Human movement can be reduced to three basic categories: pushing, pulling, and hip extension (squatting, jumping, running, and even riding a bike). Functional fitness begins with learning good form for this essential repertoire and then gradually adding weight and difficulty to build stability and strength. Doing these exercises correctly with five pounds, in other words, is better than doing them poorly with 100. In the words of Gray Cook, one of the founding fathers of functional training, "Don't add strength to dysfunction."
Push-ups activate a chain of muscles – particularly in your arms, shoulders, chest, and back – that are key for everything from getting up off the ground to shoving something heavy into the back of an SUV. The humble push-up beats the bench press for developing this functional push strength because the push-up doesn't take your back and legs out of the movement.
- Start in a plank position, holding the spine neutral, no sagging.
- Stabilize the shoulder joints by pulling shoulder blades down toward your heels (this is fundamental to all push-and-pull exercises).
- Place hands so that when you drop, your nipples line up with the base of your palms. Lower until your chest touches the ground.
Credit: Photograph by Terrence Darvin
- Bosu Push-Ups: To engage your core even more, add an unstable surface to your push-up with a Bosu ball. With the round side down, grab the handles at the edge of the flat disk and do push-ups as described.