Hey Guys!!! Happy Monday again! Hope you all had a lovely Easter. Did the Easter bunny bring you any goodies??? I was pleasantly surprised to find some dark chocolate Lindt bunnies at 50% off yesterday and took it as a sign that I needed chocolate. But now it’s time to put chocolate consumption aside and get on with some motivation!
When I was studying to be a personal trainer, we used to refer to Mondays at the gym as ‘International Chest Press Day’. Feeling guilty from a weekend of overindulgence and inactivity, scores of stocky men would waltz upstairs to the weights area to perform bench presses, cable flyes, and dips to their
chest hearts content. After successfully training their chest into submission, they would fluff themselves up like a bird, pose in the mirror and call it a day.
At peak hours in the evening it seemed as if testosterone outweighed the oxygen content in the room. Being about a tenth of the size of these men, I sometimes felt out of place in the weights section. But I figured I had just as much right to be there as they did! I started to watch their routines and take note of the exercises they performed, which made me notice something. None of these men included the push-up in their training routine!!! They could all bench press like a gazillion pounds, but could they lift their own bodyweight with perfect form?
The push-up is a great addition to a fitness program for many reasons. It is a great upper body strength move working the chest and arms, but also engages other large muscle groups including the abdominals, hips, and legs. Push-ups are also considered a benchmark physical strength and stamina. According to fitness pioneer Jack Lalanne, “It takes strength to do them, and it takes endurance to do a lot of them,” (source). And he would know, at age 42, he completed 1,033 push-ups in 23 minutes!
Being able to properly execute a push-up is essential to working the right muscles while avoiding injury. That’s why today I’m getting back to basics and will be explaining the perfect technique along with some modifications and progressions to suit each fitness level. So let’s get started.
The Perfect Push-up
- Hand Placement: Lie face down on the floor with legs extended out behind you. Place your hands just outside your shoulders with finger tips pointing straight forward, and elbows tucked in close to your sides. This is the correct hand placement for a standard push-up. (For variations see below)
- Foot Placement: Feet can be positioned in a few different ways. Ideally feet should remain together at the midline of the body, however, to increase stability you can separate your feet slightly. Separating your feet may also help to prevent arching of the back by forcing your abdominals to engage more.
- Body Position: Body should remain in one long line from the head to the heels. This position should be maintained throughout the entire movement.
- Head Position: Head should remain in a neutral position and be in line with the body throughout the movement. To keep your head still focus on one point as you execute the movement.
- Top Position: At the top position, the arms should be straight, with body in a tightened plank position. Avoid locking the elbows to maintain tension in the working muscles.
- Bottom Position: Your arms should be bent and creating a 90 degree angle (upper arms parallel with the floor). Elbows should be slightly tucked to reduce strain on the joint. Body should still remain in one long line.
- Timing: Perform the push-up in a slow controlled manner, taking 2 seconds on the downward portion (inhale here) and 2 seconds on the upward portion (exhale here).
- Sydney Harbour Bridge – Hips are too high and abs are not engaged.
- Sagging Hips – Hips too low putting strain on the lower back.
- Squishy bum syndrome – glutes are not engaged putting more strain on lower back.
- Chicken feeder – poking head forward and down during the movement causing poor body alignment.
- Fast & furious – Doing reps too quickly and not achieving a full range of motion.
- Modified knee push-up: Place knees on the floor, keeping body in a long line and perform pushups as described above.
- Modified push-ups against a wall: Place feet hip width apart, and hands on a wall in front of you at shoulder height. Hands should be slightly wider than shoulders. Perform push-ups by bending your arms and bringing your chest towards the wall, creating a 90 degree angle in your arms. Pause and return to the start position.
- Triceps push-up: Create a diamond shape with your hands by connecting the thumbs and pointer fingers of your left and right hand. Line up the diamond shape so that your thumbs are in alignment with the middle of your chest. Keeping elbows tucked closely by your sides, perform the push-up as described above.
Mastering the perfect push-up comes with time and practice, but keep at it! Set yourself a target of how many push-ups you would like to be able to complete without stopping and with perfect form. Not sure where to start? Here’s a calculator to tell you how many push-ups you should be doing if you are in good shape.
Now drop and give me 20!!!