Push-ups – exercise of the patriarchy or feminist?

// 7 April 2008

If this was a film set in the army, rather than a feminist blog, it would inevitable involve a drill sergeant saying “drop and give me 20”. But it’s not, and so I must admit I haven’t previously directed much attention to the push-up. This piece in the San Francisco Chronicle is very interesting though.

First off, there is the fact that the exercise is divided into “proper push-ups” and “girl push-ups”, the latter, of course, being the easy version in which you lever the press-up from your knees rather than your feet. So far, so obviously sexist.

But what’s particularly interesting is the divergance of opinion on whether the whole notion of a push-up is inherantly sexist:

The article “simply assumes women should be not only able to complete male push-ups, even though the push-up is an exercise invented by males and for males which, like its brother exercise the pull-up and all those spacial analysis questions, has served for generations solely to (shaft) women on elementary school achievement tests,” went a post on Jezebel.com, echoing a popular sentiment. “But what’s more: the story suggests that a woman of forty should be able to complete sixteen of these patriarchal exercises.”

But Kelly Mills argues that it’s not the exercise that’s sexist, but the way that women are discouraged from strength training, building muscle and doing “man” exercises.

Here’s a newsflash about why women have a hard time with push-ups: We don’t do them. We don’t do other kinds of weight training that would build the necessary strength. You could be relatively fit, but that doesn’t mean you would go out and run a marathon with no training unless you are crazy. You generally have to practice anything to be able to do it. So what if some men start off having an easier time with push-ups? (And, by the way, I know from training experience that plenty of men are not automatic experts.) There’s no reason women can’t knock out a good set, and do them well from the feet in time.

Mills suggests that women should do 10 minutes of push-ups a day, and conquer the exercise.

Women don’t do push ups because they think of them as a man exercise. Same goes for weightlifting. We teach women to strive for thin and toned, but not strong and powerful. I mean, be athletic, but not so athletic that you can kick a guy’s rear end at strength endeavors.

I know from personal experience that when I walk into the free weight area of some gyms, it will be almost entirely populated by sweaty guys grunting in front of the mirror, and that when I pick up a barbell for overhead presses, I will get strange looks from some of those guys. Very few will offer to spot my bench press. And a 1996 study published in the Illinois Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance journal also found that women were more likely to underestimate the amount they could bench press than men. We are conditioned to think we can’t possibly lift like men, or crank out a set of 20 nice push-ups, and, if we do, we are too masculine. We’re taught to hide our strength or minimize it or just avoid using it altogether. “Could you give me a hand carrying this box, guy-from-my-office-who-never-works-out?”

I don’t think that we should be striving for any particular body type; that’s just replacing one set of expectations with another. But I don’t think that physical strength is a bad thing to be aiming for, if it’s possible in your particular set of circumstances.

Comments From You

Samara // Posted 7 April 2008 at 4:12 pm

Well, I laugh at the idea of a drill sergeant telling me to “drop and give him 20” because that wouldn’t be a challenge at all for this girly girl!

Martial artists do a lot of push ups, and everybody at my dojang, men women and children, is expected to do “proper” ones. If you find it impossible to do a full push up with the correct technique, you are encouraged to keep your knees on the floor and just build up to it, but there is never, ever any lack of expectation that anybody of any gender will eventually progress to being able to do full push ups, sometimes up to 100 in one lesson (my instructor is a sadist!)

For the first colour belt grading in ITF Taekwondo, candidates have to do ten push ups. Most men can do this straight off, and most women find it a real challenge that they have to train for. But in the same grading, candidates have to do exercises that demonstrate their flexibility, which most women can do naturally and most men find very difficult. Although before they start training men tend to be stronger and women tend to be more flexible, everybody is expected to train hard to overcome their weaknesses, and by the time students get to black belt level, most of the women can do dozens of full push ups and most of the men can do the splits.

