The "New York Times" calls pushups the “ultimate barometer of fitness.” They are an exercise that engages all the major muscle groups in your body, including your core, legs, arms and chest. Pushups require little room and no additional weight and are a relatively easy way to postpone the effects of aging.
As we age, we lose muscle. The "New York Times" states that people lose almost one third of their total strength between the ages of 20 and 70. Women have about 20 percent less muscle then men in general, so as women age, their strength declines are even more magnified. Muscle gains that strength training provides help build strength in the remaining muscles. So although muscle is still lost, strength can be maintained. The pushup position is especially important because it enables muscle memory to help us catch ourselves if we fall.
Number of Push-Ups
On average, women who are 40 years old should be able to do 16 traditional pushups, according to the "New York Times." Military standards require a 40-year-old woman to do 13 pushups to pass the physical training test. The requirement is 17 pushups for women in their 20s and 15 pushups when women are in their 30s.
To do a traditional pushup, start by kneeling. Bring your hands down to the floor, shoulder-width apart. Press down on your hands and bring your legs behind you, propping yourself up on your toes. Center your weight, flattening your back until it is parallel with the floor. Lower yourself down slowly until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle. Push back up slowly and return to the starting position. Keep your back flat through the entire motion.
Find out how many pushups you can do right now. Begin training with half of that number. Thus if you can currently do four pushups, start with two. Perform two pushups four times, resting for 60 seconds between each set. Then for the fifth set, do as many as you can. Rest for a day then repeat the training, adding an additional pushup. Rest another day and repeat again, adding another pushup. If you are training Monday, Wednesday, Friday, start with two on Monday, do three on Wednesday and four on Friday. Each new week, multiply your initial number by the number of weeks you have been training. If you began with two, the second week you would start with four and the third week do six.
You are not alone if you can’t do one pushup in the traditional push-up position. Starting training with a counter top and work up to the traditional position. Standing upright, place your hands on the counter top and move your feet out so you are leaning at a 45-degree angle. Gently lower yourself down by bending your elbows until your arms form a right angle. Push back up. After gaining some strength, move to a stair step and perform the same motion. Finally, transition to the floor.
- New York Times: An Enduring Measure of Fitness: The Simple Push-Up
- Army.com: Standards for Pushups
- American Council on Exercise: Push-Up
- A Guide to Personal Fitness Training; Mary Yoke