100 Days of Fitness
- 100 Days of Fitness: An Introduction
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 2 - Nutrition
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 3 - Exercise
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 4 - Building a Home Gym
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 5 - Supplements
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 6 - Expectations
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 7 - Footwear
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 8 - Food Lies
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 9 - Meet the Kettlebell
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 10 - Sample Circuits
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 11 - Days vs Weeks
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 12 – The Geography of Weight Loss
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 13 - Travel Training
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 14 – Meals, Snacks, & The Pocket Workout
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 15 - What It's All About
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 16 - Endless Push-Ups & Learning the Pull-Up
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 17 – Adjustable Kettlebells + A Circuit
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 18 – Intermittent Fasting & Strength Test
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 19 – 15 Minute Workouts & A Cool Workout iPhone App + Contest
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 20 - Switching It Up
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 21 – Reflections
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 22 – A Week Without a Workout
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 23 – Why We Work Out & The 30 lbs Lost Marker
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 24 - 5 Common Home Gym Mistakes
- 100 Days of Fitness: Week 25 – Work Ethic
- 100 Days of Fitness Special: Men's Health in Movember
- 100 Days of Fitness: The Muscle Aesthetic
- 100 Days of Fitness: The Cure for Holiday Pounds
Why do I talk so much about push-ups and pull-ups? Because they're pretty much perfect exercises. I mean, when it comes to the push-up, you literally always have all the equipment you need all the time. While it can be slightly more difficult to find something to hang onto while you do a pull-up, they're pretty much readily available everywhere from door jamb bars to tree branches.
To put it as simply as possible, if you're not doing either of these exercises: start doing them. They're excellent measurements of regular health and performance. Marines aren't tested on their bench press, they're tested on their push-ups and pull-ups. Squats may burn fat, but they don't pull your ass back from a ledge and onto safety. The point of this article is to a shine a little more light on the variety of push-ups available and to also give people new to pull-ups a resource or two to get started on what can be a very difficult exercise.
In Week 3 we already covered four kinds of push-ups that only required a few chairs to use. Later, we talked about the Lebert Equalizer and its ability to switch up your grip to add variety to the exercise. If you're still looking for more, there are almost endless variations suitable for people of all fitness levels.
If you're just starting out and have a significant amount of weight to lose, you might want to start with wall push-ups. These are done simply by pushing away from the wall, rather than the ground. People with healthy levels of strength will find these too easy, but beginners can start here.
For an advanced “wall push-up,” you can try a supported hand stand push up. You stand back a bit from a wall, move into a handstand position and toss your feet to the wall. The wall keeps you balanced while you then do push-ups. These hit the shoulders and back more than the chest and add a fun variety once you're comfortable performing the acrobatics to get into position.
As someone who utilizes a kettlebell almost every day, I also do a lot of kb push-ups. The basic movie is to put one hand on the bell and the other on the floor and do some push ups, then alternate hands. For more advanced moves you can alternate hands during the set, which requires you to navigate around the kettlebell and activates your core muscles more. So push-up 1 has the left hand on the bell and push-up 2 has the right, after you've shifted over a bit. A third push-up kb variation involves both hands on the ball for a very narrow grip.
Really, you can move your hands to any width, from very narrow to very wide, and place them on different objects of varied heights to hit the muscle fibers from all different angles.
One relatively inexpensive product I found recently is the Core Balancer, a set of volleyball like objects that come with a pair of velcro gloves to make sure you don't let the ball slip away and face plant. Sold in pairs, you can either use one at a time (easy mode) or two at a time, which was surprisingly difficult even for me, a guy who is probably doing more than 300 push-ups in a week.
The Core Balancer is so named because it requires you to really stabilize yourself on the balls, which activates smaller muscle fibers and the core to keep you balanced. The system comes with some wrist inserts that help make sure your hands stay in a position that won't hurt your wrists. A long time tennis player, I found it far more comfortable to use the wrist supports while using the Balancers. With the Core Balancers or a similar system, you can add at least 12 different variations of push-ups to your routine – and that's definitely a good thing.
Now, pull-ups are a tougher situation. Provided you have a place to do them, you might find them difficult, even if you're using a chair for assistance like I mentioned in an early article. The folks over at Lifeline USA sent us a product that is tailor-made to get you doing pull-ups in no time — the aptly named Pullup Revolution.
This is a must own training aide for anyone trying to really change their body composition. The pull-up is hard to do, especially when you're first starting out. Well, this elastic band system can help lighten the load and get you up over the bar – literally.
The system works by adjusting the length of the straps (a higher position provides more help, lower provides less) and putting your foot into a stirrup. The elastic band provides the jump start assistance required to help you complete reps. If you can't complete any pull-ups, the Revolution will definitely get you over the bar. If you can only do a few, a simple change of the strap length will get you up in the 8-10 range. Working with the Revolution you'll strengthen your lats and be pumping out unassisted chins in no time.
If you can already do pull-ups, the Revolution still earns a spot in your home gym. The assistance can help you build endurance by increasing the number of pull-ups you can do in a set, or by giving you that little bit of elastic support, enable you to try some of the more advanced workouts shown on the DVD. These workouts include side-to-side and circular pull-ups, as well as variations on hand grip, including some one-armed pull-ups and core balancing moves. This system is great for beginners and advanced athletes alike.
Once you build a solid base and can do between 6-10 unassisted pull-ups, you can start doing unassisted variations. My current favorites are sets of 6 pull-ups where I have my legs extended out in front of me, trying to keep a 90 degree angle near my hips. Definitely changes the way pull-ups feel, increases the difficulty, and really burns the abdominals up.
If you master and embrace these two exercises and all their variations, you'll craft a tight, lean, athletic body in no time.
Since I just spent a whole bunch of words talking about exercise, I'm going to keep this area short. My pants are fitting great (actually loose, just bought some new ones), my shirts look better, and my weight on the scale is below 230lbs for the first time in years. At 229lbs, I've lost a total of 22.5lbs so far and increased my athletic endurance in every exercise. I'll see about getting some progress pictures up within the next week or two for reference. Keep at it.