Push ups for women: Here's how to get started
Push ups, undeniably one of the favourite exercises among men, is often dreaded by women as part of their regular fitness regime. During college time, it was a common sight to find the boys gearing up for three digit push up challenges. How else would they have proved their mettle in fitness if they were not able to pull off at least 50 of them in a go?
In my opinion, push ups are one of the most overrated at the same time highly misused exercises of all time. Overrated because everybody thinks that doing them will get them immense strength and will aid in building the muscles. It is important to understand that no exercise will bear positive results when done in isolation. While the classic push up targets the chest, shoulders and triceps, it grooms only parts of your upper body. You still need to train your forearms, biceps and other areas separately. It is misused to an extent that people often go overboard with it, not realising that its purpose is only to serve as a one of the tools for your upper body workout.
Push ups increase your stamina and shoot up your arm strength. Don't worry if you are unable to do even one on your first day. "Your arms and chest will gradually build up the stamina to do regular push ups. You need to make a subtle start and slowly take it further," shares Gaurav Sharma, fitness manager, Sports Fit, Vasant Kunj.
Before we go on to the nuances of a standard push up position, let's break one of the biggest myths
embedded deep in most women's mind - "push ups will give me manly arms
". Though I have always loved doing push ups, as they helped me develop my triceps, making them quite prominent, I stopped doing them for a very long time thinking that I might build up muscles that would look manly. I wanted to look lean and not bulky. Over the years, I have come to embrace the efficacy and importance of weight-training for a well-rounded fitness regime. Even if you steer clear of external weights, at times - and most of the times - body-weight
exercises akin to push ups, pull-ups and others are all you need to compliment your cardio
So, if women should do push ups, how do we go about it and how do we get there? Fret not, as we are here to share a step-by-step guide to getting into that standard push up position. All you need is consistency, correct technique and lots of patience.
Push Up for Beginners
For those who are attempting it for the first time, 'do not try to get into standard push ups'! Begin with inclined or wall push ups instead. For those of you who have weaker chest and absolutely no strength in the arms, start with wall push ups and traverse your way to inclined push ups in 3-4 weeks' time.
"It is important to pay attention to your posture, one slip and there can be injuries. Joint mobilization or joint-exercises are must before you begin with push ups," shared Shakti Kumar Yadav, Head Trainer, Gold's Gym, Delhi.
1. Wall Push ups
Face a wall. Place your palms on the wall and stand a bit farther than arm's length. Your legs should be shoulder-wide apart. Lean forward with palms placed aligned to the shoulders (right under the shoulder, placed shoulder-width apart). Breathe in, bend your elbows and go lower towards the wall with your upper body. Control your motion, go down slowly and come back. Repeat 10 times, 3 sets. You can gradually do 3 sets of 30 each and move on to the inclined push ups. "Wall push ups are great for beginners, these are safe for the elderly as well," shares Gaurav.
2. Inclined Push ups
As the name suggests, this would be your run-up-to the standard push up. You can place yourself in an inclined position on a couch, bench or a table and begin your exercise. The lower your inclination, the more effective the exercise becomes. Begin with 3 sets of 10 each, taking it to 3 sets of 30 each.
3. Knee Push ups
Alternatively known as the girl-style push ups, with this you kneel on the ground and are one step away from the standard push up. Rest of the mechanism of a standard push up stays the same. In this version, you place your knees on the floor, pull up your legs and cross them. Now, with your palms right under the shoulder, breathe in and start going down slowly. Get back up again and repeat. 3 sets of 10 reps each, gradually take it to 3 sets of 30 reps each.
"For beginners I would always recommend teaming up their push ups with other strengthening exercises. Pull-ups are great from strengthening. One can start by machine-held weight training - as it doesn't involve the need to pay attention to balancing the weights. After 20 days or so, one can start with free-weight training," noted Shakti.
The Standard Push Ups
In Picture: Shwetambari Shetty, Nike Elevated Trainer, India
Ladies, give yourself a pat on the back for finally reaching one of the most dreaded territories in the realm of fitness - the standard push up. Always remember, you have gone through enough to be able to pull this off successfully. That doesn't mean that you will push up like a pro right on your first day. When I first tried doing standard push ups, I could barely do down. Go to a level at which you think you can really take it, keep repeating and training. Complement it with other strength exercises and over the weeks you will see remarkable improvement in your push ups.
Getting Started: Place your palm right under your shoulders and get into a high-plank position. Start bending your elbow and lower your body till your body touches the floor (not resting on the floor). Push back up slowly and repeat.
As noted earlier, push ups are widely misused. There are a few minute things that should be kept in mind to avoid injury and to attain maximum benefits. One of the most important things is to pay attention to your shoulders. Those who suffer from shoulder injury or shoulder pain should perform the exercise under supervision or avoid it till the issue resolves.
"Generally, one of the standard variations to a regular push up is to play around with the grip. You vary the point at which you keep your palm - right under the shoulders; wider than shoulder level (wide grip) or inwards (close grip). Different areas get activated in different variations. These are part of advanced training, you don't only need to do them under guidance but should also pay heed to your body," notes Gaurav.
- In all circumstances, you elbow should always fold inwards not outwards, there shouldn't be elbow flaring.
- In case of shoulder pain, it is advisable to place your palms slightly lower than the shoulder and chest, "this deviates the pressure from the shoulders," explains Gaurav.
- Do not lift your hip up; your body should be aligned/parallel to the floor.
- Do not arch, bend or droop your back; push ups should always be done with a flat back, but not locked or a stiff back.
- Do not stiffen your elbow or your neck.
- "Your weight should be on your arms and not your wrist. If you feel the tension in your wrist, you're doing it wrong. If you already have elbow or wrist pain or any kind of injury, avoid push ups," cautioned Shakti.
- Breathing is important.
- Try to go as close to the floor, do not let your weight fall. Keep your neck straight but relaxed.
Begin with 3 sets of 10 each after which the sky is the limit and variations will take over for a stronger, fitter you. I shall, talk about these variations in my next piece.