Looking to do your first pushup? Here is everything you need to do to get there
Before we get to the steps involved in doing that first pushup, here are three things you need to understand.
The pushup is a bodyweight move
That is, it involves moving one’s body weight. And that means it is dependent on how much each person weighs. The effort required to do a pushup is very different for someone weighing 100 kilos versus someone weighing a meagre 50 kilos.
The pushup is a ‘moving plank’
If you can imagine your body (from head to toe) as a wooden plank, the pushup is simply about moving that plank up and down by flexing at the elbows and shoulders.
The pushup is a move that requires upper body pushing strength and full-body isometric strength
In simpler terms, one needs strength in the pushing muscles of the upper body (chest, shoulder and arms) and the muscles of the rest of the body (legs, back, abs, low back etc) to keep the body stable like a plank.
With these in mind, here are 3 steps to get to your first pushup.
Step 1: Fix the plank
All of us know how to do the simple plank, or so we think. We make basic mistakes here and that makes it impossible for us to get to that elusive pushup. So the first step is to make sure that you are planking right. Here are two simple tests:
You should not feel your lower back during any point of time.
You should be firm and not wobble or fall, even if someone nudges or shoves you from the side.
You may be able to do this for only 15 or 30 seconds before feeling your lower back. That’s OK. Stop as soon as you start feeling it. Don’t feel the need to do it for longer, unless you are able to do it without feeling your lower back.
Once you fix the quality of your plank, work on slowly increasing the duration to 2 minutes. You don’t need any fancy protocols or timers for this. Just plank every day.
If you can hold a strong plank for 15 seconds on day 1, target 20 or 25 seconds on day 2. Increasing your plank time by just 5 to 10 seconds every day will do the trick. It might feel like a very small improvement, but you’ll get to a 2-minute plank within just a few weeks.
Step 2: Move the plank
Now that you are able to hold a strong plank for 2 minutes, you have gained the isometric strength necessary to do a pushup and you just need to build the pushing strength.
While some of you (especially those who weigh less) may be able to push yourself up once you have built a strong plank, some of you may not be able to do this right away. So start by working only on the eccentric portion of the movement i.e. lower the plank down to the floor slowly but don’t worry about pushing yourself up. Practise this often and teach your body to do this without breaking the plank by pushing your hips up or down.
When you lower yourself down, your chest should be the first thing that touches the floor (and not your waist). If you are unable to do this, try and do this from a knee plank (which is very similar to a plank but with knees on the floor instead of toes on the floor) and then work your way up to a regular plank.
Step 3: Push yourself up
If you can do step 2 in complete control, start working on pausing at the bottom of the plank (without touching the floor) and pushing yourself back up without breaking the plank by pushing your hips up or down.
If you are unable to do this right away, don’t lose heart. Work on the following 2 versions:
Knee version: teach your body to move the knee plank down and up.
Hybrid version: lower yourself down in a full plank, then drop your knees and push yourself up as a knee plank.
That elusive first pushup is there for the taking. You just need to take the time to gradually build up to it.