Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Push-Ups, A Runner's Best Friend

One of the biggest reasons, runners begin to slow down as they get older really has nothing to do with age. Instead, it has more to do with a weak upper-body and core. For this post, I want to focus on the upper-body.         
Dr. Kenneth Cooper of the Cooper Institute once said, "We do not stop exercising because we grow old - we grow old because we stop exercising." I think this quote really speaks to why many older runners begin to slow in their 50s and 60s.

Older runners are definitely exercising their legs and their legs aren't the problem. That's why so many are perplexed as to why they're slowing down or fatiguing sooner. In many cases, the "slowdown" has more to do with decreased upper-body strength rather than age. As we get older, our everyday activities require less upper-body muscle. Work has us more sedentary. We're too busy for the softball or bowling league. The kids are grown and we're no longer playing with them in the back yard. We're paying the kid down the street to do the yard work. We gave up that gym membership long ago. As a result, the lack of upper-body and core strength, causes the upper-body to fatigue sooner than it used to. When the upper-body fatigues, you lose good running form. And when that happens, leg fatigue is soon to follow.

So, instead of just accepting that you're getting older, do something about it! Okay, so now your thinking, "I don't have time or the money for a gym membership or to invest in in-home gym equipment." No, problem. You don't need any. Push-ups are one of the best upper-body exercises a runner can do to increase upper-body strength and improve running form.

Push-ups are often thought of as just a chest exercise. Well, push-ups do target the Pec Major muscles, but they also strengthen the Anterior Deltoids (front of the shoulder), Triceps, Biceps, Lats, and Abs. And the great thing is all you need is your body and the floor!

The movement of a push-up is as simple as 1, 2, 3.
  1. Lay face down on the floor. With arms bent, place your hands palm-side down on the floor a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Your hands should be positioned in line with your shoulders.
  2. Think of your entire body from head to toe as one unit. While exhaling, push away from the floor until you've fully extend your arms. From head to toe, your body should be a straight diagonal line. (No bent knees or arched mid-section.)
  3. Inhale as you slowly lower your body, bending your elbows until your chest touching or almost touching the floor. That's one repetition.
That's it! 1, 2, 3! Push ups are one of the simplest exercises, but don't let the simplicity of the movement fool you. They're darn tough, especially if you're new to doing them. Take it slow. If needed, you can do a modified version where you rest on your knees instead of your toes. If you do the modified version, however, you still need to make sure that from your head to your knees is a solid unit (no arched backside). Take it slow. If 10 is max, that's awesome! Stop at 10, take a  break, and then do ten more. Over a week try to work yourself up to doing 3 sets of ten. Once you've mastered that. Shoot for 3 sets of 12. Master that, then go for 3 sets of 15. Working up to 3 sets of 20-25 three times a week is awesome.

After you've mastered the basic push-up, there are countless ways to vary the exercise. Below are seven variations on the standard push-up. These exercises are more challenging and place more focus on either the upper, middle, or lower chest. A few of the exercises even use a med ball to throw in a balance element working all the stabilizer muscles in your arms and torso. Enjoy the variety and have fun. Keep at it and before you know it, you'll be running stronger and longer!




  



19 comments:

ShutUpandRun said...

Great advice. I'm going to add these to my repertoire. Except for the one with the three balls. I don't know that I have that much coordination! :)

RunnerDude said...

Hey ShutUpand Run! Awesome! A friend of mine does that last on with just two balls! I'm not quite there yet. LOL!

Stacey said...

I love push ups! I started doing them in the spring when my husband said "I bet I can do more than you..." ha, now I can do more than him! (: There are so many different variations..Thanks for sharing.

RunnerDude said...

That's great Stacey! I'd love to know some of the push-up variations you do too.

Melyssa said...

I just started a strength training program and it calls for push ups. I've never been able to do many before, but this program requires it. And wow, it really works me. But it also feels great.

I hope to be able to do the advanced push ups your pictured in the post.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Melyssa! That's awesome! Keep at it and you'll be doing those variations before you know it, but the standard push-up is an awesome exercise too.

Lesley @ racingitoff.com said...

I need a beginner push-up for chicks with extremely wimpy arms. I have zero upper body strength... zero.

Tom said...

Nice post! I see a lot of hard core runners who forget they have an upper body. Thanks for the reminder. Pushups are a great exercise. I agree with Mr. Cooper that we grow old when we stop exercising.

Sara said...

Nice! I am working so hard to be able to do complete push-ups!! I am going to give these a try for sure. ;) Thanks!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lesley! Start with the modified version. You'll be blasting them out before you know it!

RunnerDude said...

Thanks Tom!

RunnerDude said...

Keep at it Sara! You'll get there! No doubt!

David said...

Modified Push Ups -As I read your blog post, I couldn’t help but think of the Push Up Bench as the most effective way for people who struggle with push ups , to be able to do them correctly (with full range of motion). Most modified push ups make them easier but only allow one or two variations. The Push Up Bench has 11 different levels to work through on the way to a full push up.

Zaneta said...

I love pushups! I usually just do the bland regular ones though! I'll have to get my medicine ball out and try a few of those to mix things up a bit! :)
Zaneta
http://zanetaruns.blogspot.com

Lauren said...

I want so much to do these exercises. But recently I injured my left deltoid and pectoral muscles. Every time I think I'm healed, I go and do some strengthening exercises and reinjure. I'm not even doing planks right now : ((( Do you have advice how long I should wait before trying push-ups with my recent injury? (it no longer hurts, but I'm just afraid to start up again)

RunnerDude said...

Hi Zaneta! Welcome to the blog!Let me know how the new variations work for ya!

RunnerDude said...

Hi Lauren! Sounds like you many need to work with a physical therapist to help more clinically regain strength in those injured areas.

Cindy said...

I hate push ups but my friend has the greatest attitude about them-she says it's what makes me a stronger runner and let's me be a runner for life.

RunnerDude said...

Hi Cindy! You're friend is very wise indeed!