Amongst the children at my club gender really doesn’t seem to be an issue either – they all get on well, happily spar with each other, help each other up when they fall over and cheer each other on in tournaments regardless of gender. Perhaps this is at least partly because the same expectations are made of boys and girls. It certainly wasn’t like that when I was at school – the mixed football and netball tournaments that my primary school participated in had rules that stated that “At least three girls must be on the pitch/court at any given time”. Way to reinforce the idea that boys are more desirable team members than girls even at the age of 10.

It’s true that men naturally have greater muscle mass in relation to their size and thus will, on average, find any exercise such as a push up that uses the natural weight of the body easier than women will. That’s just a biological fact, but it doesn’t mean that women can’t do anything that requires physical strength. You’re right though that women are very rarely encouraged to do any exercise that doesn’t involve just mincing around in pink yoga outfits. And I’ve often observed women exaggerating their relative physical weakness to highlight their femininity. I’m reminded of a work outing I went on a couple of years ago to a bowling alley, when all of the girls made a massive *show* of “struggling” to pick up the very lightest bowling balls. It was pathetic. It’s really unfortunate that being “weak” is seen as such an important facet of femininity when weakness really does a person no favours whatsoever. I may not be particularly “feminine”, but I can do a 540 degree spinning kick, I once floored a rapist, and I know how to make someone lose bladder control with my bare hands. It’s much more fun than being “weak”.

Jess McCabe // Posted 7 April 2008 at 4:25 pm

“I know how to make someone lose bladder control with my bare hands”

Is this something that can be taught to a fairly unco-ordinated person?!!!

Anne Onne // Posted 7 April 2008 at 4:49 pm

Whilst I do believe that biologically as women we have a disadvantage (on average we tend to be shorter, and our bodies tend to put on fat rather than muscle), I don’t think it means we can’t build strength through excersise just like men are conditioned to do.

I would agree that women, whether they excercise or not, are probably stronger than they or anyone else thinks. I always find that even though I do little ‘real’ exercise (apart from walking everywhere), I am not bad at lifting things, and frequently draw comments on my strength. Being 5’3” or so, and not exactly a burly lass (some people are gifted with muscles!) , but I think my ‘strength’ comes not from being an unusually strong woman, but being a woman who believes in her physical ability. I’m careful to guage how heavy things are, and don’t try to show off by lifting something I know I can’t handle (I shouldn’t, back problems!), but I am not afraid to lift things that a lot of women would be discouraged from lifting.

I don’t just think it’s lifting. We women get messages to get men to do anything remotely physical, rather than do it ourselves. I like being prompt, so I don’t like waiting for other people to do things for me if I can do them myself.

I must say, though, that my lifting things men just don’t expect a woman to do works weirdly on some men. Once I was loading coke cans (those large shrink-wrapped packs shops buy them in, I don’t know exactly how many there were, but at least two dozen), taking the packs one at a time, bending from the knees and everything. The guy I was working with seemed a bit nonplussed because I started cheerfully shifting them and didn’t defer to him and lift something lighter instead. He started lifting them two at a time, and three at a time, visibly struggling with them. It both amused and saddened me that some men would rather do their backs in to prove they are stronger than women.

You don’t need to do it, guys! I’m not trying to out-man you! I just want to get by in my life, and be able to do the things I need to do. There won’t always be people around to help me, so I need to help myself. I think this is what we need to encourage women to do – learn to do things, not to participate in some imagined battle-of-the-sexes, but for themselves, because men won’t always be around for them. We have the skill and power to do so much we never realised (I’ve had my dad deferring typically male problem-solving tasks to me :) )

So yeah, I agree. Teach women to be independent, that they can be physically strong, and to have fun. We may never be able to lift more than the world’s strongest man, but there’s plenty we will be able to achieve with hard work!

Feminist Avatar // Posted 7 April 2008 at 5:16 pm

Well, in my ‘girly’ pilates and yoga classes, we are expected to be able to do push ups. We can start with out knees on the floor if we can’t manage. But, despite them being all women classes (not by exclusion, just is), it don’t make it any less humiliating not to be able to do a ‘proper’ push-up.

