The art and effect of the pushup

Back in my cross country days, one of the slogans my teammates and I lived and died by was “My sport is your sport’s punishment.” It’s self-explanatory: In our sport, running was a way of life, yet a punishment in any other.

The same can hold true for push-ups in a Les Mills BodyPump class. If you screwed up on a play during a football practice, chances are you’re going to drop and do 20 pushups or run a couple of laps.

In BodyPump, however, when an instructor yells “Hit the Deck,” it’s not a form of punishment. It’s a form of improvement. In other words, when I introduce a shoulder or chest track and say that magic word, the participants may cringe for 4 and a half minutes but will feel accomplished at the end of the track.

Pushups can be done in varying fashions. Let’s start with the standard pushup, which is a basic upper-body move that targets the upper back, abdominals, chest and arms. Of course, you want to make sure you do them properly, by keeping your elbows under your shoulders, keeping your core braced, back flat and butts down, no matter if you’re doing them on your knees or on your toes.

Frequently in the tricep track in BodyPump, we’ll see a couple of sets of pushups. These are quite the contrast to the moves we see in the chest and shoulder tracks. In this case, you want to keep your hands under shoulders to isolate the back of the arms, and as you tread down, keep your elbows hugging the sides of your ribs.

We’ve only seen this in one release since I’ve been teaching, but the elevated pushup is an effective one for your chest and pectoral muscles. The big keys are keeping your feet steady and your core locked, so the tension stays in the chest. If you’re doing them in the weight room, try them with your feet on a stability ball. That way, you can focus on bracing the core and staying in the work. It’s just as effective with a benchtop, however.

Personally, pushups are my favorite exercise in a BodyPump class. No, it’s not because I think of them as punishment, even though some of you participants may view them that way. If you’re faced with a shoulder track with 16 singles in the beginning and the end of the track, don’t think of the punishment. Think of the benefits. And remember your options. It’s OK to go to your knees. You’re getting the same effect as those on their toes.

Ryan McLaughlin

About Ryan McLaughlin

BDN sports reporter Ryan McLaughlin grew up in Brewer and is a lifelong fan of the New England Patriots, Boston Red Sox, Boston Celtics and Boston Bruins. In "The Boston Blitz" he'll be sharing his perspective with BDN readers about what's happening on the Boston professional sports scene.