Push ups have long been a standard for assessing strength, muscle endurance, stroking egos, and now even serving as a way to bring attention to the 22 veterans that commit suicide every day (started by a group Honor Courage Commitment). One of the big reasons is that it is great exercise that challenges the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core muscles and requires no equipment. The problem is that if you are just starting out with strength training, your body weight will probably be too much to do an effective push up. Even modified (from your knees) push ups may be too much. Well, there’s another way to create the push up progression that’s right for you.
It’s about the angles. Without getting into the physics of it, the more inclined your body is, the less you are directly opposing gravity and the easier the movement is. So, by adjusting the body angle, you can select the challenge level that is appropriate for you.
Start your push up program at a staircase, with your feet close to the bottom step. Lean forward and reach out placing your hands on the step that allows your body to be in a strong, straight plank position. Space your hands so they are just outside of shoulder width. Pick a target number of repetitions that you want to be able to do on the floor (let’s say 22). See how many push ups you can do at this angle. Do one set of as many as you can every day (yes, you can do them every day). When you can do 22 reps, move to the next step down on the staircase. With each completion of 22 reps, continue the progression to the next step until you are doing them off the floor. Et voila! Push up king!
Of course you don’t have to stop there. Once you are doing full push ups on the floor, you could then go back to the steps and start working on your one-arm push ups.
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