In my youth and student days, I have worked on buildings sites and in retail. I used to be able to lift at least three of slabs of coke at a time and shift 30kg of potatoes no problem at all. And I wasn’t unusual. The women I worked with took pride in the fact that they were as strong as the men- it was part of the work culture.

The thing is, in the past, women used to carry a hundredweight of coal from mines, or make cheese which involves massive weights. The weights normal women were expected to carry would make the modern man cry. Physical strength is mostly about training and repeated practice.

Samara Ginsberg // Posted 7 April 2008 at 5:23 pm

It is indeed! You just have to hit your victim extremely hard exactly half way between the belly button and the groin. Although it sounds amusing it’s really not that great as a self defence move – with a moving target it’s not easy to hit the right spot, and a wrist lock will incapacitate your attacker much more effectively.

Ruth // Posted 7 April 2008 at 6:41 pm

This article was really interesting, and I certainly agree that it is a positive thing to strive to be strong-if nothing else it makes things easier in life!

I play women’s rugby for an under 18’s team, and from the sheer physical strength of my team-mates I know it can be done! Most of them could easily give anyone a run for their money, and one girl can bench press her own weight!

I do find it particularly irritating though, when it is assumed that you’re weak because you’re female. I stack shelves in a supermarket, and so lug 20kg crates around for over ten hours a week, yet still people make comments like “Oh, isn’t that a bit heavy for you?”. I even had one lady ask me why the ‘men’ weren’t doing it!

Learning some kind of martial art really appeals to me, because from the experience my friends have had, there seems to be a lower level of sexism with it than other sports.

a. brown // Posted 7 April 2008 at 7:54 pm

This article has inspired me to start working out my arms. I just started exercising again, and what a great reason to do push-ups– a “fuck you” to the patriarchy.

Freya // Posted 7 April 2008 at 8:06 pm

I can’t tell you how refreshing this article is, society treats the female as a fragile invalid, *incapable* of building muscles or doing her share of heavy physical work. I totally abhor benevolent sexism. Thank you, somehow makes me feel relaxed knowing there’s, well, moral support in the world.

Rooroo // Posted 7 April 2008 at 8:16 pm

I think it’s sad that there’s this perception that women ‘tone’ with loads of cardio and weights that are lighter than their gym bags, and men go to the free weights room to ‘bulk’.

While there are differences in men and women concerning differing hormones and physiological reactions to them, take a 7 year old boy and girl, and there’s little difference in their musculoskeletal structure – no reason enough to tell them that they both can’t do press ups with feet on the ground rather than knees, even if it requires a bit of extra teaching on technique.

It took me a while, but I can now do several sets of pushups with my feet elevated. I wish rather than telling me to do push ups on my knees, I had been taught how to build up strength to doing push ups properly in a step by step process, rather than treating me like a foregone conclusion that could only do the ‘diluted’ version.

I lift heavy and I like my physical strength. I feel no less feminine for it. I don’t lift ‘like a man’, I lift like me!

EBaezaChavez // Posted 7 April 2008 at 8:27 pm

I was taught not to do “proper” push ups because they put pressure on the uterus, thats why there is the women’s version. That might be crap, but it seems convincing.

Jess McCabe // Posted 7 April 2008 at 8:54 pm

Sounds unlikely, I must say! How does a push up put pressure on the uterus?

Rooroo // Posted 7 April 2008 at 9:07 pm

Yeah the, “Don’t deadlift/squat/do chin ups/push ups otherwise your uterus will fall out” isn’t new.

