Monday, May 31, 2004

Begin and continue to build strength through push-ups

Ask Dave

By Dave Patania
Enquirer contributor

A former client called to tell me that at 63, she easily performed more push-ups than her 25-year-old daughter-in-law who was a gymnast in college. Her daughter-in-law teased her about how lifting weights was great but doubted that a "granny" could move her own body weight. What she didn't know was that her mother-in-law had spent many days doing push-ups before, during and after her sessions in my studio.

This versatile exercise can be used by those who want a sleek, toned body or added muscle. For beginners, it is a great initial exercise to build strength as well as a tool for measuring how their strength/endurance levels are improving. For intermediate and advanced exercisers, push-ups can be used as an effective warm-up for a tough training session or for an intense burn by doing a set immediately after performing another exercise such as bench presses. For busy travelers, cranking out a few sets of push-ups in a hotel room is a great way to keep the body conditioned.

Always check with your doctor before starting an exercise program.

Instructions: Start in the "up" position with your hands in front of you, facing forward and at a width of 4-8 inches past the edge of your shoulders so that when you lower yourself down your arms will be at a 90-degree angle. Keep your legs straight behind you, knees locked, toes in contact with the floor and your abdominal muscles fully contracted so that your body doesn't sag during the exercise. Keep your head in a comfortable and upright position and then slowly lower yourself down until your arms are at a 90-degree angle or 2-4 inches from the floor. Beginners should start with 1-2 sets of 10-15 repetitions. Intermediate to advanced exercisers should perform 2-4 sets of 15-50-plus repetitions.

Tip for beginners: You can perform what is called the modified push-up. Instead of your legs fully extended behind you, perform the exercise with your knees in contact with the floor and your legs bent and crossed behind you. Keep your abdominal muscles tight and don't raise your rear end in the air as you perform the movement.

Contact personal trainer Dave Patania by e-mail:

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