The push-up is one of the most beneficial full-body exercises out there. Notice I said full-body? Many people label the push-up as only upper body because we are pushing and lowering the body using the shoulders and arms. But, in order to properly execute this exercise, we must first create and maintain stability throughout the entire kinetic chain. This means that the ankles, knees, hips, and spine must remain rigid as we complete the movement.
First step to perfecting the push-up is figuring out what level you are at. Try your luck at a push-up from the ground… Are you able to complete several repetitions while keeping the body in-line, without the hips dropping? If not, the floor version is simply too difficult and you need to be regressed to execute properly. The smith machine and/or squat rack are really the best pieces of equipment for improving your push-up and being able to progress until you are doing the regular version from the floor. If you aren’t a member of a gym, a table, counter, or some type of elevated surface may be a suitable alternative. By elevating the push-up, we are placing less weight on the upper body and require less core stability to maintain the correct body position. I really don’t like push-ups from the knees since it shortens the lever arm and doesn’t challenge the core like regular push-ups do.
The key points to proper push-ups is maintaining a rigid core, and proper shoulder/arm position. The hands should be placed slightly wider than shoulder width and the elbows track at approximately 45 degrees in relation to the body. Oftentimes, you will see people with the arms flaring out to the side, level with the shoulders, this is incorrect. Next, every joint from the feet all the way through the spine need to be held rigid throughout the upper body movement. Now that you have a better sense of proper technique, try your luck at a push-up again but now from an elevated platform, any better?
By working solely on the push-up and progressively lowering the angle of incline as you are able, you will see improvements in your push-up form and performance. I’d recommend adding several additional exercises into your program, which will also lead to improvements in the push-up. These exercises target both upper body strength and reflexive core stability, which ultimately factor into push-up performance. Complete the following exercises for 2-3 sets of 8-12 repetitions, and 30-45sec on the planks:
Enjoy the improvements in your push-up! Remember, we are targeting not only the upper body, but the core with this exercise, so you benefit in more ways then most expect. If this post helped you improve your push-up in some way, or if you still have questions, please leave a comment below.
By: Garrett McLaughlin, MS, ATC, CSCS, ART