Sifu Mark JolleyAdult Student’s Corner

by Sifu Mark Jolley

“Ok class, do your full push-up requirements.” The sentence most students dread.

It seems like such a simple exercise, when in reality it is one of the hardest non-equipment workouts. The push-up is an exercise that can strengthen and tone many of the muscles of the upper body and core. The muscles in the upper body do most of the work when you perform a correct push-up. The main muscles are:

  1. Chest
  2. Shoulder
  3. Upper and middle back muscles
  4. Biceps at the front of the upper arm
  5. Triceps at the back of the upper arm
  6. Serratus Anterior (muscle that spans the upper eight ribs)

In addition, other muscles are required to keep the body in a rigid position.

  1. Lower back muscles
  2. Abdominal or core muscles
  3. Gluteus maximus and medius (the buttocks)
  4. Hamstrings, quads, calf, and shin muscles

As you can see, such a seemingly modest workout requires a wide range of muscles, and is a full-body workout. It uses a huge amount of energy in a short span, because the movement requires large muscle groups to push and hold your body weight up. The motion of pushing your body up and then lowering it increases the heart rate. This in turns burns calories. The more push-ups, the more calories burned.

To get the most benefits out of your push-ups ensure the muscles are warmed up. Trying to do too many without properly warming up will lead to injury. Some simple full range exercises can get the muscle groups ready. You can start by doing push-ups against the wall. The farther away your feet are from the wall, the more pressure and resistance is put on the muscles. You can progress next to using stairs, as it lowers the body position. Easy 2 sets of 10 reps will warm-up up the muscles. Next would be to move to floor push-ups. Ensure your hands are positioned below your shoulders. A quick check is to lay flat on the floor and position your hands by your shoulders. Since this is a warm-up, 2 sets of 5-10 reps should be adequate. Stretch out the muscles listed above, and you should be warmed up nicely for larger reps.

At WKFA, we employ a wide range of push-up styles (flat palm, knuckle, tiger claws, etc). The above warm-up techniques will work for any of them. Your push-up requirement is a goal to strive for. In the beginning, or when your requirements increase, don’t expect to do be able to complete them all at once. Also, it is better to do a full range push-up and less of them, than “cheating” and not do a full range, just to say you did your requirements. In the end you are just depriving yourself of a great full body workout. With limited training space in the kwoon and at home, this is a great exercise that uses small amount of space but is time effective.