Saturday, September 15, 2007


Push-ups are the pride and bane of my existence.

Well, actually my kids rank higher on both the pride and bane scales. But push-ups are pretty high up there.

They're a source of pride because people's eyes tend to bug out when they hear that I do, say, 80 or 90 push-ups in the course of a karate class.

They're a bane because they're hard and painful to do.

To get a black belt, my school requires people to do a set number of push-ups and sit-ups, in excellent form and quickly. Good form means, among other things, your body needs to be straight--you can't stick your butt in the air--and you need to get down low enough.

The number depends on your sex and age. For push-ups, adult men need to do 75, women 35. However, "senior" men and women, 50 and over, do fewer--50 for men, 25 for women.

The push-up requirement was introduced after I had already been in the school for a while, I think I was a green belt (my school goes white, blue, yellow, green, red, brown, black). And until that point, we hadn't emphasized push-ups in class. I was NOT good at them, and it was a lot of work to build up to the right level.

I'm not Mr. Upper Body. Some of my buddies in the school, including Hulk and Gumba Frank, as their names suggest, are blessed with lots of upper body strength. They can crank out the push-ups. I tend more to the model of the lean, mean fighting machine--Terry, a former black belt at our school (now in another state) used to say I had go-go-gadget legs, they could kick so far. But I have really had to work on the push-ups.

At one point, my Old Sensei--more of a mesomorph than an ectomorph like me--was trying to get me to do 200 to 300 push-ups a day, in sets--increasing the number of push-ups I could do in sets. He said when I could do 200 push-ups in five sets of 40, I would be able to do 75 for the test. "Your arms will be so big, you'll have a wife AND a mistress," he said. "But then you'll have issues." I tried, and I did boost the number of push-ups I could do. But my shoulder was beginning to hurt something ferocious, interfering with the push-ups. Once I did 75 push-ups in good form and without stopping, but that was a peak I never attained again. Instead, I turned 50, and needed to do only 50 for the test.

I have typically put my hands pretty wide for push-ups, rather than right next to my body. They're just easier that way for me--I am not sure what different parts of my body these wide push-ups engage, but I think they work the shoulders more and the triceps and chest somewhat less. Lately, I've been trying to do more tight-in-hands push-ups, and doing other exercises to strengthen my triceps. No surprise, my triceps have hurt since my last class Thursday.

I have been treating push-ups like weight lifting--I give myself a day off in between. Now that I'm back in core karate class again, and now that we do even more push-ups than we used to, I use those classes (three a week) for my push-up workouts.

Before, in physical therapy, the therapists suggested push-up variations, like putting a medicine ball under one hand and then switching, or putting my legs up on a bit Swiss Ball. I did find a little variety made the push-ups more bearable.

I'm missing karate class today because a contractor is coming out to look at our leaky roof--something that has to get fixed. I may see if another location in my program has Sunday hours I could attend, or else I'll make it to the Tuesday class.


GC from NZ said...

Ah....the humble push up. I hate them too but in our class we we tend to do at least 100-150 every training night. We do most on our first two knuckles of each hand (in order to build up a pain threshold), but we also do many varieties (the moaning and complaining can be heard after the first 80, but the kids still battle on). We have another way to get the pushups accepted by all; after training (about 1 and a half hours) we have a game of "Soccer". I use the inverted commas coz it is only loosely based on the actual game rules. The rules are simple.....every time one team scores, the other team does 10 pushups on the knuckles. If you get hit with the ball from the shoulders down to the guessed it.....another 10 push ups on the knuckles. There are no other rules. Kicking, punching, throwing, tackling, ankletapping, etc, are all permitted (great for periferal vision and spontaneous blocking BTW). You can expect to do anything up to 200 push ups in any one game (depending on how bad your team is of course!).

Try it for fun....once your leg heals of course. OSU!

GC from NZ

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