In Praise of Girl push ups
I follow the power law in exercise to get the most benefit in the least amount of time.
While some personality types enjoy brutalizing themselves at the gym for hours as a way to unwind, I prefer quick cold plunges in the south sailing basin, or even quicker strength workouts that push my muscles just past the point of exhaustion, telling them that they need to get stronger.
This is based on the science of strength. You don’t need to use heavy weights or work out for a long time to induce a hormetic stress response. With a low load, and a brief applied effort, you can max our a muscle group and get all the benefits of longer workouts or more intense lifts.
I recently learned the concept of the drop set, which is a way to double or triple the benefits of a single max out, with just a bit more effort.
Push ups can illustrate the drop set easily.
First, you do the number of regular pushups that can do before your arms start to give out beneath you. Then you do a few more.
Next, with no break, you switch your hands onto a chair or some sturdy raised platform and repeat the push-up until you’re totally fatigued again.
Finally, you get into the kneeling modified push-up, or “girl push-up,” and do one final set. The idea is that you are dropping the resistance with each set so that you can continue to eke out those last muscle fibers that are sustaining the movement until every final fiber is torn and in need of repair.
I rarely feel tired for more than a few minutes afterwards, such that it’s tempting to repeat over and over.
I resist this temptation because of the diminishing returns after a single drop set and because I’m less likely to fully apply the effort to go to true exhaustion if I subconsciously know that I have more sets to do later. Finally, working out too much makes me overeat. Again, the subconscious feels that it has earned a binge, when it has ample nutrients to repair the muscles already.
The fitness industry is warped by the kind of people that are drawn to base their lives around exercise — masochists with Body Dysmorphia — who have themselves been sold a false bill of goods.
You don’t need expensive protein powders and well-oiled Cybex machines to stay fit. You can do it with girl push-ups in between chores, without changing your clothes or breaking a sweat.
Get a free PDF guide to Power Law health and wellness here.