Given how functional the push up is i.e. pushing a heavy door, object or person ;-) away, I’d expect to see a lot of prolapses out there…

Anne Onne // Posted 7 April 2008 at 10:31 pm

It also makes no sense if we look at the reality out there in the physical world. Many women worldwide work very hard labour because of poverty, work most men in this country would have trouble doing. I find it ridiculous that people will insist that women can’t do something when it’s pretty demonstrable they can. Just how much work for a woman or man is too much for their physical level is another issue, but overworking an untrained body is a problem for both men and women, and naturally everyone should work up to harder levels and understand what their body can take. When people assume all women are fragile flowers, they also assume that any man, by virtue of having teh miraculous penis must be able to lift amazing weights, and be stronger than any woman out there, even if she’s a well-honed athlete, and he’s never lifted anything heavier than the remote.

EBaezaChavez // Posted 7 April 2008 at 11:13 pm

It won’t fall out (eek!), but it is a ligamentous organ and its position in the pelvis shifts depending on whether you are upright or prone, so there is a chance that you could weaken or damage the pelvic connective tissue. Activities which increase pressure on the abdomen and pelvis, such a heavy lifting are generally advised against for this reason.

I really would advise anyone against trying to shift 20 0r 30kg crates around. I think the HSE recommend guideline is something in the region of 15 Kg for women. Having suffered from a torn chest ligament, I have to say it is not worth risking it. It is great proving you are as strong as men, until you get chronic lower back pain = not fun :-( . For reals.

Rooroo // Posted 7 April 2008 at 11:14 pm

Absolutely, Anne. While I still have a lot to learn, it’s amazing how I’ve noticed how a lot of guys don’t know what they’re doing themselves in the free weights room. I’ve seen guys do exercises dangerously and incorrectly, for the sake of all the extra weight they’re hauling about, so perhaps insecurity spreads that way too.

However, I know that despite me knowing how well I deadlift/squat or whatever, if I tried to give pointers to someone, I’ll probably be ignored and/or overlooked for the buff looking guy with the big guns, because he’ll obviously know what he’s doing?

rooroo // Posted 8 April 2008 at 1:34 pm

I think it’s more of a case of being aware of your limits, and doing exercises with correct form, rather than heavier weights being the problem. The uterus itself is held in position by a number of linings and ligaments and if they were that delicate, we’d be telling women not to run marathons, bound up stairs or cough too much, without even taking into account other organ systems, so I’m not quite sure why the uterus is under the spotlight in this instance. It could have easily been the bladder, or rectum.

I haven’t seen the source of that information from the HSE, but they’d have to tell a hell of a lot of women to stop picking up something like… their own children if that were the case. Again, correct form and being aware of one’s limits helps to lessen the risk of injury.

I’ve just done a search on Pubmed and Medline plus and I can’t find a single paper that supports this assumption.

Juliet // Posted 8 April 2008 at 4:19 pm

Rooroo, that’s a good point about lifting children. My sister, who doesn’t go to the gym, has developed quite big muscles in her arms purely from lifting and carrying her two toddlers every day.

The biggest risk factor for prolapses is having kids – I don’t notice any doctors telling women not to do that!!!

Jess McCabe // Posted 8 April 2008 at 4:29 pm

I checked out this HSE business, and it is true that they recommend 15kg as a maximum weight for lifting things in the workplace. However, it doesn’t mention uteruses, and also gives a limit of about 20kg for men – much less than the weight involved in doing a push-up, I would guess, and certainly in a pull-up, which clearly involves lifting your whole body weight.

When you’re lifting heavy boxes, etc, you’re picking up irregular shaped objects off of the ground. That’s quite a different thing to doing an exercise.

EBaezaChavez // Posted 8 April 2008 at 4:32 pm

Thats what “ligamentous” means- held in place by ligaments. Actually it does apply to the bladder and rectum, you can get prolapse of both, cystourethrocele and rectocele respectively. Coughing especially heavily over a long period of time (such as by smokers) and heavy lifting are risk factors in uterine prolapse.

The source of info is on the HSE webpage. Actually 15Kg is about 2.4 stone or roughly the weight of the average male five year old child. It seems about right —any more and you start risking back problems.

