out, but I’d recommend the programme generally, the progressions made sense and were achievable. To do the whole workout (not just the press ups) takes 20 mins, 3 times a week.
posted by penguin pie at 3:35 AM on May 15, 2021 [3 favorites]

Best answer: You don’t have to be flat on the ground. Leah against your desk or table or something with your feet on the floor, and do a push-up like that. It’s called an incline push-up. As you get stronger, you can find lower and lower surfaces until finally you’re on the ground.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:52 AM on May 15, 2021 [1 favorite]

Seconding incline push-ups. I like this video by Antranik which explains the details of good push-up technique and recommends a progression through incline push-ups.
posted by egregious theorem at 8:30 AM on May 15, 2021 [2 favorites]

I disliked the incline push-up series because once you're in the lower positions, your hand is bent holding onto the counter or couch and it can be awkward and uncomfortable. I had better luck really working the knee pushups. I would cross my ankles too so I could really engage my core in making the "up" part happen.
posted by xo at 10:31 AM on May 15, 2021

Best answer: I think that silly, rather vainglorious comment may have been mine, from the (otherwise excellent) “What will you keep?” AskMe.

How I learned to do push-ups:

- Decided to try and do a sun salutation every morning (I am not very good at yoga)

- During this, I would go from upward dog to downward dog to a level body on straight arms, and lower myself slowly down before pushing back up into upward dog. Repeated this as often as I could.

- Then one day I thought “I wonder if I can do a push-up?” And I could! I could do one (1) push-up. Started doing sun salutations with a push-up in them.

- Eventually I could add another push-up. I remember feeling really pleased when I got to 5.

- Keep the push-ups slow and complete. This will mean you can do fewer. That’s OK. Remember to breathe.

- These days what I do is: Start the sun salute. Raise arms, bend down, bend & straighten knees a few times to stretch out your lower back. Upward dog, downward dog, set of 10 push-ups. Child pose and rest for 4 to 6 breaths. Upward dog, downward dog, set of ideally 10 more push-ups but some days it’s just 6 or 7. Child pose and rest for 4 breaths. Cat/cow to get my spine in order. Then upward/downward dog for as many times as I can stand, then walk feet in from downward dog and stand up. Stretch out arms and shoulders afterwards.

- Crucial last step: flex in the mirror and admire your badass arms. That plus the endorphins will give you the little hit of happiness you need to keep doing this.

Hope this helps! I’m a total failure at most types of athleticism, but I’ve found this really rewarding. Fell off the wagon a couple times and had to work my way back up, but weirdly for me, I did that and have stuck with it so far.
posted by Pallas Athena at 7:58 PM on May 15, 2021 [5 favorites]

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