Build up gradually to gain strength to do a push-up


April 13, 2003|By Gailor Large | Gailor Large,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

I can't do a full push-up. Any suggestions on how to work up to it?

Start with either wall push-ups (also known as push-aways) or counter-top push-ups, which are done just as they sound. Be sure to keep your back straight. Do three sets of 10-15 repetitions, twice daily.

When your arms are strong enough, you can upgrade to a modified version of the standard push-up. Lying face down with hands beneath your shoulders and your knees on the floor (again, make sure your back is straight), push yourself up as you would with a traditional push-up. (Your knees will support a good deal of your body weight, so you will not find these nearly as difficult as regular push-ups). Slowly lower and repeat.

Within a few weeks, you should be ready for full push-ups (alternate with the modified version at first). Vary the distance between your hands to challenge different muscles, suggests Colleen Gassmann, a fitness specialist at Tide Point Athletic Club in the city.

Now that it's spring and I've started gardening again, my carpal tunnel syndrome is flaring up. What can I do to ease the pain and still continue to garden?

Whether gardening, typing or performing other tasks involving the wrist, you should keep your hand in as neutral, or straight, a position as possible. Cocking your wrist all the way back or all the way forward puts a tremendous amount of pressure on the carpal tunnel, says Chris Blake, president of the American Society of Hand Therapists.

As with any repetitive stress injury, you should vary your activity and take breaks before you feel any pain. Blake also recommends using wide-handled tools - they cut down on tight gripping, which can aggravate the carpal tunnel.

A number of companies have designed gloves (many of which have a gel pad in the carpal tunnel area) to make gardening and other tasks easier. Find them in ergonomic product catalogs, says Blake. If all else fails, have a friend, spouse, or child join help you in the garden. If the pain persists, don't ignore it. Consult your doctor.

I subscribe to a fitness magazine, but it has gotten repetitive and a lot of the content is fluff. Can you suggest a magazine designed for serious exercisers?

There are so many health and fitness magazines out there that it can be dizzying to choose between them.

If you are looking for detailed training and nutrition advice, choose a magazine that is sport specific. For instance, if you're a yogi, try Yoga Journal. If running is more your style, go with Runner's World. There are also exotic choices such as Backpacker, Practical Horseman and Snowboarding. For avid gymgoers, one health club insider recommends Muscle & Fitness for men and Oxygen for women.

When we asked around, Men's Health, Shape, Self, and Fitness were all repeat favorites for general fitness and nutrition coverage. Before settling on a subscription, visit a bookstore or newsstand and try out a few.

Do you have a fitness question? Write to Fitness, The Baltimore Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore, MD 21278. You can also fax questions to 410-783-2519 or e-mail

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