I can’t find a paper linking push ups per se but there are quite a few studies linking a higher incidence of women who suffer uterine prolapse with employment in manual occupations (involving heavy lifting). Try the BMJ archives or American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Wiggly // Posted 8 April 2008 at 4:48 pm


‘The biggest risk factor for prolapses is having kids – I don’t notice any doctors telling women not to do that!!!’

Thank you for pointing this out as this is something that REALLY annoys me. Giving birth is FAR more dangerous for a women than doing a bit of exercise that involves weights/lifting etc.

rooroo // Posted 8 April 2008 at 6:33 pm

I’ve had a look and found one abstract on a paper that’s 14 years old, but it seems that they’re concluding causation from correlation. Will have another look later tonight.

As others said, childbirth and aging seem to be the largest risk factors for causing the ligaments and muscles to become weak, I can see how raised intra-abdominal pressure would put further pressure on already weak structures, but then again, they’re just that – already weak.

I deadlift more than 60kgs, I must be done for! If anything, that’s given me the confidence to lift heavier things (boxes/luggage/moving crates) as I know what I’m doing and I don’t have to depend on anyone else to do it for me. I guess it comes down to a cost/benefit analysis of what’s more important to you, I know what I’m happy doing.

A friend recently had a new fridge delivered, it was about 17kgs so not that heavy, she lifts heavy weights, yet her female flatmate said they should not try to bring it upstairs until, “One of the boys gets home.”

EBaezaChavez // Posted 9 April 2008 at 1:09 am

Actually lots of doctors, good doctors advise women not to have children all

the time, where there is a serious risk to their health.

Childbirth is a calculated risk- the odds of suffering a serious complication in the abscence of medical condition or history is low in this country (thankfully). But telling women not to have children because it will increase their risk of a prolapse later in life is like telling people

that light is toxic for the eyes and may cause cataracts or macular degeneration later. Its true, but do we want to live in darkness?

I’m sorry but I just don’t believe that you “deadlift” 60Kg. Thats more than I weigh!

But why does the admission that women can’t lift more than men as a generic group stir up such hostility? We are different, our biology is different, we have more fatty tissue, we live longer. Why does “equal” have to mean the same? Why is it sexist to offer an alternative to the regular press up?

As far as the push up- it not just the issue of pushing against your weight, but you are working against gravity, because of the kinetics you are generating a greater force on the abdominal cavity.

But far and away the greatest problem lifting heavy weights even with the correct technique is that the weight being lifted doesn’t reflect the pressure being generated on the lower back, it is this rather than the weight itself that is the problem. If I knew more about physics I would example it in terms of torque and Newtons, but I don’t so I can’t.

I have been told to do the modified push up during a British Military Fitness class and as a cadet in the RAF. I’m not saying they are right but I don’t believe they were just being sexist in saying this. There were no exceptions made to do with any other calisthentics.

Wiggly // Posted 9 April 2008 at 9:40 am

It’s not sexist to point out the fact that biologically men and women are different and nor is it necessarily about equality meaning ‘the same’.

The problem stems from the fact that because of this biological difference women are are actively discouraged from doing many things (not just exercise and weight lifting). The mechanisms by which this is done are not always overt so it’s easy to forget/dismiss how insidious it is.

BTW – totally agree with you about the lifting thing. Attended a manual handling course recently and was shocked to see the actual figures on what kind of stress is being put on your lower back from lifting even ‘light’ objects.

Jane // Posted 9 April 2008 at 11:11 am

I do weight training because osteoperosis runs in our family and weight bearing exercise has a proven effect in reducing the risk. My instructor has always told me:

1. The butch blokey ‘ooof oooof’ technique of heavy weights and bulging muscle is a waste of time. Much better to use weights you’re comfortable with and do each exercise slooooowly.

