The Mighty Push-Up

One Take from the Week #7: The Mighty Push-Up

Last week, I was asked by a parent of one of my Parkour students if I could design a workout program for his son. Happily, I said yes. Creating a foundation of fitness early in life is an asset you can take with you into your senior years. A key component of fitness is strength. Whether it is lifting heavy weights in the gym or carrying your luggage through the airport, you need strength.

The first item I put on his workout list is the mighty push-up. This exercise is an all-around muscle builder that works the chest, back, arms, core, and even the legs. It is an exercise that requires absolutely no equipment. As simple as the movement is, raising and lowering your body from a plank position, it is remarkable how many people struggle to perform it. My student can get 10-20 at one time. He wants to be able to do more. How can he do it? The easy answer is to keep doing it. The more time your muscles spend under tension, the stronger they will get. Yet if you go crazy and push until your arms fall off, you might decide it is not worth the pain. If you get yourself so sore that you cannot do a push-up for several days, you lose time under tension.

I spoke with a co-worker a couple of days ago about his push-up routine. He told me that he averages about 400 push-ups a day. The day before our conversation, he said he did over 800. 800 is amazing! Even more amazing is that he is almost sixty years-old and has only been doing this for a few weeks. How is this possible?

Well, a few weeks ago, he saw a few other co-workers getting together to do some push-ups. At first, he told himself he was too old to be doing this. But then, he had a second thought. What could be the harm? So, he joined in. He started out doing 20-25 push-ups. The group was doing this in their spare moments on a twelve-hour workday. Their spare time happened to come about twice an hour. Roughly every thirty minutes, he got down and started pushing. To do them took less than thirty seconds. What was the payoff? He said he felt more energetic throughout the day. He had less fatigue and of course, he was getting stronger. For him, this was a real game changer since he stopped going to the gym during Co-vid.

Pavel Tsatsouline is a Russian strength coach known for introducing the west to the kettlebell. He says you must grease the groove to build strength. What does this mean? If my student can do a maximum of twenty push-ups at one time, I want him to do ten. I want him to do half of his maximum, and I want him to do it 5-10 times throughout the day, even more if he has the time. I want him to grease the groove. If he does this, he will build the strength to do more. He will be able to do it without getting sore. He won’t put too much stress on his joints and ligaments, and they too will get stronger.

For my student, this is laying the foundation. Doing push-ups every day is only the beginning. But in recommending this to him, I must consider my own behaviors. Currently, I don’t do push-ups every day. In fact, I only work my chest about 2-3 times a week. For some reason, I fell out of the habit. Well, that needs to end and so today I am putting this back into my daily routine. At home, I will do them every time they cross my mind. Same thing at work where I have plenty of space in my office to do them. And since my office mates already think I have some loose wiring in my head, this will only help to confirm their suspicions. Who know? They may even join me.

Want to join in on the fun? Find out how many you can do at one time. Then, do half of that as many times throughout the day as you can. In time your numbers will go up, your strength will improve, and you will start to notice an improvement in your physique.

Feature photo by Gordon Cowie on Unsplash

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