Pressups – Why I expect chest to the floor and why I don’t like box (ladies) pressups.

I’ve described how I coach pressups before (click here).  But every so often, I get asked why do I expect it done that way?  Why chest to the floor?  Why can’t they start off with easier versions like the box (ladies) pressup?  Basically, why am I being such a knob about things.  So here goes…

1st of all, I hate the name “ladies” pressup.  There is nothing ladylike about it.  It is simply an easier version of doing pressups.  And anyone who says that it’s the ladies version because it’s easier (because obviously chicks can’t do the difficults things, can they!), is going to get a kicking from both me and quite a few of the ladies I know!

Why do I expect chest to touch the floor?

  • It keeps us honest.  Either our chest touches the floor or it doesn’t.  So either we count that pressup or we don’t.  Without a stark threshold that can be reached/missed, it is all to easy to make the moves smaller and smaller and easier and easier, yet still convincing ourselves we are doing them.  It is MUCH easier to do 20 half pressups (where the chest misses the floor) than it is to do 10 FULL pressups (where the chest touches the floor).  And we will all give into our ego at some point and try to cut the move down to improve our numbers (I know that’s true, I’m a guy!)  So the threshold is “Chest touches the floor or it simply doesn’t count”.  It keeps us honest.
  • It’s harder.  Do I need to expand on this further?  I think it’s good to do difficult things.  It builds character.
  • It uses the stomach muscles and “core” much more.  If the chest is to touch the floor but not your belly, you are not only pushing hard with the upper body, but you are holding a full Plank position while doing it.  Any of you who have taken up any of these 30 day Plank challenges you get on facebook will know how good this is.  So this makes the move a bigger, better, more complete move.
  • Bad PressupForces us into a better body alignment (posture).  Without the “nipples to the floor” cue, people tend to either sag their belly down first or stretch their head to the floor.  This will either horribly arch the spine or wrench the neck.  Neither of these are good for posture or general health of the neck/spine.  But by reaching down with the chest, this encourages people into the classic “Superman” pose (chest out).  Much better for posture and spine alignment.

Why not box pressups?

  • Box PressupEasy to cheat.  The closer your knees are to your hands, the easier it is.  So it VERY easy to convince ourselves we really are moving our knees back and making it harder, honest Guv’na!  But in reality, we aren’t.  We keep sneaking them forwards into an easier position so our repetitions increase but we aren’t actually getting any better.
  • Not replicable.  In other words, can’t consistently repeat them from one day to the next.  This is mainly because of the cheating aspect of sneaking knees forwards.  If we can’t do them consistently, we can’t know if we are improving or simply doing an easier version.
  • No use of the stomach or “core”.  Because of the lack of the Plank position, we don’t use the stomach muscles nearly as much.  In fact, the belly usually just sags down, leaving our bums high in the air.
  • No chest to the floor.  Because we end up with hips high when on the knees, we end up going down face first.  It’s difficult to get the chest to touch the floor without faceplanting.  And if we can’t get the chest down to the floor, we face the problems outlined above.
  • No obvious progression.  Maybe it’s just me, but I think that EVERYONE should be able to do at least 1 full pressup (i.e. be able to move their own bodyweight).  You can end up doing a million box pressups (which I swear I’ve seen people try to do!) without ever getting the strength to do a single full pressup.  

So there we are.  In spite of what some people say, there really are actual reasons why I ask people to do pressups my way and not your way.  Surprisingly, I actually know what I’m talking about!

And for people out there saying “but I don’t do it your way because they are too hard for me”…Take another look at my guide to pressups (click here) and take note of the incline pressup.  Where you put your hands in an elevated position.  This makes it easier, but keeps all the benefits of the full pressup!

One of the most practical ways I’ve found to improve your pressups is to go to the bottom of your stairs in your house.  Put your feet on the ground floor and your hands on either the 1st, 2nd, 3rd or 4th step.  Do your incline pressups there.  You will find them much easier compared to doing them with hands on the floor.  When you are ready, put your hands on the next step down, making them slightly harder.  Keep repeating this process until your hands are on the floor.  Well done!

Hope this clears some questions up.  Let me know if it does/doesn’t.

And as always, if you think this could help people you know, please feel free to use your facebook and twitter and what-have-you and share the hell outta this!