No Excuse Not to Push

If you don't have access to a hotel gym, or the local gyms are not so local, you can always resort to the old army standby: push-ups. Push-ups are great because they work multiple muscle groups—the pecs, triceps, and deltoids—and they ain't easy.

If you doubt the payoff of this tried-and-true exercise, you should read about the workout regimen of former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL standout Herschel Walker. This fleet-footed 6-foot, 1-inch, 222-pound athlete was built like a Greek god but insisted he never touched a weight in his life. The secret to his splendid physique? Push-ups. Admittedly, he did thousands a day, but the fact remains: You don't need to pump iron to get good results.

To make them even more effective, you can do a variety of push-ups in addition to the normal 3-1-3 shoulder-width method:

>- Slow push-ups. Fifteen-second push-ups (try 10 seconds up, 5 seconds down) are a sure way to humble your ego and strengthen your pecs and triceps.

>- The big ouch: Instead of locking your elbows at the top of the push-up, pause midway up and then midway down. Without rest during a repetition your muscles will become fatigued that much quicker.

>- Wide width: Place your arms approximately four to six inches outside your shoulders. This will tweak the muscles in your pecs more than it will those in your triceps.

>- Narrow: Place your hands just a couple of inches apart beneath the chest. This one is a great way to put extra emphasis on the triceps.

>- Elevated push-ups: Place your feet on a chair or sofa and have at it. The higher your feet, the harder the pushup. Remember to take your shoes off if you're using Mom's sofa.

When Joe was climbing mountains for a book called To The Top, a large-format photography book on the highest mountain in each of the 50 states, he was worried that he'd lose upper body strength since he would not have access to a gym. Virtually every day he did 200 push-ups, including a few sets on the top of Mount Rainier—at 14,420 feet, the highest mountain in the state of Washington.

With each variation, make sure that your form remains sound.

Keep the following tips in mind:

> Keep your abdominals tight.

>- Make sure your back doesn't sag and don't allow your body to touch the floor.

> Perform three sets. Whether your set has 5 or 50, go to the point where you can no longer maintain perfect form. Take anywhere from one minute to 90 seconds to rest in between sets.

An excellent complement to the push-up that you can easily do in any hotel room is chair dips. In Chapter 17, "Chest or Bust," we introduced you to the regular way to do dips in the gym. The chair dip is a variation on that original theme:

1. Sit on the very edge of a chair with your hands gripping the chair's edge.

2. Keeping your legs straight, slide your buttocks off the chair. As you do so, keep your arms straight.

3. Slowly bend your elbows, lowering your buttocks to the floor—without touching the floor.

4. Slowly reverse the position by straightening your arms.

5. Repeat this slowly for as many repetitions as you can with good form.

If these are too easy, elevate your feet on a low bench or chair.

Chair dips—start and end position.

Chair dips—middle position.

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