Got the bug to push your fitness to a new level? Getting stronger doesn’t have to be complicated, and it doesn’t have to cost you a bunch of money either. Follow these helpful tips on two fundamental exercises – push-ups and pull-ups – to get the change you want without leaving home.
Don’t I Need All This Other Stuff?
Not really! Push-ups and pull-ups are perfect small-space exercises, easily doable in an apartment. Since they use primarily your own body weight for resistance, they’re free or cheap to do. They work the chest and back, the largest muscles in the upper body with the greatest payoff in terms of functional strength. Push-ups also strengthen the core, shoulders, and triceps, and pull-ups will tone your arms, too. For upper body work, it’s hard to beat good old-fashioned push-ups and pull-ups. But doing them right, with good form, is key.
Maybe it’s been awhile since you’ve done a push-up, or you’re just getting started on your fitness journey. Here’s how you can build up to picture-perfect push-ups.
Start out with your knees on the floor and your hands wider than shoulder width. Inhale as you lower yourself down, keeping your upper body straight as you lower yourself, and exhale slowly as you push yourself up. Using your knees to create a lever is a perfect entry point to the push-up and will help you build up strength for the next step.
From your knees-down pose, bring your hands in to about shoulder width and straighten your legs, so you’re up on your hands and toes, supporting yourself with the strength of your chest, shoulders, and core. Hold your body as straight as you can, and challenge yourself to hold the pose longer each time.
You’re ready for a full push-up! From high plank, call on that new chest and core strength to lower yourself slowly until your chest is a few inches from the ground, and then push yourself back up. Take rest breaks in high plank, or alternate with knees-down push-ups to keep building strength.
Once you’re cranking out full push-ups, there are dozens of varieties you can try to keep challenging yourself and getting stronger, like triceps push-ups, plyometric or clap push-ups, and the dreaded one-arm push-up!
Loop a resistance band around your pull-up bar and grab the hanging end of the loop with your hand. Step your feet far enough away from the bar to get tension in the band while your arm is fully extended. Settle down into a chair pose and pull the loop toward you. Lat pulls recruit the same muscles as pull-ups without moving as much weight, so they’re a helpful first step.
Flexed Arm Hang
Before you worry about pulling, the flexed arm hang preps your body in a bunch of ways, improving your grip strength, and of course, building up the back muscles. Hang from the bar for as long as you can, and time yourself, so you can log your best efforts and watch your improvement. Once you get comfortable hanging, try pulling yourself up just an inch and then lowering to full extension again, and repeating that exercise.
Assisted pull-ups are an effective next step because they train your body in the pull-up movement while relieving some of the weight. You can use a resistance band looped around your shins or use a pull-up assist to give you the extra boost.
You’re ready to go! When you start full pull-ups, you may be tempted to cheat a little bit and start pulling up before you’ve reached full extension down. Resist that temptation and allow your body to reset after each repetition with your arms fully extended, remembering that arm hang you practiced.
Like pull-ups, push-ups offer a bunch of spicy varieties to keep things interesting. Try moving your hands as wide as you can on the bar, pulling up and lowering down in slow motion, and holding for a five-second count at the top.
Enjoy pushing and pulling your way to newfound strength! For more health and fitness tips, plus great recipes and ways to stay active around The Woodlands, make sure to visit the Olympus Sierra Pines blog.