Monday, October 23, 2006

Learning about push ups

My body has been teaching me about how much the various joints dislike doing push ups with improper technique. I've been doing about 50 push ups in a row per day, and the result has been strong pain building up in my wrists, biceps, shoulders, neck, small of the back, and hips. On the advice of my Sensei, I gave my body a rest break for a week so that what damage I have done can repair itself.

I started looking at what I was doing right, and wrong as I did my push ups, and learned quite alot about them. I'd like to share my knowledge on this blog so that others need not suffer as I have.

a) Having a straight back means "tucking in your hips" even when you are in the push up position. I believe that my sore lower back muscles, and hip joint pain was happening because I was jack-knifing my body, and popping my bottom up too high. I've learned that proper posture ( hips tucked in, shoulders back, back straight) is needed in this exercise. Another way to look at it is to "squeeze your buttocks together".

b) I was going too close to the floor. The arms should not go past a 90 degree angle, because this puts too much stress on the shoulder muscles, and ligaments especially for women. We aren't built like men in our upper bodies. Also.. by going to close to the floor and touching.. the muscles will relax, and then send a surge to push back up again. This puts a sudden stress on all of the joints instead of keeping a constant weight pressure.

c) You do not want to lock your arms at the top of the push up either. The whole idea is to keep the muscles working, and to not release the pressure... this will bring out the maximum efficiency of the push up.

d) Doing push ups once your muscles are too fatigued will transfer the weight demand unto the joints, and ligaments. You do not want to do this, you want to build up muscle, and strength, not weaken, and damage your joints.

I found this website quite helpful at looking at how to do push ups:

If you'd like to know how your ability to do a push up rates against other people your age, just go to this website:

Even in my weakened state I still received a "good" rating. I'm shooting for excellent.. but I will have to let my muscles heal first.


[Mat] said...

and I also found this, which seems to be written by a school bully.

interesting to say the least.

Enjoy your "relaxed" time. I'm sure it'll be put to good use.

I rate as good. 5 more and I'm excellent. But mommy, my arms ache. :-)

Good informative post. Cheers,

supergroup7 said...

I don't know if that 'street fight' article was written by a bully, Mat. Throughout the whole thing he tells us that fighting is the last resort, and he suggests many ways of getting away from a confrontation.

I think that his goal was to provide people with some ideas of what they "could" do if they were caught in a dangerous moment. He definately is not encouraging them to go out and cause trouble.

Anonymous said...

"I've been doing about 50 push ups in a row per day, and the result has been strong pain building up in my wrists, biceps, shoulders, neck, small of the back, and hips."

You should at least a day of break in between each push-up sessions. At the rate you are going, you're not giving your muscles enough time to repair themselves.

Do you do stretching excercises for your upper body after your push-ups?

In order to be able to hold a psuh-up position, your abs must be in good condition so that you can tuck in your hips. In order to train that part of your body, you can do a couple of reps of crunches and then immediatly turn over in a push-up position. But, instead of staying on your locked arms, stay on your elbows and hold that position (stop before the abs give up and the stress goes to your abs).

But hey, 50 is a very nice number! What's your objective?

[Mat] said...

hummm... although it is written in there, I wonder how one can acheive such knowledge except by getting in fights. Bully is not the good word. Maybe he's a grown up bully. :)

And indeed, he doesn't encourage anyone to do so. Did I imply this?
:-O Sorry if I did.

the article on push-up was excellent, btw.


supergroup7 said...

What's my objective?

Well.. there IS a little 5 year old boy in Australia that achieved 100 push ups in a row without stopping that I'm trying to emulate.... ha ha ha.. but I'm a far distance from that ability.

The honest truth is that a certain number of proper push ups are required by Kyokushin rank levels. When you start off as a white belt, you must achieve 10 push ups, and other exercises before you can test for your rank. As the rank level goes higher so does the number of push ups, etc.

I'm at the 50 regular push ups (and other stuff) level.

But that is not my only reason for doing push ups. I have learned how important it is to do weight bearing exercises for my body to maintain health.. so doing push ups is just part of my daily walk towards staying young.

supergroup7 said...

"I wonder how one can acheive such knowledge except by getting in fights."

Mat, most of the stuff that I've read in that article I have been practicing in my dojo when we practice self-defense: for example, if possible scratch the retina of the attacker's eyes causing him to back away and place his hands over his face then snap kick him in the groin.

This kind of nasty violent knowledge is contained in the movements of our kata. Knowing how to do it does not mean that one has to use it in the everyday.

[Mat] said...

Fair enough, I had that coming.

Should have been :
Where else (beside dojo) do you learn stuff like that?

