What is a Pushup?

Pushups in a field

According to Wikipedia, a push-up (USA English), or a press-up (UK English), is "a common strength training exercise performed in a prone position, lying horizontal and face down, raising and lowering the body using the arms."

Pushups are a basic exercise used in civilian athletic training or physical education and, especially, in military physical training and will develop the pectoral muscles and triceps, with ancillary benefits to the deltoids, serratus anterior, coracobrachialis and the midsection as a whole.

The origins of the pushup are not totally clear, although several known variations have been in existence for centuries. One school of thought is that the pushup as we know it is a joining together of two popular yoga poses - downward-facing dog (Adho Mukha Svanasana) and upward-facing dog (Urdhva Mukha Svanasana). The roots of yoga can be traced back over 3,000 years.

For the record, the phrase "pushup" was first recorded in the United States during the period from 1905 to 1910. Some 40 years later, the phrase "pressup" first appeared in British lexicon.

Instructions for "good-form" pushups

Lie prone on the ground with hands placed as wide or slightly wider than shoulder width. Keeping the body straight, lower body to the ground by bending arms at the elbows. Raise body up off the ground by extending the arms. Repeat.

Body weight should be lifted by the arms; don't be tempted to use your butt, stomach or the lower half of your body to pull yourself up. To maintain correct body alignment, imagine a straight line running from your head down to your ankles.

Instructions for "alternative" pushups

So you've tried the "good-form" pushups, but can only manage one or two before exhaustion sets in? Don't be despondent; several alternative options exist which will still enable you to follow the hundred pushups plan.

To reduce the lifting load by about 50% you can do the same exercise, but do it on your knees. Keeping a straight line from neck to torso is still important, so please pay attention to correct body alignment as you perform your workout.
You can also use a low bench or chair to support your arms while you perform either regular pushups or "knee" pushups. This type of pushup allows you to really concentrate on the pushup motion; all without the strain of the regular version.
Note: Please be sure the bench or chair is stable and secure before you perform the pushups.
Don't worry, these are not just for the hard-core push up folks. Some people experience wrist discomfort as they perform "good-form" pushups, but by closing your hands and making a fist, your body weight ends up on your knuckles instead of your palms, thus avoiding the wrist extension motion.
Note: Please be sure to do this type of push up on a padded mat, plush carpet or even better a rolled up towel.
If all the above options are still too challenging, one final variation exists. The "wall" pushup dramatically reduces the pressure on the arms, upper back and abs. The closer you stand to the wall, the easier they are to perform, but remember, it's still important to be aware of your body alignment as you perform the "wall" pushup. As you gain strength and confidence, move your feet slightly further away from the wall to make the workout more challenging. Feel free to consider moving to the "bench" or "knee" style pushups once your initial strength has increased.

Remember, the main aim of the hundred pushups program is to improve your strength, fitness and general health. It really doesn't matter what style of pushup you perform as long as you continue to make progress and keep challenging yourself. Give the 6-week program a chance and I know you'll be amazed at your new found strength.

Good luck!

Enhance Your Pushups