The Tribune - Spectrum

Sunday, May 28, 2000

Push-ups for good posture
By Anup Deb Nath

STANDING tall and correct , with a good posture, can make anyone look much better. A strong, well-toned back with a straight line can actually make you look much slimmer. The only way to a shapely back is to work out correctly. Posture, of course, is a matter of standing correctly.Often a weak set of abdominal muscles tends to lay more stress on the back and throw the posture out of gear as well.

Another reason for back problems can be an overemphasis on doing only exercises targeting the abdomen and leaving the back out completely. As a part of the routine workout, the back should be given its due as well . Once a week, exercises to strengthen and shape up the back are essential. The back has many muscles: the latissumus dorsi also called lats, which is a large muscle of the lower back which is attached to the upper arms; the trapezius is a muscle that extends across the upper back, and the rhomboid muscles are under the trapezius muscle. While working out your back, it is important to remember certain basics in order for the exercises to be effective. Any exercises, if done incorrectly, can result in more harm than good .Therefore, it is important to go slow and check that you are doing it by the book.

  Regular exercise can strengthen the backWhile doing bent over back exercises remember that your back should be parallel to the floor. Try to keep your back as naturally straight as possible and don’t let it sway over. While lifting your leg up make sure that it is lifted straight but you don’t lock your knee. Your head should be held in such a way that you are looking down and not up or sideways. Try not to rotate your torso while you work out your back. Keep your shoulders and neck relaxed and don’t try to pull them together. Breathe properly and don’t hold your breath while working out. The slower you do the return movement ,the better it works.

Apart from the back ,the other parts of the body that need to be worked out and often aren’t are the shoulders, triceps and other muscles that are located at the back of the upper arms. Indian women, in particular, have an overall weak upper body and they should work on this area. Push ups are one way of strengthening the triceps, shoulders, the chest and the upper arm muscles.

Push-ups, particularly in the beginning ,are almost impossible to do. These must be done correctly ,if done incorrectly they can harm your back. There are two versions of push-ups, the tougher and perfect ones and the easier ones for the beginners . In the easier version of the push-ups, you can bend your knees and then push up . The difficult push-ups are done by balancing on the front of the feet .

For many people even the easier versions of push-ups are tough and can cause a back ache. In such cases you could start with wall push-ups and then graduate on to the easier, conventional push-ups and further on to the advanced version, as your upper body becomes stronger.

For wall push-ups you should stand facing a wall ,with your feet shoulder width apart. Stand perfectly straight with your back straight and tummy pulled in.

Bend your arms and keep your arms flat a little more than shoulder width apart. Lean into the wall till your upper arms are parallel to the wall. To move away from the wall ,straighten your arms and move yourself. Start with a set of eight repetitions and gradually increase it till you are able to easily do three sets, then graduate on to the easy push-up version, lying on the floor resting on your knees. You must take care to pull your abdominal muscles inwards, towards your spine and ensure that your back does not arch.

Inhale, as you lower your body in a push- up and exhale as you come up. Try not to go very low down even though many people try to touch their chin on the floor. As you do push- ups, your entire body should move up and down as one and the entire line of the back should be straight. Perfect push- ups are tough, but with a little practice they are not impossible. You can do them whenever and wherever you like, without needing any gadgets or apparatus.

This feature was published on May 21, 2000