The full push up is Joseph Pilates interpretation of the Sun Salutation, so it seemed a particularly good way to start my days while on vacation. This exercise is made up of a long sequence of pilates moves that, given proper alignment, use many of the 600 muscles in your body!
#1. The Head Hang
Inhale to slide your eyes down and pause to allow length along the back of your neck. Let your head hang, but look for an open-ness between the vertebrae. No squashing!
#2. The Standing Roll Down
Exhale as you spine sequence through your torso. You want full support of your body, so lift the front of your spine, ribs and sternum into your curve as you roll down.
This part is NOT A HAMSTRING STRETCH! It lengthens the whole fascial chain from your feet to your eyebrows, but because it brings you into flexion, and drops your sit bones down towards the backs of your knees, it doesn’t get into your hamstrings as much as you might think. To really get into the whole length of your hamstrings, you have to move the femurs (thigh bones) independently of the pelvis. Wait for it… it’s coming, I promise, this part is just the warm up…
#3. Inhale to put your hands flat on the ground, bending your knees as needed. Keep your fingers spread wide and push the flat of your palm and the base of the fingers down as best you can, not just your wrists and finger tips.
#4. Exhale to walk your hands out into a plank position, bringing your hips down as you go, so that by the time your hands are beneath your shoulders, your hips are in line with the rest of your body. No piking!
The big trick here is to prevent your hips and shoulders from shifting as you move. You need strong, supple muscles to do this. Not just abs, but shoulders and hips, too.
Think of how a cat lifts its’ paws up out of a puddle. You need to fold the moving arms at the elbow and shoulder joints while the other arm is long and stable.
Keep the shoulder blades wide on your back, (reaching towards your underarms, not your neck) which helps to activate your rhomboids and serratus anterior.
As an extra tip, keep your eyes open and looking at the wall behind you as you start your walk out, so you don’t pull into the back of the neck.
#5. The Plank
Once you are in your plank, take a moment to spread your shoulder blades, turn the elbow pits forward, stabilize the front of your ribs and make sure your hips are open at the front so you aren’t piking.
#6 The Push Up
Inhale to bend your elbows back towards your ribs and exhale to press up strongly. Repeat three times.
Keep your weight evenly placed over your hands (including your fingers) to avoid straining your wrists. Keep your shoulder blades (scapulae) wide as you move; don’t go too far or you will lose the strong connection from the hands to the shoulders to the core!
#7. Downward Dog
Inhale to hinge up into downward dog (I told you there would be a hip hinge! Hamstrings! Yay!). Keep in mind this is a pilates version of a downward dog, so there is no back extension. Ears between the biceps, shoulders wide, rib tips drawn slightly into centre, sit bones reaching for the wall behind you…no butt tucking!!
Exhale to hand walk back to your rolled over position. Again, try not to let your torso rock from side to side. I think this is way harder now than it was in the original walking out, so be ready! Cat paws in action, press the other hand steadily down into the mat. Ground yourself well, and you will be more able to move. Let your head come down and your eyes track to the wall behind you again as you come to end of the process. Bend your knees as needed to end with your palms flat on the floor.
Inhale to release your hands from the mat
#10 Standing Roll Up
Exhale to spine sequence back up to a neutral aligned stance. Remember that it is VERY tempting to over activate the back muscles and end up with a rib thrust (nooo!! not a rib thrust!!). Don’t do it. Just don’t.
#11 Arm Circle
Inhale to slide your arms up overhead only as far as you can go without pushing your ribs forward or jacking into the tops of your shoulders (trapezius muscles, for those of you who like the technical terms).
Arm Circle Part 2
And finally, exhale to circle the arms out to the sides before flowing through into the whole thing all over again.
Wasn’t that fun?? Don’t you want to break that all down into even more detail?? Me too. Stay tuned.