Archive for Monday, August 27, 2012


As I See Fit: Push-ups an enduring standard in workouts

August 27, 2012


There are many push-up modifications for beginners or for working different muscle groups.

There are many push-up modifications for beginners or for working different muscle groups.

If you have trouble with a regular push-up, try a wide-legged stance.

If you have trouble with a regular push-up, try a wide-legged stance.

It seems as though every week we have a new fitness craze sweeping the nation.

Eventually, that fitness craze finds its way to the middle of the country and arrives here in Lawrence. Although this sometimes takes years to occur, it’s better late than never.

Or is it?

It’s been my experience that when people are trying to embark on a fitness journey, whether it be to lose weight or to challenge themselves to take their workout to the next level, there are two different camps.

One side loves to try new things and to think outside of the box. This group welcomes change and loves new things, like Insanity, TRX and CrossFit. These are fantastic workouts when led by certified and educated fitness professionals but can lead to injuries if not.

Meanwhile, the other camp prefers to stay the course and rely on those things that are tried and true, like step classes and power walking.

And then there are those of us who fall in the middle and enjoy trying new things but tend to rely on the basics to get us through our workouts. And unless you are on a serious weight loss or fitness plateau, that is perfectly OK.

As I’ve written many times, basic exercises have remained popular due to one major factor: They work, plain and simple. So if flipping tires and suicide sprints are not your style, then spend some time evaluating basic standbys that will not only still challenge you, but also allow you to modify them as your fitness abilities increase and improve.

That’s your goal, right? To stop just thinking about it and actually start doing, isn’t it? Of course it is!

Let’s talk about one exercise that can improve your strength, your shoulders, your back and your chest. That’s all without mentioning the fact that you will obviously be focusing on contracting your abdominal muscles and engaging your core.

Tired of flabby upper arms? A combination of push-ups and cardio to burn off extra fat is key to develop a firm upper body. Push-ups effectively target the muscles in the front and back of the arms as well as the chest and upper back.

To exercise this many muscles at the gym, you’d have to use a series of machines. With push-ups, you’re working the same muscles using your own body resistance. Who needs a health club membership to look good in a tank top?

One of the biggest benefits of doing push-ups is their simplicity. All you need is a firm surface and your body to complete this exercise. There’s no need for weights or special equipment, and they can be done almost anywhere. They’re a great upper body strength-building exercise to do when traveling because they can be done on the floor of any hotel room.

Want to tone the upper body and burn calories fast? Do five minutes of an aerobic exercise such as jogging in place and then do a full minute of push-ups. Repeat this five times.

Welcome to circuit training and tabata sets, which are one of the fastest and most effective ways to get into shape.

If you’re new to push-ups, start out doing them with your knees on the ground until you build up more upper body strength. Start with five or 10 and do them on a regular basis. After a week, try one on your toes, and then add on. Challenge yourself! Some people find a wide-legged push-up to be a little easier, so give that a shot, too.

I train a client who is making serious strides in her fitness abilities, and she has watched her body change slowly over the past few months. She was tired at times and she was discouraged at times, but she has never quit. The push-up was very challenging for her because she has had some issues with her wrists. No problem there — we simply modified it so that she sometimes does the exercise on her forearms, or on a softer surface, like a Bosu. We’ve even used an ottoman!

Don’t let small things get in your way. There is always a modification!

  • For those of you who are looking to step up your basic workout, move on to incline push-ups. Elevate your feet by placing them on a bench or chair to emphasize the upper chest muscles.
  • Placing your hands higher than your feet targets the muscles in the lower chest.
  • Try placing your hands on a small ball while doing a set of push-ups to tone the triceps.

The push-up has endless variations and is anything but basic. Have some fun with it!

— Jennifer Osborn can be reached at


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