The push-up is a whole-body functional movement that is very good for increasing strength and has the added benefit of engaging the core and lower body. But while push-ups can be beneficial to help with improving physique and muscle endurance, there are people who have been exercising for years but still cannot do a perfect push-up. Being a bodyweight exercise, the push-up can be done anywhere with a lot of variation to keep it exciting.
The basics of a push-up
- Get into a high plank position by placing your hands firmly on the ground, directly under your shoulders. Grind your toes into the floor to stabilise your lower body. Brace your core, engage your glutes and hamstrings, and flatten you back so that your entire body is neutral.
- Lower your body, keeping your back flat and your head aligned with your spine. Do not let your glutes dip or stick out at any point during the movement: your body should remain in a straight line from your head to your toes. Keep your shoulders back and those elbows close to your body.
- Keep your core engaged, inhale as you go down and exhale when you press yourself back to your starting position. Repeat for 10 to 20 reps or as many as you can do with good form.
Tips for the perfect push-up
- Chest out: You will need to stabilise your scapulae to help them do their job during the push-ups.
- Scapula retraction and protraction: When you go into the bottom portion of the push-up, your scapulae should retract or “come together” and when you press yourself up, your scapulae should protract, or “come apart”.
- Keep the back in a neutral spine: This is one of the most common mistakes. We all think our backs are nice and flat, while in fact we look like a tent. In order to stay neutral, brace your core like you are preparing to be struck in the stomach throughout the entire movement.
- Place your hands slightly wider than your shoulders, at the centre of the chest (not above the shoulders).: This will ease the pressure away from the shoulders and put more emphasis on your chest.
- Keep your elbows at 45 degrees and go through full range of motion. Broadening your elbows out to 90 degrees is hard on the shoulders and should be avoided. And if you aren’t getting full range of motion, well then you are just fooling yourself!
Patrick Dale says that there are many benefits to the push-up, from boosting core strength and harnessing upper body power. “Of all the exercises you can do, though, push-ups are one of the most effective. They are accessible, scalable to your fitness level and beneficial.”
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