JoeTraining series: Push-ups that push your limits
Don’t underestimate the power of the push up, says NYC fitness expert Steve Lischin. “Everybody thinks of the push up as an entry level exercise or something that’s not as hard as or good as one with weights. They’re wrong.”
Lischin puts his clients through the upper body wringer. “I literally set up an obstacle course for the upper body for my clients,” he said. “There’s no limit to how challenging you can make this.”
The push up is a fitness staple. “It’s a fun way to do a good basic upper body motion. It’s one of the best things you can do without weights,” Lischin said. “It’s extremely challenging. Your body responds with strength, coordination and stamina.”
He likes to incorporate the push up with more conventional weight exercises. The classic way to do this exercise is in sets of 10 to 15 repetitions; however, Lischin acknowledges that a new protocol that calls for lower reps and more sets. “There are studies that are coming out to show that low reps (10 sets of three) is more effective as it allows more force per repetition, which goes against conventional wisdom, but it’s gaining evidence and acceptance,” he said. “Lower reps help you maintain your good form and get the maximum benefit out of the exercise.”
Lischin cautions push-up fans to pay attention to form and don’t overstretch the tendon. “When your form goes out the window, you risk injury, which is a good endorsement for the new protocol,” he said.
1. Always warm up your core first with 10 minutes of cycling and stretching.
2. If you aren’t used to doing push ups, start on your knees. Always use a pad for your knees. Start with your hands a bit wider than the torso, right under where your shoulders are. You want to just raise and lower yourself. Try to keep a neutral spine. Don’t look up. “Looking down keeps your spine neutral,” Lischin said. Come up and down to 90 degrees. Don’t lock your elbows at the top of the exercise. Keep the tension constant. Do 10 to 15 reps.
3. “Next, we’re going to add a stability component,” Lischin said. Put your belly on a stability ball and roll out until the ball is under your lower leg. Hold the core tight. Make your back like a plank of wood. Do push ups like the first set. Try 15. It’s going to seem harder because all the muscles are activated.
4. “Now, we’re going to create asymmetry,” he said. Use a tiny, softball–sized medicine ball under one hand. Do 8 reps on each side.
5. Finally, add a plyometric situation. “The simple way to do this is to clap between each push up, so you add some coordination,” he said. “An advanced version of that is placing your feet on the stability ball and clapping between reps.” Another variation is to use the softball-sized medicine ball. Push yourself up and roll the ball back and forth between your hands. If you can add the stability ball under your legs while you push the ball back and forth, you’re a push-up master. “This exercise strikes fear in the heart of my clients,” LIschin said. “A lot of people can do this, but they don’t know they can do this.”
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ABOUT STEVEN LISCHIN, MS CPT
Steve Lischin has over 20 years experience as a private personal fitness instructor and nutrition counselor. A former bodybuilding champion with a masters degree in nutrition and certification from the National Academy of Sports Medicine, Lischin’s clientele includes professional athletes and teams, as well as actors and celebrities gearing up for major motion pictures and events. In addition to providing expert personal training services to his clients, Lischin has created and managed several in-house personal training departments in major health clubs in New York and New Jersey, including World Gyms of NYC. He can be reached on the web through JoeTraining.com.