Upgrade Your Push-Up

Next up for my writing on different types of movement is upper body pushing. It can be done horizontally or vertically, 2 arms, single arm, or alternating arms. There’s lot of variety between body weight, dumbbells, barbells, bands, kettlebells, and the list can keep going. But for today, we will talk about horizontal pushing and the push-up.

The push-up is one of the best exercises you can do at home (or in a gym), and there are many ways to make it easier or harder. It’s pretty versatile. It trains the muscles of the chest, the shoulders, the triceps, and the core. It tends to be effective too!

Let’s talk about the set-up, and we’ll just use a traditional push-up for this. There are wide, narrow, and offset hand positions but let’s keep it simple here. Your hands should be placed slightly wider than your shoulders and in a position that looks like an “arrow” pointing up when looking from a bird’s eye view.

Legs should be stiff, and you should see a straight line from your head, shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles. As you lower your body to the floor, take an inhale through the nose. As you push back up, exhale out the mouth.

Let’s look at the common mistakes I see when people first learn how to do one:

Setting up with your upper body looking like a “T”. This places more tension on the deltoids in your shoulder rather than the pectoral muscles of the chest. You won’t be able to do as many and it’s not a strong position for your shoulder.

Dropping your head as you lower your body. This can often be fixed by being aware of it. When I would train people in person, I would place a dowel across their hips, shoulders and head so they could feel when their head dropped.

Shrugging your shoulder blades upward as you lower. When people tell me they feel their upper traps when they do a push-up, this is likely what is happening.

Dropping the hips / arching the low back. This usually happens as fatigue sets in at the end of a set, or you don’t have enough core strength yet to do that version of a push-up. The body should lower and lift back up as a unit.

Now let’s take a brief look at some examples of regressions and progressions of the push-up and how most people can find a way to do them!

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