Your new-found internet workout says: Exercise A- 3 sets of 10.
Hmmm. What if you can’t do Exercise A for even 1 rep? What do you do then?
And this is a common predicament when designing workouts for men over 50 years old.
You might be so de-conditioned you just can’t perform the exercise or other issues like mobility or pain prevent you from doing it.
So what do you do? How do you workout?
Be a marine. Improvise. That’s one idea.
Or use a Progression Table.
For every movement (push, pull, hinge, squat and carry) there is a sequence of exercises that build from simple to most difficult.
So if you have the exercise options sorted into a progression table, you should be able to find a version of the movement that is perfect for your unique requirements at any given time.
You have to be able to do push ups. They’re just so basic.
But what if you can’t?
Find out what you can do on the progression table. Find your starting point.
And just work from there.
Let’s see how it works.
You can probably do this one at least for a few reps. The Push Up from Knees shortens up your body length (the lever or the distance from your hands to the pivot point) and this reduces the force needed to lift your body.
Just basic physics.
So try this one first.
The Plank is a static or isometric hold exercise designed to strengthen your core musculature. Weakness in your midsection prevents you from keeping your body straight while performing the push up.
So the plank is a good exercise to build up your ability to maintain proper form throughout the push up movement. The plank is always included when designing workouts for men over 50. It is a foundation exercise.
This is a hybrid variation using the negative movement (descent) with full length body and then switching to the Push Up from Knees on the positive (up) movement. Focus on controlling your descent and maintaining a straight body in the first half and then switch to your knees and push up forcefully. This will help you progress quickly.
The Push Up from Knees modifies the length of your body lever to adjust the apparent weight of your body (makes you feel lighter). Another variable to play with is the angle of your body during the movement.
So if you incline your body or raise your hands above the level of your feet, the apparent weight of your body will decrease (it will be easier to push).
So the Incline Push Up is next in line. Easier to push but you still need to maintain a straight body line.
There is no video for the Half Push Up but it is simply the top half movement of the Standard Push Up. So from the plank position with arms straight, go down half way and then push back up to the top position.
You are likely stronger on the top half of this movement. The farther you descend, the more difficult it is to push back up.
In fact you can perform this modified version with any increment of depth. Quarter push ups, eighth push ups, just go down one inch and then back up. Then progress to 2 inches and so on.
The partial rep can be used to gradually move you towards a full rep push up.
I usually don’t like partials but for the push up, it can be quite effective to move you past your sticking point.
The bottom section of the push up will be the most difficult for you. Those first few inches moving out of the bottom position (chest 2 inches from the floor). This is primarily your pecs (chest) and front deltoids (shoulders) doing the work.
This is why many guys never do a proper push up. They stick with the top half or two-thirds but never train the full rep.
Don’t be a “Half Repper” unless you’re doing them on purpose.
Take as much time as you need to progress to the full rep. Nice straight body line, all the way down and then all the way back up.
The next variation is to simply pick up one foot and tuck in behind your other ankle. So essentially you go from a 4 point stance to 3 point stance. And the 3 point position is a bit more difficult.
Return to the “angle of attack” variable. Just as the Incline Push Up is easier than the Standard Push Up, the Decline Push Up (when your feet are elevated above your hands) is more difficult.
This variation moves your hands up off the ground so you can get a deeper stretch at the bottom of the movement. You essentially go “below the floor” and really engage your pectoral muscles.
The sky’s the limit with push up variations. You can modify hand positions (wide, narrow or staggered), body angles, add weights (like a weighted vest), make them explosive (like plyometric push ups or clapping push ups where you blast the upward stroke so aggressively you jump your hands off the ground), it’s only up to your imagination.
This version is called a T Push Up or Push up with a Twist. It incorporates a twist to a side plank between each rep. I like T Push Ups.
There is a progression of exercises for any movement:
The goal of designing effective workouts for men over 50 (or really anybody), is to:
What do you know about exercise progressions? Where could you use some help? Please comment below.
Mark aka The Old Spartan and Over-50 Fitness Savior is a 62 year old coffee guzzling father of five wandering the outdoors around Albuquerque, New Mexico. Mark helps Active Boomers get lean, healthy and strong so their energy soars and they live awesome lives using his signature Spartan Method system.
Please log in again. The login page will open in a new window. After logging in you can close it and return to this page.