Or if dojo is too restrained a term, say, controlled environment.

It is nasty. There's a part, in Seisan, where you kick sand up. Or so it goes in my mind. I didn't learn it in class, but with the fact that it ought to be done on a beach, it's plausible. Followed by wrist lock, groin kick, takedown and joint lock(elbow). It does seem very painful.

You know, that brings another question.

With all possible bunkai you can think of... which one do you decide on when performing the kata?

Does one have to decide?

To get that convincing feeling, I feel you have to see/know what you're doing. I sometimes perfom what I call the complete Seisan at home. I do it and after everymove, I think about what I could do. Which takes about 10-15 minutes and my gf is wondering what the hell I'm doing in my basement. (love her)

BTW that kata evolved - I no longer hear seagulls, I'm too busy thinking about what I'm doing. It's an ugly(as in ouch-ugly)kata. I like it very much and I work on it extra time. Yet, I believe it slows my "belt" progression and it pains me to see the kata done poorly these days.

It's like going to church. (sorry for that parralel). I never understood what I was saying in church until just recently. When I understood, it all became so clear. - I still don't go to church, in my mind, it has done great good, and great evil. But the point is that like religion without faith, kata without good visualization is...

what is it in fact?? Nothing. That answers the question for me as to when you posted the two hangetsu videos of yourself. One was visualized, the other not. It's an example, not a critic.

This little comment here has opened my eyes to what I've been missing while doing kata and while checking other person's kata too. While I'm an hobbyist, not a day goes by without my mind thinking at least a hundred times about karate.

This comment might seem to go in different directions and so it is. I'm thinking while writing. It always ends up a not to focused kind of writing.

Don't you love karate???

John said...

The arms should not go past a 90 degree angle, because this puts too much stress on the shoulder muscles, and ligaments especially for women. We aren't built like men in the upper body.

It's true that you shouldn't exceed a normal range of motion on any weight bearing exercise. Most upper body moves stress the anterior deltoid (front shoulder muscle), hence the reason athletes blow out their shoulders so frequently. But there's no reason women should train differently than men. I will say that performing pushups in a non-lockout fashion is very tough. Keeping stress on the muscles throughout the set will build stamina along with strength.

supergroup7 said...

"With all possible bunkai you can think of... which one do you decide on when performing the kata?

Does one have to decide?"

I don't focus on one type of bunkai when I do the kata unless my Sensei asks me to demonstrate a possible maneuver. Then my brain chooses how the move will be performed.

When I do my kata, my brain goes quiet.. still, and calm. I do not visualize anything, instead I "feel" the kata. I "Live" it. It ceases to be a pattern of self defense moves, and the kata becomes "me". That's what you saw on the first version of Hangetsu.. that total ownership of the kata.. I do not focus on anything other than the present moment, and the power within the center of me being sent into the direction that I want it to be sent in the manner that I want it sent. I can tell you that to progress to this quiet state I did rely on visualization at first. For example, picturing a faceless attacker coming at me violently with a knife, etc. My understanding of kata evolved. First I focused on the basic position of each technique: where is my foot positioned, where is my weight supposed to be, how am I supposed to move, how fast, how slow, where am I supposed to be looking, etc. Then I started visualizing my response to an opponent, and now.. the kata became "me".

In the second version, I was more focused on speeding up the movements so that I can get the whole kata into the camera before time was up.. and you can see the difference in the execution of the kata. I do not see your comments as criticism because you are just speaking truth. The "presence" in the second kata is not there.

I'm quite happy that I caught both types of kata on video. I can plainly see the difference between them, and appreciate what I WANT to see in my own kata.

I like your comparison to religion. I've seen that kind of progression happening there too. It happens everytime we learn something: we start off with basic building blocks, and then get to the point where we don't even have to think about it, and we are driving a car, or cooking lasagna, or doing Hangetsu, or understanding deep complex religious mysteries.

Yes, I love karate. Does it show? *Big Hug*

supergroup7 said...

That's an interesting thought, John.

I personally think that women should train differently than men. I have felt the total difference in strength as I have done partner work with men. I quickly realized that I needed to create a different, more strategic way of handling myself. I need to learn to fight like a woman. Yet.. the majority of people that I work with are men. I learned that I need to absorb my skills more deeply so that I can look at them, and turn them into something that works for me. Only time and experience will help me learn to fight like a woman.

John said...

I wasn't trying to say that you match a man's strength in a given routine. Maybe I wasn't clear; I was referring to weight training and exercise in general. I meant I don't believe in gender-based workout routines. Self defense of course is another matter.

I agree that strategy is the way to circumvent strength (in an adversary). Equally, strategy should never be abandoned in lieu of physical strength.