When you think about it, pretty much everyone has tried to do a push-up at at least one point in their lives. Push-ups are the most common strength training exercise. Bar none. More than pull-ups, or even crunches. However, have you ever asked yourself, am I doing the push-up correctly? If someone says he can do 50 or more push-ups in a row, he typically can’t complete one PERFECT push-up. And if an athlete says he can do 100 push-ups, his true number is closer to 30. Contrary to popular opinion, the push-up isn’t a simple exercise. It’s much more advanced and challenging than most people think. Why? Because few people understand what a proper push-up is – much less perform its proper form. A common misconception: The push-up is only an upper body exercise. Fact: The push-up requires significant strength, function, stability, core stabilization and postural control. It can be considered a full body exercise since our quads, hip flexors and upper back muscles work as stabiliser muscles for the entire movement. Use the proper form outlined below and see how many reps you get. For ladies and less conditioned individuals, you can also try the push-up on your knees or hands on a wall if the standard version is too difficult. Form remains the same. Note: It does not matter if you start at the top or bottom. What matters more is the form than starting position. At the Bottom of the Push-Up Movement:

  • Head is neutral and in line with spine and ball of feet.
  • Shoulders are retracted and depressed at the bottom of the movement
  • Push-up depth must reach a minimum of 90 degrees of elbow flexion as measured along the outside of the elbow. In short, chest is touching or almost touching the floor
  • No leaving of hips on the ground. Your quads (front thighs) and hip flexors (pelvic region) are contracted, not hamstrings (back thighs) and glutes (buttocks).
  • A straight body position must be maintained from head to foot at the bottom of the movement.

At the Top of Push-Up Movement:

  • Head is neutral and in line with spine and ball of feet.
  • A full lockout must be achieved at the top of every rep.
  • No sticking butt into the air.
  • Shoulder blades are protracted at the top of the movement.
  • Squeeze chest at the top of the movement.
  • Feet is perpendicular to the floor to allow staying tall on all toes.
  • A straight body position must be maintained throughout the entire range of motion.

Avoid 3 Common Major Mistakes: 1. Flaring of elbows. The flared elbow position (arms at 70 to 90 degrees from the torso) can produce both acute and chronic injury to the joints and tissues. The ideal elbow position – the arm and elbow position will be much closer to the torso, at a 10- to 20-degree angle. 2. Lack of depth, range and control of motion A good push-up involves a motion where the chest touches or almost touches (millimetres above) the floor. This quality form produces functional muscle hypertrophy and stimulates strength gains, rather than cheating your way through. Use 100% control and a full range of motion during the entire duration of the repetition. Control the movement up and down slowly rather than pushing the movement like a piston. 3. Sagging Hips This precipitates a lazy push-up position with an overly shortened range of motion that’s very easy to cheat through, allowing people to crank out dozens of ugly reps. Functionality Matters More than Number It’s much more functional and effective to do 10 correct form push-ups described above than 50 poor quality reps often done by most people. 9 out of 10 people you see in fitness corners, parks, gyms, and even during IPPT sessions performed the push-ups with terrible forms and risk injuries. Test how many push-ups you can do with the correct form listed above. Congratulate yourself if you hit twenty! In our next blog post, I’ll talk about more advanced push-up variations and progressions. Move More. Stay Safe.