No one walks into the gym the first time around and successfully completes an advanced strength training routine with ease. It just doesn’t happen without a baseline level of strength and knowledge already in place. But just because you’re not ready to do a one-arm dumbbell clean and press, doesn’t mean you can’t master a few moves.
When starting and progressing through a strength training program, I always suggest that you focus on compound movements that engage multiple muscle groups. Stay away from the machine weights and choose body weight training exercises that can be made more difficult with added weight or minor adjustments to joint angle.
Push-ups are an excellent upper body move that targets the chest and triceps, with additional involvement from the core and quads — essentially the entire front side of your body. Start with a basic wall push-up, and as you get stronger, move through the progressions until you feel comfortable with the spider push-ups.
Stand about a foot or two away from the wall and place your palms against it, directly in front of your shoulders. Bend your elbows, and lower your chest toward the wall, keeping your elbows in toward your body. When your elbows form a 90-degree angle, press yourself back to start.
Move your push-up to the floor when you’re feeling a little more confident. Balance on your knees and your palms, with your hands positioned directly below your shoulders. Your body should form a straight line from knees to head. Bend your elbows and lower your chest toward the floor, stopping just before your chest touches down. Press through your palms and push yourself to start.
The toe push-up is just like the knee push-up, but instead of balancing on your knees, you extend your legs and balance on your toes. This is more challenging because you have to engage your entire core to keep your body in a straight line from heels to head, and you’re also lifting more of your total body weight to complete the exercise.
The spider push-up is tricky because it requires more balance, coordination and core engagement than the easier forms of the exercise. Start as if you were performing a toe push-up, but as you bend your elbows and start lowering your chest toward the floor, draw one knee out and up toward the elbow on the same side of your body, trying to touch knee to elbow. Press yourself back to start, returning your foot to the ground. Alternate sides as you perform each set.