The full press up on balls of feet and hands is a fantastic exercise for gaining strength in not only chest, shoulder and arm muscles but also the abdominals. However, the full version is difficult for many and can be poorly executed without adequate core stability. Before attempting press ups build the stability you will need with these progressions, taken from American Council on Exercise journal.
Number one – on all 4’s , hands under shoulders, knees under hips. Push your hands into the floor, while maintaining neutral spine, and pushing shoulders towards ceiling, creating tension in all of the upper body muscles, and hold for 20-30 seconds, repeating 3 times.
Number two – Modified high plank. This is a plank on hands, with knees down, feet up in air. Apparently, when the hands push into the floor the high number of sensory nerve endings in the hands encourages activation of the muscles in the upper back and shoulders responsible for spinal stability. Aim for neutral spine, body in alignment from shoulders to knees. Hold for 10 – 45 seconds, repeat 3 times.
Number three – High plank. This plank on hands and feet improves the strength needed in the wrists, arms, shoulders, chest and core needed for the press up. Hands a little wider than shoulders, fingers pointing ahead. Slightly rotating elbows back towards the feet helps increase stability in the shoulders. Gently squeeze thigh and gluteal muscles to help support the pelvis. Hold for 20 – 45 seconds, repeat 3 times.
Once you can perform the high plank, you could move on to more progressions, culminating in full press ups. This will ensure success with the full version. I will explain the next progressions in my blog next week. There are three, involving negative reps.