The perfect push-up is an upper-body focused exercise with full-body benefits.
There are many variations, but being able to perform the standard push-up is an important ability to have in your fitness toolbox. Whether you’re fairly experienced or just starting out, you can always benefit from increasing your knowledge of the movement, and a lot of practice, practice, practice.
Here we’ll be breaking down the push-up, going over the setup, technique, and major muscles involved. There will also be ways to help you get started, and cues to help make them even better.
We’ll keep it all short, simple, and (hopefully) practical. Then, get after it. The best way to get better at push-ups…is to do push-ups!
The Setup: Position yourself on the ground with:
- Arms straight, with elbows and wrists directly below or just wider than your shoulders.
- Think as if you were standing up with both arms forward, and trying to push someone’s car out of your parking space.
- Press your palms and fingers into the floor.
- “Grip the ground”. This helps engage more muscles in your arms and shoulders, and take some of the strain off of your wrists.
- Legs straight out and close together, toes down.
- Head straight, so that your neck is not arched up or curved down.
- Your gaze is towards the floor, just ahead of your hands.
- Contract your glutes, quads, and abdominals. One way to help is take a big breath out, trying to make everything tight while doing so.
- Think squeeze your cheeks, engage your legs, and tighten your abs as if Superman was about to punch you in the gut.
Now pause, hold here, and check yourself.
Your body should be in, or close to a straight line starting from your ankles, up your back, along your neck, and through the top of your head.
Your hands are engaged and gripping the ground, toes are planted, and everything in between (legs, hips, abs, shoulders) is tight and ready.
This is the “up” position.
Your body is now all straightened out, locked in, and good to go.
- Break from your elbows, and begin lowering your body towards the floor. Your legs, hips, and chest all move together.
- Keep everything from the setup nice and tight. Control your movement.
- Arms and elbows in close by your body. Think “arms glues to your sides”.
- Breathe in (inhale) as you lower down.
- Bring your chest to, or as close to the ground as possible.
- “Graze the ground” or stop just above it.
- This is the “down” position.
- Reach the bottom point, push back up.
- Breathe out (exhale) as you push up. Use your breath to help keep your abs tight, and get into a rhythm.
- Think “push the floor away from you”.
- Push yourself back to the starting “up” position.
There is it, one badass push-up! Now reset, and keep going.
What if the Floor is (too much): Raise yourself up, elevate your hands
If you’re at home or the gym.
- Use a wall, side of a bed, back of a couch, armrest, chair, stairs…
- Use a box, bench, or a barbell set in the squat rack. Adjust the hooks to the right height, set your body in position, and push away.
Wherever you are, just work your way down towards the floor as your strength improves.
Major Movers: Chest, arms, shoulders
- Pectoralis major (your chest)
- Triceps brachii (back of your arms)
- Anterior deltoids (front of your shoulder)
Also Working: Everything else
There you have it, the push-up.
Use these steps to help you get that first push-up, and try out these cues to make your push-ups even more effective.
You need to make your body do what you want it to do. Get yourself set up, and practice, practice, practice.
They’ll get better. You’ll get stronger.
One last thing, if when you are done fixing your form for the better and you are looking for more from your fitness we are only a call or email away. If you are not yet one of our bad-ass clients then call or email now to set up the first workout at the last gym you will ever need.
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