Push ups are a fantastic strength exercise for building upper body strength, core strength and transforming your arms. Plus, you can do them anywhere! Most importantly, you want to make sure you are doing them correctly to avoid an unwanted injury.
Three common mistakes with push ups:
1.) Low back sag – many times when this happens, your core and glutes are not assisting you with the exercise.
Key tip: squeeze your glutes and brace your core as you lower down and push yourself up. If you find this is challenging, place something between your legs, squeeze it and imagine you cannot let it drop the floor. This will naturally help you engage your glutes and core. Still too hard? Try elevating yourself so you are no longer on the floor, but using a bench, bar, etc.
2.) Hand and shoulder position – many people like to place their hands wide and when they lower down to the floor, their elbows stick out to 90 degree angles. This puts your shoulders in a bad position and can eventually lead to an injury.
Key tip: focus on keeping your hands 45 degrees from your ribs. Your elbows should slightly tuck back instead of out.
3.) Reaching with your neck – this is another common mistake I see often and it puts your neck in a bad position since it causes forward neck posture.
Key tip: focus on leading with your chest and keep your head still, as if it cannot touch the floor. By keeping your head back, you’ll keep your neck in a better position.
In this video, you can notice my head reaches towards the floor and my elbows flare out instead of back.
What about girl push ups? Please don’t do them. By performing push ups from your knees, you put yourself in a different position where your core and glutes don’t work. You also shorten your hip flexors.
If you can’t do a push up from the floor, try elevating yourself to a higher position and focus on getting your chest to meet the bar, bench, couch or whatever else you are using. Remember, imagine your whole body coming down and up in one (head down through glutes).
Range of Motion is Key
To see your body and strength transform, you’ll need to make sure you are challenging your range of motion. If you are doing a push up on the floor, but can’t hit your chest to the floor, put yourself in an elevated position so you can get the full range of motion.
Many times when coaching, I have individuals use a bar for push ups to work specifically on a full range of motion. As they get stronger, the bar gets placed lower and lower until eventually they are doing push ups on the floor!
The Perfect Push Up
- Elbows tuck back and flare out at 45 degrees
- Head down to glutes comes up in one (glutes/core engaged)
- Head stays still