In Defense of Knee Pushups (and all other things scaled): By Coach Adele Jackson-Gibson


In Defense of Knee Pushups (and all other things scaled): By Coach Adele Jackson-Gibson

Recently, I’ve been feeling like slapping people.

Not just any people. No I’m not that cruel, but maybe a little crazy. Why? Because I want to smack all of those boys from my childhood who made fun of their female counterparts for doing “girl push ups”, also known as “knee push ups”, also known as “a legitimate exercise”. Unfortunately, I can’t travel through time and so my feelings might seem utterly insane. But my programming lately has included a lot of these “girly” pushups and I’m only now learning that these babies kick my ass.

The other day I attempted three sets of 25 at about a 2-1-2 tempo. I barely finished my second set without breaking it up. I was told that to be able to do a one-armed pushup one day that I had to build my pushup form from the ground up. I thought I was going to blow through this knee push up progression easily because I had been doing regular push ups for most of my life. I was really strong of a kid. Proud of it. And shamefully, I admit … maybe I did kind of look down on people doing the knee push up so I probably should slap myself. But damn: I did not give this exercise enough credit.

Doing knee push ups correctly at a high rep scheme is pretty challenging and that’s awesome and all. But what I really love about them is that after doing them frequently for a few weeks I’ve discovered my pushups come WOD-time are so much stronger than they ever were before. I can hit many more reps without getting gassed out as quickly. It’s awesome!

I discovered the same thing with ring rows: I’ve been wanting to improve my pull ups, so I was told to practice ring rows a whole lot more. Now my pull is so much more consistent for higher rep pull up volumes.

I’m mentioning all of this because I want to tell y’all not to sleep on those scaled options, yo!

I know that this is Cross Training and everyone wants to aim for Rx. But these accessory exercises that are often put into scaled variations are great for building strength and fixing imbalances for a lot of the gymnastics movements in Cross Training. For example, I may have been able to do push ups when I was young, but I now feel much more efficient and stronger in the movement, which could potentially protect my joints in the long run.

So if you’re an injured Rx warrior, don’t get down on yourself and don’t push yourself to do a movement that can harm you. You can get benefits and potentially become a better athlete by focusing on a scaled option for a bit. (I may or may not be talking to myself here.)

And if you aren’t an Rx beast (yet), don’t sweat it. You’ll get there as you continue to build strength and work on your skills.

Sometimes after class — and even throughout the day — I like to perform a few quality reps of a scaled movement just so my body continues to build/maintain the proper neuromuscular responses to perform efficiently in those movements. I’m in this fitness thing for the long haul. I’m in it to tweak, re-tune and perfect.

Knee push ups are definitely a part of this girl’s equation.