Down With The Fitness: The Push Up

July 31, 2017

Welcome back to Down With the Fitness!

How is your habit of doing 10 squats and drinking a glass of water every morning when you wake up going??

I’m here to introduce a daily bodyweight exercise routine into as many Rockaholics’ lives as possible. Most people are aware of the myriad benefits of exercise; they just don’t know where to begin. 

If this is your first time reading, you can get caught up to speed here

I think it’s really cool to be able to reach you through this blog, in the privacy of the screen you’re reading this on, to show you exercises to practice at home. No judgments, no excuses.

Many people are understandably intimidated by the gym, or don’t want to deal with the hassle of getting there. That shouldn’t stop you from exercising!

I never saw that movie The Butterfly Effect but I kinda got an idea of what it was about just based on the previews and I like the concept. Best I can tell, it’s basically about how one seemingly-small-at-the-time event can set off a chain reaction with MASSIVE repercussions. This blog gets me torqued because making exercise a part of your routine can have some serious impacts all across the board known as your life!

This is the part where people who want to make excuses about why they don’t exercise say stuff like: “Wow dude, packing on muscles makes you feel better about yourself? You must be pretty shallow!”

Absolutely, but dig a little deeper and realize it’s not the muscles themselves that make me feel good; it’s the hard work, persistence, and patience it took to develop them. Basically, EARNING them! In this instant-gratification, participation-trophy society of ours, there’s something to be said for sticking to something that isn’t always easy or exciting.

Putting in work consistently, knowing you’re making the most out of your one shot at life by taking care of the one body you’ve got… This sorta sh** bleeds over into other areas of your life big-time.

There is absolutely no way I would be on the radio every night if I didn’t start working out in my early 20s.

I was funny, because it’s a great defense mechanism and I had some massive insecurities to defend against; but having the confidence to try and be funny to tens of thousands of strangers every night?? On the same station as comedic juggernauts like Thee Ted Smith? Forget about it!

But here I am… And the discipline and confidence gained from working out is a big reason why.

If you don’t believe me, try it out and see what it does for you… For real! You’ll never know what a stronger, fitter, more confident you can accomplish if you don’t start. I’m stoked to hear where you’re at after a year or more of consistent exercise!

Remember, all I’m asking is you to do 10-15 minutes a day. I’m intentionally keeping things vague and giving you wiggle room to take control of it yourself. You’re in charge here, experiment with what I present (and other stuff!) to find exercises you enjoy and will do regularly! Consistency is the goal.

If you’re still reading, obviously you know on some level it’s a good idea. Now make like Shia LaBeouf and JUST DO IT (Yo Nike, find a new slogan. Yours got hijacked by Louis Stevens.)

So far we’ve broken down the squat and the plank. Feel free to revisit those articles for instructions on how to progress them based on where you’re at!

Today we’re going to round out what I consider the “Big 3” bodyweight exercises with another very well-known, highly-effective, and frequently-butchered exercise: the push-up!

I hope you’ve been practicing your planks this past week! That’s going to pay off big time here, as the push-up is simply a moving plank.

Just about anyone can do some kind of a push-up… The way I do them and the way someone just starting an exercise routine does them will look different, but I’m going to outline the main focus points and give you the tools to progress it at your own pace!

Working as a personal trainer, I put some form of them in most of my clients’ programs from the get-go. This includes people of all body types and ages with various injuries, including an 80-year old woman who had never strength trained before. (Proud to report she’s now also a badass deadlifter!)

When most people think of a push-up, they think of the “traditional” version pictured above. Well, the thing is, doing a proper “traditional” push-up is f***ing hard!! Most people attempt that version when they’re not ready for it. Not only does this make them look like a jackass, it’s a waste of their time! They’re not getting the full benefits of the exercise!! This is why I encourage everyone to check their ego and realize fitness is a lifelong journey so there’s no need to rush, do it right.

It’s also why I’ve been encouraging everyone reading this blog to film themselves and get some visual feedback. I coach people’s form all day, and work out a lot on my own. Trust me when I say it’s much easier to spot sh** form, than it is to establish good form based on “feel” alone. Also 95% of the time, trying to look in a mirror to check form will f*** up your form and defeat the purpose.

In the video below I’ll demonstrate an elevated push-up, which is a great way to practice getting a feel for doing them properly and if needed, build up some foundational strength. I prefer this to a knee push-up because it’s easier to create full-body tension and focus on keeping that straight line from your ears to your ankles intact.

The more upright angle you choose, the easier it will be; as you’ll be fighting less gravity. It will be very easy to progress this down to a floor push up on your own. Everything I cover will still apply; you’ll just adjust the angle closer to the ground as you get stronger! DO NOT RUSH! Form is king.

3 Focus Points

  • Keep your elbows at 45 degrees. If anything bring them closer to your body, but having them too wide can lead to shoulder pain and developing the wrong muscles.
  • Bring your chest all the way down to lightly touch the surface. Lower yourself, don’t just let gravity throw you down.
  • It’s a moving plank! Core and glutes engaged HARD (8 out of 10), straight line from ears to ankles.

Pace: 2 seconds down, 1 second up. 1 breathe per rep; inhale down, exhale up.

To Make It Easier: Use a higher surface to create a more vertical angle, so you fight less gravity.

To Make It Harder: Use a lower surface to create a more horizontal angle, so you fight more gravity. Once you get to the ground, SLOW DOWN and brace your core and glutes even harder. I like focusing on those and seeing how hard I can make 10 with perfect form. Your muscles will get a lot more out of the most difficult 10 push-ups of your life, than they will from 50 in a row with jacked-up form.

Programming Suggestions: Find an angle you can do 3 sets of 10 at, then gradually work your way up to being able to do 3 sets of 15 there. Then lower the angle to where you can do 3 sets of 10 at, gradually work your way up to 3x15. Repeat til at ground. Work up to 3 sets of 25. Revisit “To Make It Harder” section.

Recommended Listening: Pantera “25 Years”

This song gets slightly overlooked in Pantera’s expansive library, and is my go-to for setting personal records. It’s also my go-to when some dip sh** with a man-bun is using the squat rack for shrugs.

The first 4:30 are a sludgy, tormented masterpiece that is great for maintaining form and focusing. Get your 3 sets of 10 reps in here, cuz the Cowboys From Hell really take things to A New Level after Phil yells “I VOWWWWWW… LEST I DIE TOMORROW (TOMORROW!)”

This is a fun place to push yourself past your comfort zone and just go as hard as you can! Let loose, don’t worry about form as much, lower your angle closer to the ground if you feel up for it. Release aggression from your soul, clear your mind, and make your body stronger… The Trifecta!

Above all, remember it’s supposed to be fun. Get lost in the music!

(Given the last verses of 25 Years and Down with the Sickness, I feel compelled to let everyone know I have wonderful relationships with my parents and love them both very much. I just also love aggressive music.)

Next Up: Glute Bridges

If you've got any questions/comments/success stories/struggles, feel free to come join the private Down With The Fitness Facebook Group 

Take Great Care!

-Matt Koch