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STRENGTH TRAINING

The goal of this manual is to help you increase your upper body strength and your core, including abdominals and lower back. Strength training increases resting metabolism and bone density and can reduce symptoms of many chronic conditions including back pain, arthritis, obesity, heart disease and diabetes.

Why Push-ups?

The push-up is an excellent barometer of strength and fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs by requiring the body to be taut.

By following the progressive push-up and plank training plan provided, you will see a noticeable increase in your strength by the end of six weeks.

Push-up Form

Lie prone on the ground with hands placed as wide as shoulder width (or slightly wider) with fingers pointing forward. Keeping the body straight, heels and toes together, lower body to the ground by bending arms at the elbows. Raise body up off the ground by extending the arms. Body weight should be lifted by the arms – not your trunk, stomach or lower half of your body; imagine a straight line running from your head down to your ankles.

As you practice push-ups, maintain good form and don’t hold your breath. If you start to feel shaky, take a few deep breaths and regain your composure before starting again.

Alternative Push-ups

If you cannot do five consecutive push-ups, you may use alternative (easier) push-ups until your strength improves.

Knee push-ups – reduces lifting load by about 50% on your knees, while still keeping a straight line from neck to torso

Bench push-ups – use a low bench or chair to support your arms while you perform either regular push-ups or “knee” push-ups. Note: Please be sure the bench or chair is stable before you perform the push-ups.

Wall push-ups – if the above options are still too challenging, this variation is the easiest. The “wall” push-up reduces the pressure on the arms, upper back and abs. The closer you stand to the wall, the easier it is, but you still want to be aware of your body alignment. As you gain strength, move your feet slightly further away from the wall to make the workout more challenging, and then move to the “bench” or “knee” style push-ups and, finally, the regular push-up.

 

Weekly Training Plan

The six-week progressive strength training plan should be performed daily, with one rest day allowed per week. It includes push-ups and plank exercises (you may do more sets and repetitions than what is outlined below, if you like). All exercises are illustrated at the end of this guide for reference.

At the end of each week, you can check your strength and reps compared to the previous week. Write this number down each week in your Log.

Week 1

  • You will do your max number of push-ups x two sets/day with a 60 second rest periodbetween. You may do alternative push-ups for both sets if needed this week.
  • Perform all plank exercises once/day and hold each one for minimum of 15 secondsEnd of week 1: check your strength by comparing to the previous week.

 

Week 2

  • You will do your max number of push-ups x three sets/day with a 60 second rest period between. If you need to do the alternative push-ups, you may, but do the third set in regular push-up form.

Perform all plank exercises twice/day and hold each one for minimum of 20 seconds.End of week 2: check your strength by comparing to the previous week.

Week 3

  • You will do your max number of push-ups x three sets/day with a 60 second rest periodbetween. If you need to do the alternative push-ups, you may, but do the third set in regular push-up form.
  • Perform all plank exercises twice/day and hold each one for minimum of 25 seconds.End of week 3: check your strength by comparing to the previous week.

Week 4

  • You will do your max number of push-ups x four sets/day with a 60 second rest periodbetween. If you need to do the alternative push-ups, you may, but do the fourth set in regular push-up form.
  • Perform all plank exercises twice/day and hold each one for minimum of 30 secondsEnd of week 4: check your strength by comparing to the previous week.

Week 5

  • You will do your max number of push-ups x five sets/day with a 60 second rest periodbetween. If you need to do the alternative push-ups, you may, but do the last two sets in regular push-up form.
  • Perform all plank exercises twice/day and hold each one for minimum of 45 secondsEnd of week 5: check your strength by comparing to the previous week.

Week 6

  • You will do your max number of push-ups x five sets/day with a 60 second rest period between. If you need to do the alternative push-ups, you may, but do the last two sets in regular push-up form.
  • Perform all plank exercises twice/day and hold each one for as long as you can End of week 6: check your strength by comparing to the previous week.

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The Push-up:

Lie prone on floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Raise body up off floor by extending arms with body straight. Keeping body straight, lower body to floor by bending arms. Push body up until arms are extended. Repeat.

Both upper and lower body must be kept straight throughout movement.

 

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Knee Push-up

Lie prone on floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Bend knees and raise body up off floor by extending arms with body straight.

Keeping body straight and knees bent, lower your body to floor by bending arms. Push body up until arms are extended. Repeat. Both upper and lower body must be kept straight throughout movement.

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Bench Push-up

Stand facing bench or sturdy elevated platform. Place hands on edge of bench or platform, slightly wider than shoulder width. Position feet back from bench or platform with arms and body straight. Arms should be perpendicular to body. Keeping body straight, lower chest to edge of bench or platform by bending arms. Push body up until arms are extended. Repeat.

Both upper and lower body must be kept straight throughout movement. Height of bench or platform affects difficulty of movement.

Wall Push-up

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