The term “Girly Pushups” has always bothered me. As someone who is able to do “regular” pushups (pushups starting from a plank position) as opposed to the modified version (starting from a knee plank), I remember being confused in PE Class when the female teacher told all the girls they could do this version, while the boys had to do the more difficult exercise.
More recently, as I was observing a fellow Health Professional, I was shocked when she asked her male client to perform the modified version. The client in question was recovering from a shoulder injury and had weak core strength, so the actual exercise didn’t surprise me. But the way she asked him to do it, apologetically, afraid of offending him, as if a grown man might feel ashamed to do an exercise that’s appropriate for him, simply because she tagged on “girly” instead of “knee” in front of “pushups”.
As a result, here I am, making my stand to get rid of this term in the fitness industry. It’s insulting to all of us. When we use the term “girly pushup”, we are not only implying that women are weaker and incapable of performing this classic movement, but we are also using the word “girly” to make this exercise sound lame. As far as asking a man to do knee pushups, I have asked just as many of my male clients to perform this modified version as my female clients. It doesn’t mean you are less of a person, it means you have muscle imbalances and are fixing them correctly.
Let’s talk about the purpose of a modified pushup. We live in a society where we sit at computers all day, gradually letting our cores weaken and allowing our shoulders to roll forward and tighten our pectoral muscles, encouraging our rotator cuff and back muscles to get lazy and stop supporting our shoulder joint. It’s a wonder any of us can do proper pushups to begin with. Since I became a personal trainer, not a day has gone by in the gym without spotting someone, male or female, performing pushups that make me cringe. Even some trainers I know do them incorrectly. Lower backs and shoulder blades collapsing, heads “chicken necking”, arms shaking because you’re about to rip something in your shoulder; it all makes me want to scream at people to stop what they’re doing before they wind up injured. However, the beauty of the knee pushup is that it allows you to take some of the difficulty out of this classic, yet super challenging move. You can focus on engaging your core, keeping your neck aligned with your spine, and allow yourself a greater range of motion. It’s a wonderful exercise to build strength and work up to a regular pushup without wondering why you strained your back the next day. There is nothing shameful about asking your body to move correctly based on your abilities.
So please, do yourself, your clients, and those around you a favor. Stop discounting this exercise, and women, as weak. Putting others down in an effort to raise yourself up is a tactic of the insecure, and the fitness industry should be more focused on supporting one another in order to produce strong, healthy, and equal people.