Sunday, December 28, 2008

The quest for the perfect push-up

Push-ups are always recommended in any 'Get-a-bikini-fit-body-in-6-weeks' programme that proliferates the pages of health magazines during the summer. A quick fix which will produce magical results, and all in six weeks. Usually these push-ups are done amidst much puffing, panting and cheating. Yes, I should know, I've been there. When I started running again, push-ups were one of the exercises I started doing to build a stronger core. My first attempt was with the simple push-up and after I could do a set of 20, felt that I was on the path to bigger and greater things. It took me a while to get comfortable with doing 2 sets of 20, before moving on to the push-up on a stability ball. By the time I could do this reasonably fluidly, I felt I was ready to take on Genghis Khan, a fact that was sadly disproven when after being ill for 4 weeks, I could not even do 5 push-ups. I couldn't believe my stamina had gone downhill so rapidly. And there began the quest for the perfect push-up.
The requisite characteristics of this push up were that it would have to look good aesthetically (i.e. others would want to do it too, or simply gawp in amazement at how good it looked), the design and form would enable me to do at least 3 sets of 20 whilst still having un-mussed hair and most importantly, it would enable a core strength that allowed me to run fast! My first experiment came with the frog push up: this is done whilst on your knees with your legs at a 90-degree angle. I also read somewhere that this is also known as a 'girl's push-up'. Ha! if only! I managed to get to 3 sets of 20 but still found the position a tad strenuous for my knees. So came my second attempt which was the body on the ball push-up. Coming up from a prone position on the ball made me feel nauseous, and was quickly abandoned. Next came the close-grip push-up. This follows a normal push-up, except your hands are close together directly under your shoulders. This is also supposed to be very good for the triceps. I couldn't do more than 5 of these at a time, so on to with the next.
This was the half-crow push-up. From the push up position, you have to bring your right knee forward, out to the side, touch your right elbow and then do the push-up! Clearly you do alternate legs. The main challenge here was in keeping the correct form, and after struggling with this for a bit, I moved on to the scorpion push-up. This involved getting into a push up position and raising your right leg behind you across your body towards the back of your left shoulder. All this, and simultaneously lowering your body down into the push-up. I managed to work up to 2 sets of 20, but I still have doubts whether my form was any good. By the way, I got these push-ups in a circuit workout from Jillian Michaels.
After all this it seemed as though my quest for the perfect push-up which had been fairly dismal, was doomed. Undoubtedly all these push-ups help in increasing core strength and various body parts, but in the end there is nothing more elegant and impressive than being able to do 20 normal push-ups correctly, with perfect form. An added bonus would be doing all this and then lifting your hands off the ground and clapping them together (plyo push-ups). However it is one thing seeing it illustrated by Adam Sandler, or reading about the technicalities of the deed in the 'Marine Corps Daily 16 Workouts: Marine Fitness for the Civilian Athlete', and it is quite another to try and do it yourself.  The less said about this one, the better.
Therefore the 100 push-ups in 6 weeks challenge comes at a perfect moment:  it offers the possibility of increasing core strength and acquiring good form.  This then could be the definitive moment of discovering the essence of the perfect push-up.  If anyone has already encountered the perfect push-up, let me know!

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  1. HI there,
    I am currently doing "Making the Cut" and was a bit confused by the frog push-up description in Jillian's book. A friend sent me a link to a video and it turns out that even though your knees are under you, you do not put any weight on them, the weight is on the balls of your feet and your knees basically hover. You may actually start to like these when you don't have the pressure on your knees. Just a thought.

  2. Hello,
    Thank you for visiting my blog and leaving a comment. Interesting bit about the frog push-up. I have never quite worked it out myself. I read somewhere that it was important not to put any weight on your knees as it really puts stress on them. But I find it quite hard not to! I also thought that your feet had to be raised off the ground? I usually cross them in the air, but would like to see the video you mention.
    On another note, "Making the Cut" is such a great resource, that it is really hard to find a follow up. Have you tried any other programmes?


  3. Great post, I learn more thing in this post. Keep it up.