Thursday, December 3, 2009

The Push Up - Lets Get It Right

Lets get one thing straight, if you cannot do at least 20 strict push ups then get away from the bench! Some exceptions would be an obese client, and maybe some female clients, but other than that I am sticking to my opening line. Every single time I see someone attempt the Push Up they, as Eric Cressey would say, butcher it! In this short post I will give you the most common mistakes with the Push Up, show you proper set up, the proper way it should be preformed, regressions, progressions, and why you should perform push ups. I have no video unfortunately as the digital camera is back home in Ireland.
Common Mistakes with the Push Up:

1). Hands not under the shoulders, for some reason they out in front on the face

2). Elbows flaring out to the sides. Not very healthy for the shoulders

3). Elevation on Scapula instead of Retraction on the eccentric (downward) phase of the push up

4). Chin Poking forward instead of been tucked

5). Low back and hips sinking towards the ground due to a weak anterior core, and not squeezing glutes

The Proper way to perform a Push Up:
(Note: I like to teach a bottoms up approach)

The Set Up - Getting into Position:

1). Lie flat on the ground. Bring your thumbs to your nipple line, and from there slight,y move your hands out. Your wrist should be directly under your elbow. Your upper arm should be at a 45 degree angle to your upper body. So DO NOT have the elbows flaring out to the sides.

2). Tuck your chin. Think of making a double chin. DO NOT flex the neck.

3). Brace your core (like you were going to be punched in the stomach), and squeeze your glutes. When you do this, it will prevent your hips from going into an anterior tilt and prevent you low back from sinking, as the anterior core and the glutes perform a force couple that posteriorly tilt the pelvis.

4). Push yourself to the top position. Hold your form (Chin tucked, core braced etc)

Performing the entire Push Up:


1). Now you are at the top position. As you begin to descend, retract your scapula forceful. Think about actively pulling yourself toward the ground, so that when you are at the bottom position your shoulder blades are together.

2). Keep your Chin tucked.

3). Keep your elbows tight. Keep that 45 degree angle throughout the entire set.

4). Keep your core braced, and glutes tight (squeeze that ass :-)

5). Your chest should touch the ground, NOT you chin, head, of face!


1). Push mainly with the thenar eminence (outside part of your hands)

2). Keep your Chin tucked.

3). Keep your elbows tight. Keep that 45 degree angle throughout the entire set.

4). Keep your core braced, and glutes tight (keep squeezing that ass ;-)

5). Protract your scapula at the top position. Push out of your shoulder blades, so your shoulder blades move away from one another as you ascend.

6). Keep going until you perform the desired amount of reps.

Regressions for the Push Up:

- Wall Push Up if extremely weak!

- Elevate the hands on a bench or a barbell in a rack

- Assist with a band around the hips.

Progressions for the Push Up:

- Feet Elevated

- Weighted – vest, chains, or bands

- Unstables – Stability ball, Bosu, dyna disc

Why Should You Do Push Ups:

Push Ups are a great exercise for shoulder health and core stability. You get Serratus Anterior activation, which is a very important muscle in shoulder stability, and if you think about the push up is a dynamic plank, great for your anterior core.

Thats all for now folks,


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