2. It’s nonsense to say women can’t do push-ups. I’ve been trained to concentrate on ‘core muscles’ so I keep my stomach tight which in turn protects the back. I then do however many press-ups as I feel like. My strength has built up in my upper arms. There are no bulging muscles either, just a nice sinewy effect.

I also do Astanga yoga which was originally designed for teenage boys as a way of harnessing their aggression. I’ve seen many a grown man obviously forced to attend by his doctor, who thinks it’s all going to be wanky ‘ohhhmmmming’ and sitting cross legged, who stagger out of the class an hour later feeling about two inches taller.

chem_fem // Posted 9 April 2008 at 3:29 pm

Why is it sexist to offer an alternative to the regular press up?

It isn’t unless you are suggesting that women should only do the alternative because they can’t do the original exercise. Almost all women can work up to a regular press up, some will be able to do it without training, others will have to train for a while to be able to do it.

It is sexist to stick women in a group and make wild generalisations about what they can and can’t do in comparison to men when it will apply to some but not all of the individuals in that group.

I’ve happily weight trained as part of my training for climbing when I had the time and my body felt much better for it. I’m sure for some women their experience will be different and everyone should listen to their own bodies and decide for themselves. I hate people (women included) who use the excuse that ‘women are different to men’ to suggest that a type of exercise is not for women.

I think all women should have all forms or exercise open to them and not be discouraged from achieving what is ‘fit’ for them. A press up has never been a big deal for me.

Limits at work are different, work is not the controlled atmosphere that a gym is and lighter weights should be used as recommendations because people are probably more likely to think about completing a task than about how that task will affect the body.

rooroo // Posted 9 April 2008 at 4:03 pm

Why would I lie about my deadlift? I’m certainly not doing it to impress some random on the internet, and if I was going to I would have picked a better figure than that! My body weight is 48kg, I’m 5ft1, after a year and a half of training, I can deadlift 60kgs. This was a long process for me, and I’m proud that I have achieved what I have so far. So what if it’s more than what you weigh? It’s more than what I weigh. This woman can deadlift 90kgs, 150% of her body weight. http://gubernatrix.co.uk/2008/01/my-deadlift-then-and-now/

I certainly have nothing to gain from lying, I’m just sorry you feel I do. If you’re ever in the London area, you’re more than welcome to come and see me workout, or see a video clip of me on my blog when I put it up.

velenka // Posted 9 April 2008 at 5:06 pm

Just because it is more than you weigh, EBaezaChavez, does not mean there isn’t someone out there who can’t deadlift it. I warm up with 40kg, do a medium set at 60kg, and max out at 80kg (can only do 2 reps before my grip threatens to go, but I stand up strait and finish the lift twice). For someone who does not challenge themselves with heavy weights, I could see how this is unbelievable… I suppose. But as a 5’5 150 lb woman, I acheived and passed 60lb max after 6 months of training.

I also just had my annual ob-gyn visit and my uterus appears to be just fine.

Tamara // Posted 9 April 2008 at 5:08 pm

Don’t sell her short, Chavez.

Women are stronger than you think. This is coming from a personal trainer and med student; 60 Kg is not unreasonable at all. I deadlift 150 lbs for 8 reps; 4 sets. That’s 68 kg. I’m no She-Hulk. And my reproductive organs are just fine, thanks.

Just because *you* can’t do it, doesn’t mean we all can’t.

Danielle // Posted 9 April 2008 at 5:09 pm

I did a bit of training once with the Territorial Army, they had this assumption that women were better at sit-ups, men were better at press-ups, but no one assumed that the women in the group were incapable of doing a full press-up, and we were offered the “girly” (I hate ther implication of that) press-up only if we felt incapable of doing more.

Even the men were offered this lesser option, though needless to say none took it! (Not while anyone was watcing, at any rate)

EBaezaChavez // Posted 9 April 2008 at 6:43 pm

whoa whoa- lets just get down from our high horses shall we? What I actually said was I think there are convincing reasons behind this theory, I’m not totally sold on it either (and it applies to push ups not all sports).

