You might have noticed, that in Pilates and yoga push-ups are done with the elbows close to the body (aka narrow push-ups), vs. sticking out to the sides, like in more traditional fitness. I’ve heard them called “Triceps Push-ups” which is really a misnomer. Any push ups in which you straighten your elbows fully, are triceps push ups. The muscle that get strengthened here more than in the wide push ups, is called serratus anterior. But who cares, right! You don't use your pectoral muscles as much during narrow push-up - in yoga the pose is called Chaturanga Dandasana - which makes it MUCH more challenging than the wide one’s.
The positioning of your body in the narrow push ups mimics our everyday posture more than the wide one. Or do you usually stand with your elbows lifted out to the sides? Ultimately, strengthening the muscles that help us with our everyday posture has the biggest benefit to our daily lives.
The goal of a great exercise routine should never be to strengthen one isolated muscle by itself, but always to connect all systems of the body, so they work together effortlessly and effectively, like a great team!
Prepare the yoga strap by making a loop that is outer shoulder distance wide. Reach your arms through the strap and slide the strap to your upper arms, above the elbows. When you put your arms through the strap you should still be able to get the inside of your arms to slide against your ribcage.
Place the yoga block horizontally at the highest level on your mat. With the strap around your upper arms just above the elbows come onto hands and knees. Reach your shoulders back, chest forward and press outward against the strap a little so that it doesn’t slide down. Step into plank position.
Press back into your heels and tighten your quads so you are pressing your thighs up to the ceiling. When we come into the push up you will shift the weight forward and press the weight all the way into your toes. Reminder: Heart forward and shoulders back.
Shift your body weight forward and bend your elbows until your ribcage is resting in the strap like a hammock. This teaches you how far down you should go. The strap is going to prevent you from bringing your elbows too far back so they will stay nice and close to the torso. Here you can also rest your pelvis or thighs on the block.
On your exhale, straighten your arms and press all the way back into your heels until the shoulders are stacked over your wrists again.
Reach your heart forward as you shift the weight forward for the next push-up. Inhale to bend your elbows and let your chest rest on the strap. Your thighs rest on the block. When you come back up, shift the weight all the way back so that your shoulders are again over the wrists.
Practice Makes Perfect
I recommend practicing this regularly (how about daily?), until you are sure that your shoulders do not creep up to your ears during the movement. The next step would be doing this exercise without the block, but still using the strap. This way you will have to "carry" our whole body weight on your arms and core.
Please know that this is a very difficult exercise. Signs that you might NOT be ready for this exercise are:
1) If your shoulder blades are squeezing together on your back.
2) If your head is lower than your shoulders.
3) if your head gets pushed forward
4) if you can’t keep your abdominals engaged.
Let me know if you have trouble with this, I’m sure I have a few more tips up my sleeve!
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