There are so many reasons why the push-up is a perfect exercise for everyone. Before you say “I can’t do a push up because…(fill in the blank)” hear me out. There are so many benefits to the push-up
Push-ups are free. They require no special equipment or additional equipment. Now sure, if you wish to buy fun equipment that is your option but it’s not necessary to complete a push-up. As a result, you can do them at home, outside, in a hotel room, in a well-equipped gym and in an ill equipped gym.
Push-ups provide functional strength. This is a move you need in life. You push things all day and hopefully wish to be able to push things for many years to come. Push-ups will ensure that.
Push-ups provide shoulder strength and stability. As we age, our shoulder joint weakens. This is the number one reason why I hear people say they can’t so a push up. This is also where modifications are needed. Now if you have a serious injury that require you to avoid this motion, you are the exception, not the rule. But the rest of us, which is most of us, we need this shoulder strength and stability to ensure a long happy shoulder life.
Push-ups strengthen your pectorals (chest muscles) and triceps (back of upper arm). Men are more willing to keep push-ups in their routine but women are quick to leave them out. I want to encourage women specifically to make them a normal and regular part of your routine. Upper body strength is essential for any active adult and women you will not bulk up doing a couple dozen push-ups. I personally would be thrilled if that were the case, but as a woman, bulk is very difficult to get. Sexy arms are a more realistic result. You strengthen both your chest (think natural lift) and your triceps (think firm back of arm). From what I hear women complain about, those two are at the top.
Push-ups work your core. Core is often the true reason someone cannot do a proper push-up. Core strength is the biggest part of push up strength. This is where modifications are needed. If you cannot do a traditional floor push up, I suggest starting at the wall, moving to a counter as you get better and then down to a shorter but sturdy level (stair, bench, retaining wall, etc). My personal preference is to stay in full body position instead of going to knee push up. I like combinations of full body push-ups and knee push-ups for variety but the full body position in an elevated position is my favorite way to perform a push up and the truest way to build on functional strength, pectoral strength and core strength. Especially since you need the core element to be engaged so that you can get lower and lower until the full body floor push up can be achieved.
So with all the benefits of a push-up I want to encourage everyone to put them in their routine. Some of you will need modifications as you build your strength to handle a full body push up. Modifications are a natural part of strength training progression. Don’t judge, just know where you need to start and start. If you have shoulder problems your start point will be different than if you have a back issue. If you are unsure of what to do, contact a certified personal trainer or other qualified fitness professional for assistance. You may also contact me and I will do my best to guide you to a proper push-up for you.
I saw this quote “I don’t know how to act my age. I’ve never been this old before” and I knew it was my new personal motto. When I was very young and people asked me to imagine myself at age 30, 40, 50, 60, etc, I pictured a much older, sedentary and somewhat sad version of myself. As a young trainer in my 20’s I even purchased the book ‘Fit Over Forty’ on training the over 40 crowd so I wouldn’t make any mistakes with an older clientele. I was really trying to be a great trainer and yes I still have that book. To be honest, it was a great tool and has excellent tips and I use so many of the moves on clients of all ages. So if you ever trained with me or see this book and note moves that I had you do and you were not over 40…they are just good moves!
But here I am seeking to be ‘fit over forty’ and will tell you that I find myself somewhat at odds with the world around me. Pictures of healthy ‘older adults’ are walking with big smiles and big sweeping arms while most runners are really young. Yikes a little stereotypical since I know plenty of over 40 runners.
I remember when I had some minor surgery a few years ago, the doctor told me I could start exercising again. I asked for clarity because at the time I was doing crossfit and power yoga. He told me I could walk. I told him that was my usual and daily form of transportation from point A to point B and did not count as exercise in my book. He wasn’t sure how to answer me and told me that I was only allowed to walk for exercise. Ok, I mean I had been walking all over the place up to that point but now I guess I could walk more.
More recently I visited a hand specialist to help me with my grip strength. I dislocated a finger and it was causing problems long after it should have. He asked if it impeded daily activity. I told him I couldn’t do pull ups or hold heavy weights because of my grip strength. His answer was and I quote “well you are 46 and shouldn’t be lifting so much weight”. I was shocked! Flabbergasted! Gobsmacked! What?!? I explained that I was a trainer and that I hoped to live to 90 and didn’t really want to hear that I should give up half way there. He was clearly aggravated with me and just wrapped up our appointment.
Is this how the world sees us over 40 folks? Start winding down? I mean I feel so young and healthy and yes my body doesn’t ‘bounce back’ like it used to but come on! If I give up I will become that sedentary sad old person I falsely envisioned back when I was a teenager. So I guess we need to redefine 40-year-old behavior, 50-year-old behavior… Because I’m not done, I’m just getting ready for round ’four’ in life and plan to be fit for rounds 5, 6, 7 and beyond. So yes, I do not know how to act my age…this is my first time being here but know one thing…I do not want others to define it for me.
I was really into fitness as a young person. I worked out daily but was not necessarily an athlete. I just liked exercise, jumping around, moving to music, lifting weights. I can be competitive but not a fan of who is the best ______ (fill it in..runner, biker, jumper, etc). I want to improve for me but not to see if I beat you. In fact, the ‘who is the best and fastest’ took most of the fun out of some activities I participated in. And believe me I will try anything and enjoyed a wide variety of programs just seeking my own personal joy.
I like to tell people I am mediocre at everything. I won’t suck at it completely but I won’t be the best. And when I was allowed to just have fun at it…I liked it even more.
That is my attitude about fitness. You need to find an activity that you like and that is what will make you want to stick with it. I always hated to hear people tell other people that they need to run, because running was the only way to lose weight. Or you need to swim because swimming was the only way to lose weight. I don’t agree because if you hate running or swimming, you will be miserable and quit. We all know that quitting won’t get you to your goal.
So, what do you like to do? It’s a big big world out there with so many crazy fun exercises to try. Here are some of the things I tried…
Young person: baton twirling, tap dance, aerobic workout videos, gymnastics, trampoline, horseback riding, softball, swimming, line dancing, water skiing, high dive…
Early adult years: step aerobics, water aerobics, marathon training/running, 10 mile races, charity races, hiking, mountain biking, water polo, volleyball, jump rope group classes, strength training, Thai Chi, African dance, Latin dance, a full ballroom series (tango, waltz, slow swing, etc), step machine workouts, canoeing, swimming, tennis, hip hop dance aerobics, jazz for adults, ballet for adults, hatha yoga, indoor and outdoor bootcamps, racquet ball, hand ball, squash (the racquet game) …
Middle adult years: distance cycling, hiking groups, power yoga, HIIT workouts, Zumba, aerial silks, barre classes, apparatus Pilates, paddle boarding, kayaking, flag football, crossfit, fake crossfit, kickboxing classes, various studio cycling programs including flywheel, deep water running, orange theory, rowing, insanity, P90X…
I am sure I a missing a few items. Some I loved and some I did not like at all. But I tried them. The ones I liked, I did it for really long periods of time. And that is my point. Find what you like, it is always worth your time and money if you like it. But you have to figure out what that is.