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Push Up Power

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Push ups are one of those exercises that get dismissed quite easily in many weight control programs. Is it because of their simplicity? Are they not rated that highly by health professionals because of all the new shiny equipment in posh gyms these days that on the face of it seem to get better results?

My honest opinion, it is one of the best exercises you could have in your exercise armoury.

Why?

The answer is quite simple, they are simple exercises to perform, and what I mean by that is you don’t have to figure out what this machine does, how the pulleys work, what does this clip or handle do?

They are safe. The only equipment you need is the floor, and floors are everywhere! No equipment or heavy weights have to be carried around, no work bench needed, just a floor and you. This also means you don’t need a gym, and all that goes with having to go to a gym, expense, time etc.

The push up is a versatile exercise, it doesn’t matter what your level of fitness is, there is a variation for you. You can build from never having done one before to progressing through the variations of the exercise and eventually banging out some plyometric push ups.

The push up enables you to build functional strength as it uses a lot of major muscles at the same time, in unison.

When you perform a full push up, you not only work your chest, shoulders and triceps, but your back, abs and legs have to work isometrically to stabalize your body. Hence it is a full body workout. The British military, as well as others do push ups as a staple. They can’t all be wrong!

Beginners;

If you can’t hold your weight in a plank position just yet, you can place your knees on the floor to take the pressure off until you gain strength.

Intermediates;

You can perform full push ups with correct form and lowering all the way down, now it’s  about adding more sets/reps to push you a little more.

Advanced;

You can do a lot of sets or reps with relative ease, maybe try some declines by placing your feet on a small wall or the sofa for example.

I have done them in the past with my wife sat on my back for added weight, (think she enjoyed making me suffer a bit too much though!)

Alternatively you can try some lung busting plyometric push ups.

So get down and give me twenty.

Keep clean, stay lean.

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Compound vs Isolation

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When trying to get a lean physique, which do you think would work best, a bunch of bicep curls, or some pull ups? Calf raises, or squats?

It all depends on what your personal goals are but if you are trying to bust those arms out of your t-shirt for aesthetic reasons then fine, go for bicep curls and other exercises that concentrate on that one particular muscle. If you do want to slim down and burn a bit of excess fat, full body, functional compound movements are the way to go.

Doing an exercise like a squat for example, uses so much more energy and uses more muscle fibres than going on a leg curl machine. For starters, you are standing up rather than sitting at a machine, so your core muscles are holding you upright, they are engaged, do you think they are when surrounded by comfortable padded seating? No.

What about your glutes, calves, hamstrings, back, shoulders, chest? They are all inactive whilst you tirelessly go through your leg curls, meanwhile your quads are burning with lactic acid and you feel as if you are having a good session.

Just because you feel a pump doesn’t necessarily mean your having an awesome workout. All the time your spending on one group of muscles by doing isolation work could be made more efficient by hitting many more muscles at once, therefore burning more energy, (calories), in less time.

This would mean performing 3, maybe 4 exercises per workout, getting in and getting out.

Your heart rate will rise and bone and lean tissue density will increase. This all cooks up to losing more fat in less time, does that not sound good in this modern fast paced world we live in!

With compound movements the muscle is broken down sufficiently, and if your nutrition and rest is good, the correct hormones are then released to improve your body’s anabolic environment, preparing it for growth, and/or repair. This also gives you more time to spend on other things, whether you want to do some more flexibility or mobility work.

I’m not saying that tricep kickbacks and ab crunches are a no go, or that they don’t contribute, what I am saying is that they are not as efficient as compound movements when it comes to weight loss. You certainly get more done in less time, however if you’re enjoying doing other stuff in the gym and it keeps you motivated, who am I to argue.

The best most efficient workout plans have compound exercises as there base.