Royal Marines Commandos include press-ups in their fitness test because of its accessibility, its effectiveness and how it prepares the body to bear load in different scenarios.
Press Ups are a simple and effective move to consider when targeting the muscles of the chest, and triceps typically but because of how our anatomy works to conduct a full press up it requires a lot more than just the muscles of the chest and triceps.
There can be a few questions around the press up but the answers can be subjective and controversial and create conflicting views but, due to its brutal simplicity, and how the exercise works as a movement it can be adapted to suit the very beginner get fitter, the ongoing keep fitter and the ones who want to be at the top of their game when it comes to taking on physical challenges.
There really is no right or wrong answer as to how many should I aim for, or how many press ups is good for my age/ ability/ gender etc the list goes on and it doesn’t need to. They’re brilliant to integrate into circuits, as a standalone exercise or even as part of a specific program they are THAT versatile!
Why press ups?
Press ups are great for a number of reasons. You need no equipment, which makes them accessible and user friendly for all abilities.
They help develop your chest, triceps (the muscles on the back of your upper arms), shoulders in the anterior chain and your core, so you get a good muscle-building bang for your buck.
You can also simplify or increase the difficulty by doing different variations, so it’s an exercise that will last you a training lifetime, and really is limited by the participants imagination.
Are press ups just for beginners?
No! They are not, I am into my 19th year of training and I still use them, and so do my clients! This however is a common misconception about bodyweight exercises. Many people think they are easy. As I mentioned above the exercise is limited by ones mind and therefore people who are creative can make what seems a simple kitten like exercise into a brutal beast you have to fight tooth and nail with to defeat!
How often should I do press ups?
In training, recruits wanting to be Royal Marines Commando would do this move daily, without fail. That isn’t to say you should do them daily. Recruitment for the Royal Marines is a savage 32 week training cycle that breaks people physically and mentally, and enables the successful candidates to get fit for a purpose most people don’t need to be at for their day to day life.
Under more normal circumstances it really does depend on your type of goal, or your type of training but generally 3 times per week is sufficient. It’s obviously ok to do the short term challenge stuff like 30 press ups for 30 days, but realistically its not the thing you want to do on a repetitive basis.
LIKE ANYTHING ELSE, the more we repeat a movement, the finer and more efficient it becomes, and therefore uses less energy so doing too many and stopping at a ‘level’ could be counterproductive to a weight loss or even a muscle gain program.
What should I do if I can’t do a single?
The easy answer is to follow the plan I’ve set out below.
But I’d do the exact thing I did when I couldn’t do one single pull up.
Don’t just shrink and shy away from it and take it as red you’ll never do a pull up. Up until trying I never had a reason to do a pull up so why would my body be equipped with the skill, strength and coordination from multiple muscle groups to do pull ups? Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that, and like anything in the fitness industry if you’re doing things right, it’ll take time. IF you do the right things right, it’ll still take time!
If you can’t do a single press up, that’s no problem at all. In actual fact we see this a lot. Not many people can actually do what I would call a ‘regulation’ press up. When you sit and watch people and how they move you can start to identify their problems with regards to movement and this is something I pride myself on as a trainer. This usually tells me why they can’t do press ups very well.
Firstly, you need to know you can’t do a press up, not I don’t think I can, or I’m no good at press ups. Do one rep or at least try, and assess what happened. Did you go all the way to the floor? Did you get all the way back up??
My first suggestion is to start from a kneeling position or commonly known as a half press up. This shortens the lever length and alters the angle your body is at in relation to gravity. If you try press ups on an incline surface like a hill, head up the hill is easier than head down the hill just because of how gravity behaves.
If you struggle with press ups, or can’t do them and want to be able to, then try this below program and see how you go. This can be added in to a workout or just done as a daily task.
Step 1; Lay flat down on your front and place your hands flat down on the ground directly beneath the fronts of your shoulders.
Step 2; Tuck your elbows into your sides and aim to keep them there throughout the movement.
Step 3; Take a big deep breath, brace your core muscles, gluten and quads just before pushing down into the ground with both hands. Exhale as your chest and shoulders rise from the ground.
Step 4; Aim to keep your shoulders, hips and knees in a straight line, take another deep breath in, lower back down to a hover just above the ground. Push down again and exhale as you rise to the top of the rep.
Try this 50 Rep 4 week program.
All Sets are split by 75 seconds of rest on all sets on all weeks.
Set 1 – 5 Press Ups
Set 2 – 9 Press Ups
Set 3 – 7 Press Ups
Set 1 – 7 Press Ups
Set 2 – 10 Press Ups
Set 3 – 12 Press Ups
Set 4 – 8 Press Ups
Set 1 – 10 Press Ups
Set 2 – 12 Press Ups
Set 3 – 14 Press Ups
Set 4 – 12 Press Ups
5 Sets of 10 Press Ups