Since watching the cult scene in G.I. Jane where Demi Moore stars in the lead and shows of in the crazy scene pushing up pushups like its nobody’s business I’ve always dreamed of doing what with ease. It’s been 20 years and I’m maybe coming close to it. Or not.
My upper body strength is never been my strong side, on a good day I could evoke maybe eight push-ups (not looking very pretty doing them.)
But seeing the push-ups as a perfect exercise, challenging multiple muscle groups in the arms, chest, back, and core to build overall functional strength, it’s very important to finally be able to do them with ease. So looks like I have a long way to go.
So last summer, I was determined to see just how far I could get. I called up on Master Trainer Shaun Zetlin who is based in New York City, who is something of a push-up guru. If you didn’t know earlier this year he published a book all about this body-changing move (and its many variations) called the Push-up Progression you can find it on Amazon for $16). In his book Zetlin suggests a goal—50 reps in a month’s time and outlined the 30-day plan below. He’s word were “This is totally doable,” and my heart fell down to my shoes.
But of course, he wouldn’t be such a guru if he didn’t know his works. So Zetlin was totally right. Here’s what happened over the next 30 days.
At the beginning there is a gentle warm-up period that gives you a chance to focus on your form. So you start each session in a straight arm plank and run through a checklist of Zetlin’s tips. You need to find a neutral spinal position, which means shoulder blades align with upper back and glutes. Engage those glute muscles. Draw abs in. Keep hips from drifting up, and elbows from flaring past wrists. And most importantly, breathe. This posture is explained as movable plank, so as you keep moving up and down after a while those movements would feel natural.
In the second week you might find yourself enoying the challenge of doing those 50 push ups. It would be very motivating to keep hitting the target.
Knowing the jump from one workout to the next was never more than 2 or 3 reps made the process feel possible.
But the best part is this is an exercise that can be done anywhere, anytime, in virtually any clothing. So for those moms it’s easy to squeeze in this type of exercise. You can do them in your pajamas, while the baby sleeps or whenever feels appropriate to you.
In this period you might run into a little blockage. You might find yourself unable to complete the 20 pushups mark. Might even struggle on doing just the last ones. So you will need to take your time and even brake your session in two or three sets. Consulting with Zetlin tips it’s always better to do the set in one go as the mussels are strained longer the harder they work. But if you need the rest, take it, as long as it’s shorter than a minute.
In this period you maybe figure out the proffered time for you exercise. And the target numbers are getting higher so it’s better to do them with rested muscles early in the morning and focus on breathing, as it’s a key in performing well.
“Inhale a deep breath as you go downward and then exhale as you’re pushing away from the floor,” Zetlin instructs. “Breathing is where you get your power to come up.”
The last two days
The target is to hit 50 until the end of the month. That means going from 42 reps to 50. And it sounds scary but totally possible and doable. After finishing this work out you will feel totally proud and accom0lished.
But you will benefit in your posture too, because there is something called muscle memory. As Zetlin explains “If you learn how to find the neutral spinal position in your workout, you’ll start doing it in your everyday life,”
And now it’s your turn. Do this, challenge yourself and your friends and become a person who is able to do the famous G.I. Jane scene. I know you can too!