Why do so many of us hate push-ups? Maybe because it reminds us of the trauma of 'testing day' in gym class, or because they are the go-to exercise for punishment. Trip over the skipping rope? Do push-ups. Can't climb the rope? Do push-ups. Drop the ball?
It's a funny thing, when your punishment is to get fitter. This thing, fitness, that you're wanting, well your punishment for <insert misdemeanour here> is to get more of that. Way to instil us with a life-long love of exercise, trainers of our youth – punish us by making us do the thing that's good for us, to the point of humiliation. Set up some nice negative associations so that whenever we think of training, we feel shame. Then make us feel shame whenever we're not training too. Cover all the bases.
That said, I love push-ups! Yes, it's true, I'm weird. I love them now, but I didn't always.
Cheesy as it is: you dominate the push-ups, the push-ups don't dominate you!
There's a feeling of achievement to climbing your mountains. I don't mean to endow push-ups with an overinflated sense of importance, but conceptually at least, I love them. Mostly because I can do them. I don't always love doing them, but I love the fact that I can. They're like running - when you're good at them, they're fun. When you can't, they are not fun. Not fun at all. A few years ago, I had a shoulder injury, and I couldn't do push-ups, not one. Interestingly enough, I could do handstands. And heavy shoulder presses with dumbbells. Weird.
I've just started a push-up development experiment of my own design. If it works, in twelve weeks or so, I may be able to do a hundred in a row. Which would be very exciting! Being able to do push-ups makes me feel strong, robust, and generally proud of myself. Feeling strong helps me to feel like the world is a slightly less scary place, even though one day in the future I know that I will again be weak. Maybe sick. Who knows? But keeping strong, flexible and fit will keep that day at bay a little longer. So goes the plan.
Really, if I can do 60 to 80 push-ups at the end of my experimental training regime, I'll consider that a huge success. That would double my current maximum effort, here at the beginning of the process. In recent months my training has been quite narrow, and a few gaps in my fitness have started to appear. A relative weakness in push-ups is one of them.
The program I'm working on looks at using body-weight exercises only to develop a) your strength, and b) your endurance, both of which are necessary if you want to be able to do large numbers of push-ups in a row.
I'll be following this post shortly with more technical considerations for how to improve your push-ups. There will be tips to get you started if you’re unable to do any, and tips for improving your strength if you’re struggling to break past ten or twenty reps.