by Kirsten Palmer
Push-ups are a great all-over upper-body exercise. But they can be intimidating!
Doing push-ups on your knees is a perfectly appropriate modification for anyone who struggles with the move. These modified push-ups target the chest, shoulders, arms and core very well.
But if you’re interested in adding a new challenge to your workout routine and pumping out reps on your toes, here are five exercises you can do to get there. No need to do all of them each workout; just pick three for each workout session and vary your routine. And remember: The ones you find the hardest are probably the ones you should practice the most!
Your body has muscle memory. Movements that you do regularly — whether difficult or just complex — become easier with time because your muscles “learn” the motion. It’s about coordination, balance and strength. So, while still working on strength, shift your attention to coordination and balance by simply using half the range of motion while on your toes. You can either start at the top and lower part of the way, or, if you have a long fitness step, you can lie on it and lift up. Do a complete set this way. As you get stronger, increase the range. From the top, lower more deeply; or, remove one set of risers from the step.
2. Wide stance
Just like the half-rep, you can teach your body the move before you’re strong enough to do it by increasing the space between your feet. Separate your toes about as wide as your hands and complete as many reps as you can.
3. Push focus
Improving one half of an exercise is one step toward improving the whole. Depending on which part of the push-up you find harder, you may want to do sets with the emphasis on either the push (concentric) phase or the lower (eccentric) phase. Or, you can try sets of both! For the push focus, start flat on the floor in the proper push-up position. Press into your toes and hover the body, then push all the way up. Lower your knees to the floor as you lower all the way back down again. Starting on the floor really challenges the lowest end of your range of motion for a push-up. Go for as many reps as you can, but no more than about 15.
4. Lower focus
It’s easy to just flop down when you are doing push-ups and put all your effort into pressing back to the top. However, the eccentric phase of all exercises is equally as important. For one, lack of control in motion can cause injury. But also, emphasis on the negative (lowering) phase has been shown to increase muscle force more than the concentric (rising) phase. And, boy, do you need force to push yourself back up! So, start at the top of your push-up and lower down slowly. Try to hover for a beat at the lowest point. Release all the way to the floor if need be. Then, press your knees to the floor and push back up. Come back to your toes and repeat. Start with as many reps as possible and increase to about 15.
5. Elevator Plank
Push-ups on your toes require not only increased chest and arm strength, but a huge amount of core strength as well: the abdominals, low back and spinal erectors. While regular Planks are good for targeting all of these muscles, adding motion stimulates them the way they will need to be accessed during a push-up. Beginning on your hands and toes, lower from your right hand to your right forearm; then from the left hand to forearm. Next, lift back up to your right hand and then the left. That’s one rep. Start with about six to eight reps, and work your way up to about 12. (If you can remember, try alternating which hand/ forearm you start with. No biggie if that’s too much brain power!)
In addition to using these modified exercises on the path to a full push-up on your toes, it’s also a good idea to work on muscle strength with other moves. When possible, add resistance to your triceps, anterior and medial deltoid, and supine chest exercises. Pick a few, but definitely not all, each workout.
You’ll be able to “drop and give ‘em 20″ in no time!