Re: Rooroo, I did disbelieve you but probably because I am a puny weakling :-). Though technically I can lift close to this when I go climbing or surfing (my own body weight out of the water). So yes, I stand corrected and impressed, especially given it is harder for women to build muscle up due to less testosterone.

Tamara- please don’t tell me what I think, you don’t know me and you have no clue. That kind of condescencion isn’t endearing, least of all from a would be doctor.

Also your uterus is fine? Great– although I don’t really give a monkey’s if I’m honest.

I think this is a false dichotomy. It would be sexist to expect women to perfom exactly the same physical tasks as men in order to enter a profession, such as 60 press ups in two minutes for the marines, unless there is an even and fair, achievable baseline, as with the Police physical.

chem_fem // Posted 9 April 2008 at 8:54 pm

“I think this is a false dichotomy. It would be sexist to expect women to perfom exactly the same physical tasks as men in order to enter a profession, such as 60 press ups in two minutes for the marines, unless there is an even and fair, achievable baseline, as with the Police physical.”

I disagree. I believe that it is sexist to lower the level of fitness required for a women to do the same job as a man. If there is a good reason why that number of pushups is required for the marines, then a woman who gets in doing less is in more danger, because she is not up to the requirements.

I believe that there are probably very few women (and there are only a few men) who are up to joining the Marines. Those that are should be allowed, but lowering the level so that some more women can get in is insulting – especially to the women who are up to it. To do any thing else is just chivalry.

However if a level of fitness is held at a certain level just to keep women out of an organisation/profession then that is wrong. I doubt that is the case though, as the level of fitness required, would have been around long before the likelihood of women meeting it was realised.

Danielle // Posted 10 April 2008 at 7:12 am

Do you know what I think is sexist? That women can’t join the marines, even if they DO pass the training!* I mean, what is the point of doing the training if you’re still going to be denied entry? And on what grounds, other than women have periods?

*(This might have changed recently, The last I heard about this was a few years ago.)

Jane // Posted 10 April 2008 at 11:14 am

Can’t believe I’m arguing about pushups ffsake. But . . . .

As with most exercises, there are different levels of difficulty you can aim for, whether you’re male or female. Suppose you’re a weedy man or a man alone in his house and therefore not out to impress his mates?

1. Then you do your pushups by kneeling, sucking in your beer belly and putting your hands flat on the floor. You huff and puff, do one pushup and then collapse in front of the football.

2. The next level is to keep your legs straight, suck in your stomach, attempt to do one pushup and fall over.

3. If you’re REALLY HARD or you’ve got a stunt double like Demi Moore in that shite film G.I. Jane, you do your pushups one handed.

There was a programme a few years ago where rugby players had to do a ballet class. Any cheap laughs about ‘men in tutus’ was soon replaced by an awestruck silence at the athleticism of male dancers vaulting and spinning round the room.

Seph // Posted 22 April 2008 at 1:47 pm

It almost makes me laugh at the stupidity when male friends or classmates insist on trying to carry things for me, I don’t weight train but after spending most of my childhood in fights with two 6 foot tall, 30-something older brothers I can throw most of my male friends around like a ragdoll.

Stereotypically it’s women who always carry the children around, does it not occur to most people that carrying a wriggling, complaining thing that weighs about 2 sacks of potatoes is a damn sight harder than carrying a paving tile?

Jill // Posted 24 April 2008 at 9:51 pm

I’ve had an aversion to strength training ever since the Canada Fitness Tests of grade 5-7 (I can’t remember if they did them beyond that).

I was completely humiliated for what I couldn’t do, and made an example of on several occasions. I have no idea if I’ll ever be able to do a “man” push up. I hope so. That’s more that what’d I’d say even a year ago (A male push up? No #@$@#$ way I can do it!) . . . but please, people, approach folks from the “here’s how” angle instead of any condescending or defeating angle. It’s amazing the psychological strength needed to do physical feats.

