Fit Minute: Pushing the limit with incline push ups

Revolution Fitness’ Alex Carew demonstrates the second progression of an inclined push up exercise Photo by Ryan Vermette

Drop down and give me 20! Push ups are a universally recognized exercise. Everyone knows what it is, and everyone has almost certainly done a few in their lifetime.  But what if there is a way to modify them so that you can strengthen your core and shoulders even more? 

Alex Carew, who runs Revolution Fitness on Atlantic Avenue, demonstrated an incline push up exercise that will work the core, rotator cuff, chest, tricep, abs, and hip flexor. 

This exercise has three progressions to it. The first progression requires a wall or a tall object to anchor yourself on, placing your legs roughly a shoulder-width apart, and your hands slightly on the inside of your shoulder with the arms fully extended. 

“You want to really press through your shoulders,” he said. “You want to be up on the tiptoes, take the opposite knee up to the opposite elbow, down, push up.”

Carew says to start with eight on each side for 16 total, but you can work up to 20. 

For Progression Two, he says to use an object that is roughly the height of a chair. With the height lowered, this progression is more difficult than the first. 

“Definitely more difficult, same rules apply. Pressing through the shoulders, that way you are engaging your rotator cuff, opposite knee to elbow, down, pushup.”

The third, and hardest progression involves a normal push up stance on the ground. Carew says to make sure you have the proper form for this exercise as many people don’t have the right stance when doing push ups, which could cause issues.
“You want your shoulders over your hands. A lot of people that do push ups are kind of lazy with their hands out in front of their shoulders. That’s really bad because you’re actually going to run the risk of injuring your rotator cuff doing it that way.”

When doing these progressions, Carew noted two main points that will make a difference in how beneficial the exercise can be. The first being to make sure that you tighten your core. 

“You want to brace with your abdomen. You want to keep your stomach really tight. Basically draw the belly button back to the spine almost as if someone is going to punch you in the gut.”

The second point is making sure that the body is in the shape of an arrow.

“I don’t want my triceps next to my body, I actually want them out almost at like a 45 degree angle from the shoulders.”

Carew says beginners should start by doing a total of 12 (six on each side) on progression one and work towards the next progression after maxing out at 20. 

“The start point should be 12 total and you can progress all the way up to 20. Once you reach 20, move to the next progression.”

He said that it can be an every other day exercise, and like the progressions, you can work your way up to doing it on a daily basis.