Push-ups are one of those dreaded exercises that we love to hate. We hate how hard they are, but we love how strong we feel when we can finally do more than just one without fear of our arms giving out forcing us to meet the ground with our face.
There’s a reason why push-ups are still being done in gyms, homes, and even hotel rooms. Not only do they work the entire body at once, but they require no equipment, can be done by people of all fitness levels, are simple to learn and typically show quick progress if done correctly and regularly. Since they are a challenging exercise (remember the I’m going to fall on my face feeling?), it’s natural for us to compensate our form to make them easier. Unfortunately, “easier” push-ups done with improper form can lead to injury, wasted energy, and less efficiency of your workout. Translation: less muscle building and less fat burning! Here are 5 tips for your best push-up:
- Engage your core – Imagine you are being punched in the stomach. This will force you to keep your body in a flat position protecting your spine and building your core strength. Hello, six-pack abs!
- Keep your arms at a 45 degree angle – a common mistake is to flare out your elbows which puts extra stress on your shoulders and rotator cuff and lead to injury. Keep your hands directly under your elbows and your elbows directly under your shoulders. Not only will this allow you to go deeper in your push-up and engage the muscles of your chest, but it will also recruit your lats (the muscles of you back) for an added bonus!
- Don’t drop your water glass – your arms, at the elbow joint, are the only part of your body that should be moving while performing push-ups. The rest of your body should be as stiff as a board like a plank. Imagine you are balancing a glass of water on your back. To keep the glass from spilling, focus on keeping your body in a straight line, starting with your neck and head in a neutral position, engaging your core to keep your back flat, and engaging your glutes, quads, and hamstrings to keep your lower body still.
- Flare your chest-out – most of us have rounded shoulders and poor strength in our upper back muscles which provide stability for our chest (mostly from all of the sitting we do). In order to strengthen your lats (or back muscles) while doing your push-up, roll your shoulders back and draw your shoulder blades together while holding a full plank position. Focus on keeping that contraction as you lower into your push-up.
- Bring your chest to the floor – think about leading with your chest and aim to get it as close to the floor as possible. This will force you to push through the full range of motion of your muscles. If this is too difficult, lower to your knees for a modified push-up until you build enough strength.