Bryony // Posted 19 May 2008 at 5:20 pm

I don’t know if this is accurate or not, but at school we were all (boys included) made to do ‘girly’ (although my school called them ‘kneeling’) push-ups, on the grounds that the full push-ups were bad for our backs. Can’t say anyone ever mentioned the uterus…

Cara // Posted 19 May 2008 at 10:43 pm

I have just started going to the gym again. To be honest, I don’t think bulging boofy muscles is a good look (for men, too) but toned is good. By which I actually mean toned, not “starved little thing with no fat on her so on wonder her muscles look toned”.

Yeah – chivalry annoys me. Whoever said “benevolent sexism” – exactly.

It is assumed that women are incapable of anything physical. OK so obviously, on average men have more muscle and are larger…doesn’t mean women cannot do anything, that a larger and naturally athletic women could not kick a weedy unfit guy’s ass. It is a way to make women feel they need the “protection” of men and are “vulnerable” so we stay home like good girls and don’t, you know, enroach on male spheres.

I argued with some guy who said he would rather not have a female firefighter as they wouldn’t be able to drag him out of a burning building – well, there are 2 ladies above who can lift almost his weight! So there. And as if firefighters work alone, anyway. What an idiot.

I can lift 20kg, in terms of lugging a box or case etc., and I am unfit and 5ft0. HSE are overcautious – but then as someone said, that’s their job. Obviously lifting in a gym is different to lugging crates of Coke or whatever.

I now feel doubly inspired to get fit and healthy and strong. Shove the sexist morons :-)

And good to know how to make someone lose bladder control, too. ;-)

Mindy // Posted 5 March 2010 at 6:03 pm

Well, I’ve read the article and a great deal of comments on this page, and from my experience with a back injury, trying to recover, and having to do full ‘male’ pushups, I’d rather, by far, do ‘female’ ones.

The same reason I hurt doing planks, I hurt after a while of doing push ups–especially during pt when they make us do anywhere between 80 to 120 pushups. By the 40th one, I’m getting nerve pain, and am struggling to make it down to the 90 degree elbow bend and to keep my back straight. I am by no means out of shape. I’m able to pass each of my pt tests with an 85% or higher [I’m in the USAF]–and if anything I just suck at running [14 minutes for a 1.5 mile run–laaaaame. If only I could master my breathing pattern].

In my opinion–seeing as the female and male body are truly physically different–we should simply do modified push ups–but MORE of them to make up for the so-called easiness of them. I imagine 200 modified push ups are equal to 100 male pushups–and it’d be easier on my back. I hate the fact that I’m expected to do less of the male push ups [bare minimum standard is 27 for females, and 45 for males; at least in basic] which hurt me instead of being expected to do a lot, if not more, modified pushups which /don’t/ hurt me.

Sexist or not–I know what hurts and what doesn’t, and I grew up in an army family taught to do a perfect push up since I was little. I /still/ can only do at best 35 perfect 90-degree-bend back-straight pushups. Give me my modified push ups so I can actually improve.

Jessica Metaneira // Posted 26 December 2010 at 9:23 pm

Am I the only one who never had trouble doing push ups, and could do a handful of pullups easily (can now do 17)?

I don’t want to hear how it’s sexist to expect women to be strong. What’s sexist is labelling strength as male then telling women they shouldn’t try and be strong ‘like men’ because they’re ‘equal but not the same’…ie, don’t encroach on ‘our’ sphere please.

Glad to see other women are like me and don’t let the stereotypes get in the way of health and strength.

Sarah // Posted 4 April 2011 at 6:53 am

Hello! I can clean and jerk 220 lbs and snatch 180. I can do regular push-ups and pull-ups. I’m 5 feet 5 inches and weigh 130 pounds. I’m also 42, and my uterus is fine. How about as women we stop limiting ourselves? P.S. I didn’t start training until I was 39 (to try to get rid of a bad back that a year of physical therapy didn’t help).

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