Even though I can lift moderately heavy weights and carry loads of stuff (sup, gym bag), I’ve resigned myself to not being able to do full-on push-ups. Every time an instructor tells me to drop down and give them 20, I immediately drop to my knees and knock out some of the modified version—which is still challenging, BTW. But then I went to Pilates and learned a much appreciated hack for doing regular push-ups, which lets even those of us who are always modifying to do the full move like pros.
The secret? Using a Pilates ring. “By placing the Pilates ring vertically underneath your chest, it offers support to maintain a strong plank position in your push-up,” says Pilates instructor Hannah McMullen. “It’ll keep your core engaged and your alignment in check, rather than letting weight dump into your lower back or your shoulders. If you’re used to doing modified push-ups with your knees down, you’ll surprise yourself with how much stronger you feel with the ring and your ability to support your body weight and stay in the full plank position.”
She’s right—when I tried out the move, I was shocked by how much easier doing full push-ups felt with the magic ring, and was able to do way more than I could do on my knees. It will also give you plenty of leverage, which majorly helps with strength building, too. “The ring offers resistance,” says McMullen. “On the way down, you can actively push down against the ring, trying to squish it in half. Then on the way up, if you force yourself to lift up slowly, you’ll engage your core more, maintain better form, and have more control.” The thing about the ring is that it naturally is trying to snap back into its circle form, so McMullen says that by controlling how fast that happens, it makes your body work harder—in a good way. You can use the Pilates ring with regular push-ups, and also tricep push-ups (the ones with your elbows straight back behind you while you push down and up by staying close to your ribcage).
Ready to slay those push-ups using the ring? Here’s how to do ’em, according to McMullen.
1. Start in a quadricep hands and knees position. Place the ring vertically under your chest so that one of the outer pads is pushing against your mat and the other is lined up with your sternum. Your hands should frame the ring and be shoulder-distance apart with your palms and fingers spread wide.
2. Step feet back to plank position.
3. Inhale as you slowly bend your arms, lowering your body towards the mat—keeping straight plank alignment—and squishing the ring.
4. Exhale as you slowly straighten your arms, resisting the ring to push back up to your full plank.
5. Repeat 10 times.
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