Pushups: an easy exercise to modify to your needs

Chicago Tribune /

Published Dec 13, 2012 at 04:00AM

CHICAGO — Pushups, like many body-weight exercises, can also be made more or less challenging. They’re functional; they stabilize the body and prevent injury. And pushups can be done anywhere.

Wall pushup: Place your palms against a wall, slightly wider than your shoulders with the fingertips pointing up. Back your feet away from the wall, about 20 inches. Lean forward, bending your elbows until your nose nearly touches the wall. Push back out to start. That’s one. To make it harder, place your hands on a lower surface such as the edge of a desk. Used extensively in rehabilitation, wall pushups can decrease the amount of stress on the lumbar spine, David Suprak, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Western Washington University said. But even these can irritate the shoulder for those who have a previous injury. “Make sure your hands are low enough so the arm is not elevating above the shoulder level,” he said.

Incline pushup: Find a weight bench, or if you’re outside, use a park bench. Place your hands on the bench and your feet on the ground. Lower your chest to the bench and push back up.

Pushup with knees down: The more parallel your body is to the ground, the harder this exercise is. Beginners can start on their hands and knees; this position trains important shoulder stabilizers and lowers the stress on the lower back and the joints themselves, Suprak said.

Minus a limb: Using a single limb — one hand or foot — instead of two, can increase the difficulty. Ground your right foot, stack the left foot on top of the right and lower down. Or, keep both feet on the ground and just use one hand. Be cautious. “A one-handed type of pushup causes a tendency to rotate around the lumbar spine,” Suprak said.