May 9, 2010

The Humble Pushup


I’m writing this after my workout, which was slightly on the haphazard side, while eating some chickpeas, drinking juice, and snacking on crackers. Fun fact- it’s important to eat within 30 minutes of the end of your workout because that’s when your body utilizes nutrients most effectively.
            I did a round of two different workouts that I found on bodyrock.tv, then grew concerned that my neighbors were going to invade and demand I stop leaping around above their heads, so I switched to lower-impact things, including pushups. One of the bodyrock workouts that I did required 30 seconds of pushups immediately after a minute of jump-squats. To my surprise, after completing the squats, I was relieved to get to the pushups and could bust out 30 seconds of consecutive crisp clean pushups, making 90 with my elbows each time. It felt easy.
            Push-ups have never (till now) been something I felt confident about. In gym I did all right with them, but always had to rest every five or so. When I was at boarding school, you had to do 3 pushups for every letter in whatever swear word you uttered, so with the help of my exuberant use of the “F-bomb” I could do pushups in sets of 12, but beyond that my arms quickly tired and I would again have to rest. After I grew competent at 12 pushups, I naturally began busting out my truckers’ mouth with more zeal, so I occasionally had to do pushups for the “-ing,” as well.
            Which brings me, in a roundabout way, to my point. I can competently do quite a few pushups, which isn’t something that I ever thought I’d be able to say, let alone with pride.
            Being a body-weight exercise, pretty much everyone thinks that they’re a good idea, if not the bread and butter of some workouts. The only people who seem to have a problem with them are the body builders/people who lift a lot of heavy weights. Since I clearly am enamored with the power of pushups, I thought I’d go in to the different types and my understanding of the different muscles that they work.
            The first type of pushup is basically whatever you think of being a pushup, usually your hands are under your shoulders and when you go down your elbows flare out in alignment with your shoulders.
            Then there are the Tricep pushups- when you’re at the bottom of the exercise your hands are right next to your rib cage and your elbows/upper arms are parallel with your torso. I can do about 5 of these, which is up from 1.5 in December. Obviously they work your triceps. Triangle pushups involve making a triangle with your index fingers and thumbs, so that your hands are directly under your sternum. Of course if these are too easy, you can always up the ante by putting your feet on a chair.
            Plyometric pushups are by far the hardest. Plyometrics are exercises that involve exploding out/up, and when applied to pushups things get nasty and face smashing real quick. Clap pushups are plyometric, as you have to “jump” off the ground with your arms in order to clap. There are scads of clap pushups- clapping behind the back, clapping twice, and the illusive triple clap pushup. There are also variations that involve “jumping” on to a medicine ball or yoga block.
            Lastly, you can always do one-handed pushups. I recently learned the “girly” version. It’s hard to do them on your knees, like a regular “girly” pushup, but if you spread your knees out a ton they become slightly more do-able.
            In summation… do lots of pushups. You’ll get better and stronger and it feels good, and don’t be afraid to try new kinds or do them on your knees. And if you decide to try the plyometric ones… put a pillow under your face, because you’ll feel really stupid when you bruise your face on the floor. I learned that one the hard way…

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