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 November 2014 ISSUE

 

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Pushups!
The pushup is a tough and unforgiving exercise and, like any great classic, never really goes out of style.
Pushups are a superb upper body exercise that use the body’s own weight to build a sound fitness foundation. They promote strength, balance and stability by developing several key muscles, including the pectoralis major in the chest, the deltoids or shoulder muscles, the scapular muscles and rotator cuff, the triceps located on the back of the upper arm and the upper back muscles.
“Pushups improve range of motion in the upper body and overall upper body strength. They’re important to a fitness regimen for developing general body strength, and core body strength. An important area of strength endurance can be developed through a higher number of repetitions,” says David Schuman, New Jersey-based speed and strength coach, former champion hurdler and owner of Schuman’s Speed Center (http://www.schumanspeed.com).

Pushups can also contribute to better posture and help protect your back from injury and strain. According to Philadelphia-based author and back-pain specialist Dr. Jolie Bookspan, by practicing perfect form while executing pushups, and applying that same form to your upright stance, you may not only stand taller and straighter but you’ll reduce the potential for back pain.

She cautions against the common mistake of allowing the back to arch and sag, putting pressure on the lower back. Try shifting the burden to your core by tucking your hips, flattening your back and contracting your midsection.

The Right Way to Do Pushups:

“Age and gender shouldn’t be an issue when doing pushups since you’re only pushing up your body weight. Strength or lack of it is usually an issue. It’s lack of strength due to lack of proper repetition. You must work to get stronger,” says Schuman, who offers the following tips:
  • Elbows must be fully extended at the start and end of a pushup, forefoot or toes on floor; legs, hips and back straight.
  • Commonly, people don’t make a deep enough descent. Your chest should be slightly lower than parallel to the level of your arms
  • To test your form, have someone make an upright fist and position it below your chest. Your chest should make contact with the fist.
  • Avoid half-pushups, a common error caused by fatigue.
  • Inadequate reps are usually due to a lack of strength endurance, which can be built up over time by executing pushups properly and doing multiple upper body exercises to increase strength.
Variations on the classic pushup — which should only be performed under expert supervision—include:
  • In-close pushups – Bring your hands in closer proximity to one another.
  • Clap pushups — Push off the ground plyometrically, high enough to clap and put your hands back in the start position — to build explosive strength.
  • Fingertip pushups — Position yourself on the tips of your fingers, which increases all-round difficulty.
  • Prison pushups — Using a deck of cards, do the number of pushups that corresponds to the number on the card. Face cards equal 10 pushups; an ace entitles you to a one-minute break. Go until you finish the deck. It’s an amazing, but extremely challenging workout.
  • To increase the intensity of pushups, add weights, which are placed on the middle of your back. You can use a backpack, a sandbag, a free weight or wear a weighted vest.
“Athletic performance can be enhanced by the improved strength that comes from doing pushups, especially for youth athletes where overall developmental strength is important,” says Schuman. “Adult athletes can benefit from pushups through strength endurance, which allows the athlete to perform activities for a longer period of time.”
Before attempting any exercise or diet modification, always consult a fitness or medical professional.
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