Trainer Nelson sings praises of effective push-up

EDITOR’S NOTE: Since 1992, Meredith Nelson has been combining her extensive fitness background with her counseling skills to help people overcome their personal limitations — physical and psychological. Her hobby and interest in physical fitness led to the establishment of PrimeTime Fitness in 2000. She has numerous certifications in training, including one in golf fitness.

Q: Is the push-up a good exercise for the core, and if so, why?

A: Oh, yeah. Think of doing a “plank” but in vertical motion.

Q: To avoid overuse injuries, do you have any suggestions on how many times a week people should do push-ups? Give me an example of how you’d work push-ups into a routine.

A: I’ve known and heard of people who claim to do push-ups every day. Personally, I like to do them two or three times a week because my body weight is only so much. I use added resistance from weights or machines on other days once or twice a week.

So you want an example? Last weekend, I did a workout that just about killed me. ... Every 15 seconds I did five push-ups and one pull-up. Do that for 10 minutes straight. And that was my warm-up.

Q: How important is it to warm up and/or stretch before doing push-ups?

A: Warm-ups are important if you want to avoid injury, and also if you want to set a personal record. If you are just doing push-ups to do them, a warm-up isn’t terribly important. Sometimes I even do a few push-ups as a part of my warm-up.

But on the days I want to max out, I make sure I am warmed up with at least 10 minutes of cardio or other dynamic movement.

Q: What are the biggest misconceptions about the push-up?

A: “I can’t do them.” Everybody can do push-ups. Modifications are OK as long as they are efficient. Most people do them with the majority of their body weight on their knees.

David Quick

Sometimes you just can’t improve on old school.

The push-up, for example, continues to be a staple for strength training for its simple yet effective ability to tax multiple upper body and core muscle groups. The exercise also is adaptable, depending on ability level. And even better, it doesn’t require weights, benches or machines to do them.

“In my opinion, the push-up, the pull-up, plank and squat are the most effective exercises you can do,” says Meredith Nelson, a longtime local trainer and owner of PrimeTime Fitness on Sullivan’s Island.

“Each one trains a different muscle group and movement pattern, and a combination of all four can give you a full-body workout. Too easy? Let me know. I can give you variations on each one — no equipment needed — to make a grown man cry. Or at least whimper a little.”

Nelson says the benefits of push-ups are not only as a chest and tricep strengthener, but “a fabulous ab exercise.”

“I often coach my clients by telling them to ‘pull’ themselves up using their abs as opposed to pushing up with their arms,” says Nelson. “In real life, we push, we pull. We need to be able to push. Even if you have limitations, you can perform a modified push-up.”

As part of a functional body-weight routine, Nelson says the push-up deserves recognition.

And she did just that in 2007 when she helped launch the idea of a push-up competition for charity, created by PrimeTime trainer Ken Brown to raise money for the Trident Boys & Girls Club.

Push Up & Up

When the club disbanded in 2011, Mindelle and Loren Ziff took over the event as an effort to promote health and prevent high school dropouts by raising money for Communities in Schools programs. The Ziffs renamed it Push Up & Up Charleston Challenge.

“This push-up challenge has a unique way of galvanizing students, friends, families and employees to improve their own wellness while supporting at-risk youth,” says Mindelle Ziff. “It’s not as hard as you might think. It’s a fun event, and anyone can do it.”

Last year, more than 220 people, both teens and adults, on 37 six-member teams cranked out 62,545 push-ups on a Saturday morning in the Push-Up & Up Charleston Challenge. In the end, they raised $40,000.

This year’s event, sponsored by the Medical University of South Carolina, is Saturday morning at Marion Square in Charleston (also the opening day of the Charleston Farmers Market).

The first push-ups are set to begin at 9:20 a.m., starting with the school division, and last 20 minutes. Middle and high school students from public and private schools are invited to participate.

The adult divisions, both open and competitive, are expected to start at 10 a.m. and last 30 minutes.

So far this year, the challenge has 53 teams registered, including six teams from the offices of Carolina One Real Estate.

Dave Sansom, broker-in-charge at Carolina One’s office on West Coleman Boulevard in Mount Pleasant, said two teams from the firm participated last year and had so much fun that they reached out for more this year.

“It was about as much fun as you can have in a push-up competition,” says Sansom, noting that team members take turns doing five push-ups at a time.

Ziff says there is still time for teams to register and for individuals or businesses to sponsor school teams. Although the school division is free to register, school teams are asked to seek sponsorships of $500 to earn free T-shirts.

To compete in the open and competitive divisions, registration is $150 ($25 per person). Each team’s goal is to raise at least $1,000 toward Communities in Schools’ dropout-prevention programs.

PrimeTime all in

Nelson plans to regain the crown captured by SCE&G Team One last year when she was in Italy and overcoming back surgery.

“I am so excited to be able to participate again this year and am expecting Team PrimeTime to make me proud. We do hope to reclaim our title, but if we don’t, our hope is that the Communities in Schools is a better program for our efforts,” says Nelson.

“I am incredibly surprised at how the challenge has grown. I am even more proud of Ken for all the work he puts into the challenge every year. He and the Ziffs do a great job. It is not a small undertaking, and they have made it into a great event.”

Reach David Quick at 937-5516 or dquick@postand courier.com.