10 Dec Body Weight Push Up Progressions

Push ups are an essential movement for total body strengthening and conditioning. Arguably the best overall body weight muscle building exercise there is.  One of the great hidden benefits of the push up is the core stabilization that you get while performing this exercise, when done correctly.

Also, push ups are a tremendous stabilization exercise for the entire shoulder girdle, for scapular and thoracic musculature, as well as the rotator cuff. The push up is a great stability and mobility exercise for the upper body.

Now, for assessment and progressions.  According to the standards referenced by the National Strength and Conditioning Association, fitness categories are as follows: (note: this is continuous pushups until failure)

Age 20-29, Excellent for Males is 36, and Females is 30.

Age 30-39, Excellent for Males is 30, and Females is 27.

Age 40-49, Excellent for Males is 25, and Females is 24.

Age 50-59, Excellent for Males is 21, and Females is also 21.

Do you think they are too high?  Too low?  Where do you fall?  These are great standards to aim for.  There are also fitness category ratings listed for very good, good, fair, and needs work, but I wanted to provide the highest values as a goal, based on your age and gender.

So, how do you get there if you fall short?  And, if you’re there already, what are some progressions?  Here’s a good progression plan to follow, depending on where you fall in the above fitness category.

Phase I: Standing supported pushups, standing upright, leaning on a stable surface (counter, desk, or table), body at approximately 45 degrees or so.  This way your push up is not resisting gravity at it’s maximum and a good place to start out if your struggling with the standard push up.

Phase II: Pushups on the knees, moving up the next phase, now you are on your knees with a rigid body, assuming the push up position.  Bending the knees lessens the resistance and shortens the lever arm for the motion, making this slightly easier than the standard push up.

Phase III: Standard push ups, the key here is keeping your entire body rigid, from your head to your feet, keep the muscles tight and stable slowly lowering and raising your body in one complete unit.

Phase IV: Feet elevated push ups, the next progression is to elevate your feet, either on a bench or step.  Again, the key is keeping tension in your body throughout the movement.  Slightly more challenging than standard push ups.

Phase V: Stability ball push ups, now we’re starting to really challenge ourselves here.  Get a medium foot stance apart on the stability ball, this will challenge your core strength and shoulder girdle stability even more.  Keep tight and in control, slowly lowering and raising your body.

Phase VI: Plyometric pushups, at the top of the push up, forcefully explode your upper body up from the ground and catch your self coming back in contact to the ground.  Come down slower and up very fast, propelling your body upward. Clapping between reps is a technique to use, but that’s up to you, I prefer to just explosively press up.

There you have it a simple exercise progression for the push up.  I would recommend being in the “excellent” range for your age and gender before progressing to Phase IV and up.

Wow, Day 10 of 31 Days of Smart Fitness.  10 days of continuous posts.  Remember, this is a challenge I have for myself.  It’s been tough to do, but so far, so good.

Be back tomorrow for another topic, only 21 days to go!

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