I'm a woman in my mid 40s and have been working out for a few years now. I like to take a mix of classes that work on cardio, toning and core strength. I've made great progress: I know I'm fit aerobically and I have good muscle definition. But I still can't do push-ups on my toes (I do them on my knees) and I can't touch my toes. Can someone be inherently weak in these areas? What can I do to improve or shouldn't I worry about it?

ask the trainer, jim beatty

It's certainly true, we all have weaknesses. Often times, due to our environment and its demands, specific weakness can happen on the back side of the body in the spinal muscles, the gluteal muscles, and the hamstrings. Because muscle imbalances and flexibility are so closely tied together, weakness in the hamstrings and low back will often show as being tight, or "not being able to touch your toes."


These weaknesses will plague all of us unless we do the right things to strengthen them. Begin performing Bridges, specifically Bridges with your heels on either a bench or a ball to strengthen this chain of muscle. Other exercises like Still-leg Dead-lifts, and Squatting properly can also help to strengthen these muscles quickly, improving overall strength, function, and posture. As you get stronger here, you should also become more flexible.


Women typically have trouble with pushups, but can certainly overcome this weakness with a few specific exercises. I've often heard the term "girly pushups," which refers to pushups off the knees, but I'm not sure where it came from. Not sure if it's true, but I can envision a high school gym class in the 50s with the girls in their uniforms, and the teacher saying, "It's okay honey, you can do them off your knees." While pushups off your knees are better than no pushups at all, they only use about 60% of your bodyweight, which unfortunately will never help you to use 100% of your bodyweight. It's like if you had a goal of picking up 100lbs, but all you ever practiced picking up was 60lbs. You just won't get any closer to that 100lb goal. In order to be able to do the full 100% you've got to use the full 100%.


Here's where the specific training comes in. You can perform Negative Pushups. This means only performing the lowering phase of a pushup, without pushing yourself back up. This allows you to work with your full bodyweight and with gravity. This increase in load will build the brain-to-muscle connections and the strength needed to do full pushups. By practicing this style of pushup, the day will soon come when you'll just know that you can push yourself back up… and there's your pushup!


Strengthening these 2 main areas will change things all together, and you just might feel better than you have in a long time!