Weight Training For Women, Step 4. Get Your Upper Body Strong
We foxes tend to have reasonably strong legs but our upper bodies? Well, we are usually weaker than a ten day old kitten, unfortunately! That included myself, before I got into weight training.
Once I started working with weights more, I found my physique and posture improving, arms getting very nice shape, and, being stronger gives me a confidence boost.
So we’re carrying on our weight training for women series, and today we’ll cover the humble push-up.
It’s one of those exercises women often skip, which is a real shame as push-ups are fantastic for toning your arms, back and shoulders, as well as promoting shoulder health and working your core.
Not many women can perform a proper push-up, and being able to do a set of 10 makes you feel like (and actually be!) a proper bad ass.
So that’s where we’ll start. The mechanics on how to perform a proper push-up.
What makes a proper push-up?
Good alignment is crucial to a push-up. Your entire body should be aligned from head to toe. Neck in neutral position, shoulders blades packed tightly to connect them to your rib cage – bring your shoulders back, then down and hold, that’s the position. Lower back flat, abs tight and glutes engaged to support the hips, and legs strong and tense to keep your body in one unit.
This is why push-ups are such a fantastic exercise when done this way – it’s a whole body workout!
Elbows in or elbows out?
A lot of the time women perform push-ups with hands wider than shoulders with their elbows flared out. I am not a fan of this position as it does not engage your triceps and lats much – the muscles that are usually the weakest for women and need all the strengthening they can get.
Position your hands directly under the shoulders instead, so when you lower down your palms are at the sides of your boobs, forearms parallel to the body, elbows stay close to the body too. This way your elbows and shoulders take less punishment and you get to work on those bingo wings at the same time 😉
Let’s do it
Hands under your shoulders, check that everything is in place and activated: head to toe line, neck in neutral, shoulders in place, lower back flat, abs tight, glutes squeezed, legs strong.
Off you go! Inhale on the descent. Hold briefly at the bottom, then push yourself back up as fast as possible whilst exhaling. Do as many as you can, rest, repeat. Build up to 10 per set.
There you go, a simple description for one of the best exercises ever. And for us women, it’s one of those exercises that we are conditioned to think are too hard for us to do. Even more reason to be able to bust out a set of proper push-ups any time you want!
Warning: the first time you have a go you might end up on your belly. Descent is much easier than going back up, that’s because this way triceps and lats need to do the work, and for starters neither are ready 🙂 it really doesn’t matter how many you can do now, last year I could not do 1 good one! The point is you can do it. Any of us can do it. It’s a matter of training your muscles.
Tip: spread your fingers for better stability and when lowering down/coming back up imagine you are twisting your palms and hands outwards – this helps engage your lats more.
I’m writing more about the push up so watch out for a more detailed article with progressions!