Before I get to the exercise we’ll be breaking down today, I just want to give a big heartfelt thank you to all the people who voted for me for Scout Magazine’s “Best Fitness Trainer” in Cambridge.
I was voted into the final 3 nominees, which is pretty darn cool, and now the voting is in the final stages, between the last of us 3 nominees.
If you haven’t voted yet, but want to support me, you can vote by clicking here. You’re allowed to vote once per day with every email address you have. Thanks to everyone out there who’s been showing me support.
Disclaimer: As is the case with all of the exercises I breakdown in this ongoing series (and any exercise you may be doing on your own), these should be performed with good technique and should be pain free. If you are in pain while doing any of these exercises and your form is solid, please go see a medical professional for this, and not your personal trainer/strength coach. Though many of us are well versed in rehab practices for common injuries, it is way outside of our scope of practice.
The Benefits of the Push up:
As with many of the exercises I’ve broken down throughout this series, there are multiple benefits to performing a proper push up and include, but are not limited to:
- Greater upper body strength
- Improved scapular mechanics
- Large variety of regressions and progressions for people of all strength levels.
How to Perform the Push up:
With the push up we want to make sure the first thing we do is get set-up correctly. In the correct push up position, your hands should be just slightly outside of shoulder width apart, but also shoulder height. Your abs and glutes should be squeezed tightly, and your neck should be packed back (think like you were trying to give yourself a double chin). If done correctly, it will look like someone could draw a straight line down your back that would connect the back of your head, upper back, butt, back of the knees, and heels to one another. Lastly, your toes should be dug into the ground, which will allow you to generate more tension in the posterior chain.
I can’t tell you how many times I see people begin to get themselves set up to perform their first rep, and watch them place their hands so wide apart, they look like they’re ready to hold the iron cross.
Another common mistake I see from people is placing their hands way out in front of their shoulders, at almost eye level, sound familiar? If your hands are in line with eye level, then chances are they are too high.
Once you’ve set yourself up in the correct push up position, you’ll begin the eccentric phase of the exercise by squeezing your shoulder blades together and down while you simultaneously lower yourself to the ground. In fact, the cue that I use most often with my clients is “Don’t lower yourself down, pull yourself down.” If done correctly, it will almost feel like you are performing a Row.
Make sure to keep your head back and stay long through your spine on the way down, so it doesn’t look like you are dive bombing into the push up.
As you continue your descent, we want to make sure that our elbows stay over our wrists, and more specifically the heals of our palms. This should keep the upper part of your arm (humerus) abducted somewhere between 45 and 60 degrees from the shoulder.
Once your sternum has made contact with the ground, press forcefully through the palms, as if you were trying to push the ground away from you. Be sure to keep your core tight on the way up, as this is where most people let go of their tension, and end up doing something that looks like “the worm”.
When done correctly it should look like this:
Push ups should be part of most people’s programs, however they may be programmed in differently based on your individual needs, and strength level.
For the beginner, or someone who is looking to clean up their technique, I would perform them multiple times/week. Don’t worry if you don’t feel strong enough yet to do them with correct form, because there are tons of regressions to get you to the point where you can perform them properly, such as these 3 favorites of mine:
- Push ups from the knees
- Incline push ups
- Band Assisted Push Ups
For the more experienced lifter who feels confident in their form and wants more of a challenge, you can always add weight plates to your back, bands, and even chains draped around your neck, all of which will make them much more challenging.
The frequency may vary in which you perform them for the more experienced lifter, but I would shy away from cutting them out of your programs for long blocks of time, as they can really help with overall shoulder health, and will help to build many of your other pressing exercises when used as an accessory exercise.