Fitness challenge: Push ups a test of strength for arms

By Danielle Nicholson -
Push ups: Not one of the author's greatest strength.  Photo / file
Push ups: Not one of the author's greatest strength. Photo / file

As a teenager, I always failed the upper body strength part of the fitness tests that Ms Smith put us through in PE class at Fairfield College in the 1990s.

I dreaded the bent-arm hang because I just couldn't do it for more than a second or two before my arms gave out and I fell to the ground. That was before my inner rebel (I use that term lightly!) emerged in sixth form and I'd just head to the library (or home) instead of going to PE.

Fast forward 20 years and I feel like my upper body strength is somewhat better thanks to the work I've been doing with Advance Wellness & Physiotherapy personal trainer Lynsey Graham (I actually have biceps - hurrah!) Although perhaps not when it comes to press ups. Lynsey has put me through my paces each week in our one-on-one gym sessions and last week's was perhaps the most intense yet. On the whiteboard she had written up:

1. Ladder climbs (stepping along a ladder rope on the floor)

2. Squats (self explanatory)

3. TRX rows (holding on to straps and using your body weight as resistance to pull into a row - it works lateral muscles)

4. Push ups

5. Ropes (waving big heavy ropes to work the arms and shoulders)

6. V pose (bending your body into a V while sitting on the ground, holding hands under knees for support - works core muscles).

The idea was to work my way through the list starting with 1 and 2, then doing 1, 2 and 3, then 1, 2, 3 and 4 and so on until I ran through the whole list, doing each exercise each time for one minute. Once I'd done that, I'd work my way backwards, dropping off exercise 1, then 2 etc.

The ladder climbs I was fine with. My squat technique is much improved so that was also fine, likewise the TRX rows and the V pose. The push ups, however, were awful.

My entire upper body was screaming out as I dipped my arms down what I'm sure was just a few centimetres. Allow me to add to this picture of pathetic: they weren't even proper push ups. They were the rest-on-your-knees variety. My 7-year-old can do a better push up than me.

Following that up with the ropes was torture. Those things are really heavy!

Lynsey told me that since it was my birthday she'd let me off doing the last rope and V pose minutes. Not a quitter, I told her thanks but I'd regret not completing the set so I pushed on, a lather of sweat and aching arms.

As I drove home, I could feel every muscle in my arms as I held on to the steering wheel. If they were sore then, imagine how painful they would be the next day. How would I get my arms up high enough to wash my hair in the shower later in the week? (Answer: you won't - you'll dig the dry shampoo out from the back of your bathroom cupboard and use that instead!)

Guess there's still some work to do on my upper body strength, huh.

Advance Wellness Centre is at 711 Victoria Street. For more information about the services they offer see www.advancewellness.nz.

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