Girls Can Do Push-Ups Too. And Make You 15 Minutes Late to a Dinner Reservation Because They Couldn’t Pick an Outfit to Wear, FOR THE LOVE OF GOD!! But Enough About That. Anyways, About Those Push-Ups……

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One of my biggest pet peeves in the fitness industry, other than guys who curl in the squat rack, and anything related to Tracy Anderson (of course), is the whole concept of the “girl push-up.” We all know the drill- guys are told to do regular push-ups, and girls- because we assume they can’t do them- are told to drop down to their hands and knees, and do girl push-ups.

Generally speaking, women are weaker than their male counterparts, so it make sense that we may need to tweak certain exercises to better suit them. Although, I have a few female clients who would beg to differ! If you ask me, however, I just think it comes down to pure laziness. Most trainers (not all) are just too lazy to take the time to show their female clients how to do a proper push-up. In the end, it ends up looking something like this:

Er, uh, I mean this:

I don’t want to use the word demeaning in this context, because it seems a little strong. But I just feel the girl push-up establishes a negative precendent from the get go. To me, all it says is that “you’re a girl, and I’m not giving you enough credit.”

In an age where women are told that, almost resoundingly so, lifting anything over five pounds will turn them into am Adam’s apple toutin, chainsaw carryin, beef jerky eatin, She-Man, I feel as trainers and strength coaches, it’s important to do whatever we can to educate women that lifting heavy stuff is good for them and that they can, you know, do a freakin push-up.

To that end, it’s rare that a female walks into CP on day one and can perform a picture perfect push-up from the floor, let alone for reps. Incidentally, it’s rare that a dude comes in on day one and can do a picture perfect push-up.

I think it’s imperative, however, to set people up for success. In particular, when it comes to training women- who are already fairly intimidated as it is- rather than showing them what they can’t do, I’d rather show them what they can do. So, with regards to the push-up, here are a few basic alternatives that I like to use with my female clients.

The Elevated Push-Up

Using a power-rack (or even a Smith Machine), simply place the pins in a position that allows her to perform a standard push-up. I really like this version because it emphasizes proper push-up technique- albeit in a limited range of motion. What’s more, I can easily modify the exercise depending on the fitness level of the client. However the main objective would be to lower the pins closer to the floor as one gets more proficient with the exercise.

TRX Push-Up

Similarly, the TRX push-up can be modified in the same vain as the elevated push-up. I realize that many people won’t have a TRX unit available, but if you do, this is an awesome exercise nonetheless. I’ve used this exercise with some clients as old as 65, and as young as 13.

Eccentric Only Push-Up

I’ve started using this version with many of my female clients, with great success. In short, you’ll assume a standard push-up position and lower yourself as slowly and controlled as possible (all the way till your chest touches the floor). Once there, drop the knees to the floor, and return back to the starting position making sure not to HYPERextend the lumbar spine as you do so.

You may be wondering what’s the deal with focusing on the lowering part. Well, research has shown that placing an emphasis on the eccentric (lowering/yielding) portion of the lift is the key determinant in rapid strength gains as compared to the concentric (raising/overcoming) portion. Hard to argue with science.

Band Assisted Push-Up

This is an idea that I stole from physical therapist Lee Burton in his dvd Primitive Patterns that he and Gray Cook released not too long ago. Much like the eccentric only push-up, have the client lower herself as controlled as possible till her chest touches the floor. Only this time, she’ll get a little assistance at the bottom from the band you have wrapped around her waist. Admittedly, it looks a little goofy, but it’s highly effective.

So there you have it. Those are just a few of the alternative variations I like to use in place of the “girl” push-up. Try them out today and let me know how you like them!

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  • Yarb

    Definitely agree with this 100%, going to try the eccentric push ups and incorporate them!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Great! Let me know how they go Yarb!

  • Panguin

    Thank you! That’s very helpful!