You’ll Sculpt Your Entire Body With This 30-Day Pushup Challenge
If you could only do one exercise for the rest of you life, what would it be? If pushups jumped to mind, you chose very wisely: Pushups are one of the best total-body exercises you can do. Not only do they tone your chest, shoulders, and triceps—but also your entire core (I’m talking abs, back, and glutes!), plus internal stabilizer muscles like your pelvic floor, says Danielle Gray, certified personal trainer and creator of Train Like a Gymnast.
That is, as long as you’re nailing your form. “When you fully engage all these muscle groups in your body, pushups become incredibly effective,” says Gray. And while there’s nothing wrong with doing pushups on your knees, “pushups on your feet recruit more muscle groups at one time, and help you build max strength” says Gray.
Aside from full-body toning, pushups further prime your body for all kinds of other exercises—especially pulling and pushing moves (think: pullups or bench presses), along with any motions that require a solid core. (Read: every. single. exercise.) And that kind of functional strength applies to everyday life, too—like when you’re pushing a door open, for example. Regularly busting out pushups can also help you build better posture, says Gray. So yeah, they’re pretty great.
Still, I get it—they’re not the easiest move to master. That’s why Women’s Health teamed up with Gray to create an epic 30-day pushup challenge. Whether you want to take your pushup count from 10 to 20 or can’t do a single rep off your knees, this challenge is designed to help you sculpt muscle and feel strong from head to toe.
How To Do A Perfect Pushup
Before you dial up your pushup count, it’s important to make sure your form is impeccable. Keep a few tips and tricks in mind for the optimal pushup.
How to: Bring yourself into a high plank position, with your feet to a bit wider than hip-width apart. Your shoulders should be stacked over your wrists to avoid stress on your shoulders and wrist joints. Think about keeping your ribs in, core engaged, and bottom tucked under to maintain alignment and protect your lower back. As you lower yourself down, elbows should point 45 degrees away from your body, and your gaze should be just in front of your hands. Then push into your entire hand and press yourself back up, maintaining the same shape and alignment.
Your 30-Day Pushup Challenge
For the next 30 days, you’ll do the following exercises as noted, with a bonus challenge at the end of each week.
Before you kick things off, test out how many pushups you can do with proper form. (Use those notes above for reference.) Mark that down as your baseline. At the end of your training, check out how many more reps you can crank out. “After just a week, you’ll feel stronger and more capable,” says Gray.
Sweat with us! Join our Facebook group to receive daily reminders, non-stop motivation, and support from other women tackling this 30-day challenge. Plus, you can post your progress and challenge success. Women’s Health will be hosting other challenges to try, too!
Time to work your way up to badass pushups. The following exercises will help you train the muscles you need for the essential exercise, says Gray. “These movements will help your muscles gradually get stronger and minimize your risk for any injury.” Aim for 3-5 sets of 8-12 reps.
Seated Triceps Pushup
How to: Sit on ground with knees bent and toes on floor for balance. Place hands a couple inches behind butt, with fingers facing forward. Bend elbows and lower down until forearms touch the ground. Engage triceps and rise back to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Get into an extended arm plank position, with wrists under shoulders. Lift left leg up and bend knee so foot is pointing up.Slowly bend elbows and lower down a few inches as you open your hips and point left foot to right side. Repeat on right side. That’s one rep.
How to: Get into an upside-down “V” position, with feet flat, hands pressed to the ground, and butt in the air. Bend elbows and lower until head touches ground. Return to start. That’s one rep.
Hollow Body Rock
How to: Sit down with knees bent, and arms extended on either side of legs. Slowly rock back, rolling over each vertebrae, making sure lower back pushes into the floor. Once upper back reaches the ground, roll back to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Start in a high plank position, with shoulders stacked over your wrists. Keep core tight, and lower down to the bottom of pushup, with elbows at 45 degrees away from body. Hold here for a couple seconds, then return to start. That’s one rep.
Quad Set Drill
How to: Sit down on the ground, with legs opened into a wide “V” shape. Sit up straight, and place one hand on either side of right leg. Engage quads, and lift right leg a couple inches off the ground. Pause, then lower back to start. That’s one rep.
Plank Banded Tap
How to: Wrap a resistance band around wrists, and get into a high plank position. Maintaining a strong core, bring right hand a couple inches forward, touch the ground, then bring it back to start. Repeat on the left side. That’s one rep.
How to: Get into a high plank position, with shoulders stacked over wrists. (Put knees on the ground, if you prefer.) Lift right hand, and lower down onto right forearm. Then repeat on the other side. Reverse the movement and return to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Get on hands and knees, with shoulders stacked over wrists. Lift knees off the floor and hover them for a few seconds. Return to start. That’s one rep.
How to: Begin in a high plank position, then walk hands a couple inches forward. From here, bend elbows and lower down until forearms touch the ground. Pause, then press back up to start. That’s one rep.
This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2019 issue of Women’s Health.
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