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This month I’m going to turn your attention to the Pilates exercise the “Push-up”.  An exercise some of you love and others not so much.

The Push-up is one of a handful of exercises Joseph Pilates (JP) developed for a functional spine.  The exercise hasn’t changed since JP first documented this exercise in his second publication “Return to Life Through Contrology” in 1945 (image 1: JP age 60 performing the exercise)

Rael Isacowitz a practitioner and teacher of Pilates for over 30 years classes the Push-up as an advanced exercise (image 2) taken from the publication “Pilates Anatomy”.

Step 1

Inhale.  TVA engaged, shoulders back and down

Exhale.  Roll down through the spine imagining the vertebrae as a piece of wallpaper peeling off the wall.


If hamstring tightness prohibits placing the palms on the mat, bend the knees sufficiently to allow the body weight to be supported on the palms.

Step 2 early start position into mid start position and late start positionWalk the palms forward to the front support position (image 2)


  • As you swing one arm forward then the other the shoulder flexors act to keep the chest lifted and the upper torso from lowering towards the mat.
  • Keep the pelvis lifted to encourage the use of the abdominal muscles to prevent the lower back from arching
  • Avoid the common error of leaving the glutes lifted in the air!

Step 3

Inhale.  Bend the elbows and lower the chest forward toward the mat

Exhale.  Straighten the elbows and raise the trunk to front support repeat for 3-6 more push-ups, then walk the palms back as the hips flex to return to step 2 then step 1


Imagery is used a lot in Pilates to help you imagine the way we want the body to move when performing this exercise imagine a drawbridge…


  • Maintaining a neutral front support skilled use of all the abdominal muscles and scapular abductors (serratus anterior and the more common pectoralis minor)
  • Strengthening the shoulder flexors (anterior deltoid, pectoralis major to list a few, which are used to raise arms to the front in everyday activity, and sporting activities
  • Strengthening the elbow extensors (mainly the triceps), which are used in everyday and sporting pushing and overhead lifting motions
  • The dynamic movement in and out of the front support provides additional core challenges to achieve a co-ordinated transition from spinal flexion to extension and back to flexion
  • The initial position offers potential dynamic flexibility benefits for the hamstring muscles

So, what’s not to love!

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