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The not-so-humble push-up

The best part of push-ups is, first, that you can do them almost anywhere. And, second, you can modify or extrapolate on the simple push-up as you go along.

     Print Edition: Sept 23, 2007

You know how things go full circle and bring you back to where you began? Like fashion, where sensible suits, like the ones your father wore, made a refreshing comeback once the foolish infatuation with broad lapels and flared trousers was over? Or when, after dropping to perilously low levels, jeans are riding respectfully up back to where the waist used to be? Well, it's been a bit like that for me at the gym. For months, I have experimented with a slew of 'state-of-the-art' machines that have unsurprisingly become de rigueur in gyms now-everything from black and chrome shoulder press machines to contraptions that work out only your buns in isolation. Instead of crunches on a mat on the floor, I've tried the inclined, weighted crunch machine that seems to be hugely popular among the biggest members of my gym. And, on one occasion, I've even tried the namby-pamby assisted chin-ups machine that stands in one corner (yes, yes, I know 'assisted chin-ups' is an oxymoron but it was very early on a Sunday morning and I was tired).

Back to the point I was making: there's nothing really like doing it the way it was meant to be-simple, straightforward and basic. In the beginning, there was the push-up and what an exercise it was. For the past few weeks, eschewing the machines, I have been regularly doing push-ups. I take my stance by placing my hands on the floor-slightly wider than the shoulders, my legs and back in a straight line and my feet resting on their toes. And then slowly lower my body down till my nose almost touches the floor and push back up. It's an exhilarating thing, the push-up.

It's versatile too. You could do the simple push-up that I've tried to describe above or modify it. Experiment with how far apart you want to place your hands. If you keep them closer, besides the chest muscles you also get a good workout for your triceps. And then, you could do declining push-ups, where your feet are on a step or a stack of weight plates-working out your backs and arms and even your abs. Or you can do inclined push-ups where your hands are on a higher level than your feet, usually on two stacks of plates, and you go down deep to get more depth in your chest muscles. And, of course, there's my favourite, the asymmetric push-up, where you use a stack of plates and alternate your sets-one with the left hand higher than the right and vice versa. This provides a balanced workout for the chest, shoulders and triceps since it makes each side of the upper body work harder during sets (see illustration) without support from the other side.

The best part of push-ups is, first, that you can do them almost anywhere. And, second, you can modify or extrapolate on the simple push-up as you go along. You can vary the width of your hands or the elevation of your feet and get different benefits. In a nutshell-the push-up is classic and good. Just like that well-preserved old suit of your dad's that's back in fashion.

-Muscles Mani
write to
musclesmani@intoday.com

Caveat: The physical exercises described in Treadmill are not recommendations. Readers should exercise caution and consult a physician before attempting to follow any of these.

Five symptoms you should not ignore

Whatever your age, some symptoms simply can't be ignored. Here's a checklist:

Spine Care. Many people have spinal osteoarthritis symptoms and don't realise it. It usually doesn't begin until after the age of 40. If you show any of its symptoms, back pain and/or neck pain, then expect to have arthritis five to 10 years down the road. Says Dr Rajashekar Reddi, Senior Consultant, Max Hospital, New Delhi: "Reducing stress on affected joints is one of the most important things you can do. Maintain a healthy body weight. Regular exercise is important."

Heal Headache. Says Reddi: "They could be triggered by anything from stress, poor posture, lack of sleep, eye strain, to weakened blood vessels in the brain." Dietary changes, homeopathy, acupressure, and massage are treatment options you should consider.

Excessive Fatigue. Says Dr Ashutosh Shukla, Consultant, Artemis Health Institute, Gurgaon: "Fatigue can be a symptom of almost all acute and chronic diseases, but people who experience significantly more fatigue than usual should check for underlying heart diseases." Junk food, high in carbohydrates, can cause a surge in blood sugar followed by a drop, resulting in fatigue. Limit intake of caffeinated beverages, and regulate sleep habits.

Memory Loss. Age-related changes in the brain can slow some cognitive processes. Says Dr Reddi: "Engage in activities such as word games and puzzles that require you to tax your memory. Manage stress to make it easy for you to concentrate."

Shortness of breath. Says Dr Shukla: "Shortness of breath after climbing a flight of stairs is common. However, be concerned if you ever find yourself gasping for air or wheezing when lying down. Causes for breathlessness may include heart problems, chronic pulmonary disease, anxiety or asthma."

-Manu Kaushik

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