My first high school coach had one rule at practice; you don’t use the word “CAN’T”. It didn’t matter when or where you used it, if you did....50 laps around the gym. I use to hate the word just because I didn’t want any more laps. I never truly understood why we weren’t allowed to say it. Just that you don’t!
Of all the coaches and trainers I have ever had in my life, that one lesson is the one that stuck with me the most. It has been over 20 years since I was on that gymnastics team. I now find myself teaching that lesson to every one of my students, clients, team mates and friends. Don’t you dare use that word around me! If you do..... push ups. This word has become the bane of my career as a trainer. Why do I hate it?
There is nothing that you “CAN’T” do, there is nothing you “CAN’T” be, and there is nothing you “CAN’T” become. You have to be willing to work for it. You have to be willing to push for it. Most important you have to be willing to believe in yourself. This is the biggest problem with people today. We use this word “CAN’T” too much. It is the first thing that just pops out of our mouths. I ask a client to do something, the first thing they say is what they “CAN’T” do. Worst of all, we are teaching this to our kids. I have children saying they “CAN’T” do something, as they are doing it. I don’t care about what you “CAN’T” do. I care about what you CAN do.
Where does this apply with training? Let us take a look at my form of punishment for using the “CAN’T” word...... “Push ups”. When I tell anyone to do a push up for the first time, I get the same response “I CAN’T do them from my feet!” I’m sorry did I say from the feet? I said push up. We always put that hurdle in front of us. We always look at the most difficult method of doing something and say I “CAN’T”. So why “CAN’T” you? Is it too difficult? You’re right it is! But you CAN still do it. If I had a client that weights 300lbs and never worked out before, would I put 192 lbs on the bar and have them bench press it? “No” then why would you have to do a push up from your feet?
Now I know people just read this and asked why “192”? That is the weight the client is lifting when they do push ups from their feet.
A study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research found the percentage of body weight used with four variation of a push up:
1. From your feet - 64 percent
2. From your knees- 49 percent
3. With hands on a 24 inch box from the knees- 41 percent
4. Feet on a 24 inch box- 75 percent
Training is all about progression. You do what you CAN, until you CAN do more. If a push up is too difficult “that you are unable to do it at this time”. Drop to your knees, to your waist, stand up and lean on a counter, a picnic table, a wall. Don’t just say I “CAN’T” and not try something. Modify the exercise so that you CAN. When that starts to get too easy, modify it again and again and again. Continue to challenge yourself. If you CAN only do one from your feet, do it! Then drop to your knees for the rest of them. Next time try for 2, then 3 then 4. That is how you CAN do it. How you will do it!
As a trainer, it is my job to help you. You have to believe it first. Believe in yourself and stop using that word! It took me a little while but, I learned that lesson. So to that high school coach and gym teacher I say “thank you Mrs. Hayes, you taught me well!”
Ebben, W., Wirm., et al. Kinetic Analysis of Several Variations of Push-Ups. Journal of Strength and
Conditioning Research. 2011. 25(10), 2891-2894