The Perfect Pushup

I have never been able to do more than 20 push-ups a set,despite having spent several years training for various obstacle course races. Tough Mudder, Spartan Race, Go Ruck (to name a few of the bigger ones). My training routines were always high intensity interval workups always involving push-ups of some sort. I was in really good shape needless to say and yet the push-up eluded me still. At the higher numbers I start to focus on the muscles “I think” are needed to achieve the exercise; My back arches, my head tucks under and it begins to seem physically impossible to do more.

Now that I have been doing Tai Chi, I realized that it isn’t a physical limitation that I was running in to but a mental one. This whole time I have been losing focus and the whole body. As the strain comes, my mind goes immediately to the areas that burn, which then takes focus off of the entire rest of the body destroying any form I may have.

There is a concept when practicing that my teacher constantly reminds us of; extending up through the spine. The common description for how it should feel is “The top of your head should feel suspended by a string”. My teacher does not like this description and I tend to agree with him. It implies that the force is “pulling” your spine straight (IE coming from somewhere external), when in fact your spine should be “Extending up and out” from your center.

The imagery I have is that there is a form of energy going up my spine like a spike. It is almost “pushing” up my spine and head until it feels like there is a solid steel beam that my entire spine is being supported by. I’m not sure if this is correct or not, but that is what tends to help me practice. My imagery may change over time :).

This concept is what has helped me destroy my mental push-up limit. I am now up to 30 push-ups per set and I am on my way to going right past that.

The cool thing about the concept is that it doesn’t matter what orientation your body is, is still applies. So when I set up to do push-ups now I go through the following routine;

  1. Get in position (basically the plank position)
  2. Relax in to my Dantian (or center if you prefer)
  3. Visualize my spine extending out and forward horizontal to the ground
    1. I can my spine straighten at this point
  4. Tighten my core
  5. Profit – repeat

As I progress through the set my intention stays relaxed and loosely focused only on the above steps. As the muscles start to burn, my breath deepens but I still hold those concepts. Having those in mind help me, not ignore the burning, but incorporate it in to the exercise almost absorbing it in my body until its just a dim feeling.

This has been working so well for me, that I have started to apply them to pullups (another killer for me). I have increased the amount of pull-ups I can do considerably in only 2 weeks!! They are still quite the challenge for me (only can do 8 ATM). But all progress happens slowly, eventually I will have one more aspect of my mind tamed.

Today’s Practice:

We recorded our 24 form today for personal critiques. I am learning the camera angles allowed inside the practice space and have already come up with some new directions I want to setup to allow for better capture. I will be editing my video here soon, I did the other students first. I will be posting it on here just to document my progress on the form.

  • 1.5 hours Primordial Qigong (Hunyuan Qigong)
  • 45 minutes Silk Reeling
  • 25 Minutes 24 Form

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