DIGGING DEEPER - Get to Know Your Pilates Exercises: Push Ups

  Push Ups

By Amanda Turner


This month we’re focusing on Push Ups! Without fail, this is the most commonly “complained” about exercise. Every time I announce Push Ups are next, I get a sigh of “but do I have to?” And my answer is “Yes, yes, you do!” They are so good for you and the foundation for so many exercises. They don’t have to be big, chest to the floor Push Ups either! We can start with just holding the top of the push up position, feeling strong, and then progressing from there. The Push Up contains several pieces to the exercise (duh, it’s Pilates - there’s always a fancy, choreographed way of getting into position) and increases the heart rate to finish your Mat work standing and feeling invigorated.  

Before we get started, please note - a modification for the Push Up is NOT dropping your knees to the Mat. Push Ups are also an advanced level exercise, one of the first that you’ll learn.  

Set Up:

You can choose your Pilates “V” (my preference) or parallel together. Arms reach over head. Check in on your shoulders, knit the ribs together, and squeeze your glutes.  

To Begin:

1.) Keeping your hips over your heels, round forward (if you’ve used a Wunda Chair - imagine doing the Push Down with hands to the pedal). 

2.) Plant your hands to the Mat. If you do not have the flexibility for that, bend your knees.

3.) Taking 4 steps with your hands walking out into a Push Up position.  There’s a long line from your heels to the top of your head - make sure your hips are not above or below that line! Squeeze everything! Heels, inner thighs, glutes, scoop the abdominals. Press your hands into the floor to keep the shoulders in their sockets and away from your ears. This isn’t just an arm exercise; I cannot emphasize the glutes and inner thighs enough!

4.) Begin to bend the elbows - the elbows will pull back toward the hip bones, arms staying tight to the body - almost as if your body is gliding forward to go down. Do not get into your shoulders, I commonly see a lot of movement in the shoulder blade area but generally that means you're not bending your elbows enough - your arms are levers for your back. Focus on bending and straightening while keeping the rest of the body stiff. You’ll work up to 4 reps.

5.) Pike the hips up and take 4 steps to walk back toward your feet, returning the way you started. Plant your heels, squeeze them tightly, and roll up to standing, reversing the pattern of the arms, reaching them forward and up to the ceiling. Repeat this for 3 sets.  


If you have wrist issues you could try making fists and being on your knuckles or if you have shoulder issues you could try your Push Ups standing against a wall.  The standing Push Up works for those who are recovering from shoulder injuries also.  

Want to make it harder?

1.) Lift a foot off the Mat during the Push Up, replacing it as you walk in and out of the Push Up position.
2.)Keep a foot lifted for the duration of the exercise - Rolling down, while walking out, while performing the Push Up, and while Rolling Up.
3.) Add a clap as you’re pushing off the Mat.

Exercises to improve your Push Up:
~The Roll Up
~Long Stretch on the Reformer
~Arm Springs
~The Push Down on the Wunda Chair
~The Pull Up on the Wunda Chair
~Table on the Wunda Chair

Happy Push Ups Everyone - remember, no judgement on what yours looks like at this current moment, just know with consistent practice they will improve over time!