Push ups are an awesome display of upper body strength but often elude people. Not only that but many people think they are doing a push up properly, but start pushing back up when they are only half the way down. This is an issue to as they are not being exposed to the full range of motion like as displayed in this picture below.
So now that we can see what a perfect push up looks like let’s go through some Quick fixes which are common faults when people walk through the gym doors.
- Elbows – Elbow positioning is a major one. Keep your elbows took in close to your body on the way down to avoid overuse of an already overused are which is the shoulders.
- Hips – Another major one I see is that the hips dropping or too relaxed. Contraction of the abs and glutes (butt) really can make a big difference here. Think about a plank position but a moving one.
- Hand Positioning – Hands want to be positioned just in line with the chest and thumbs with the nipple line, and about shoulder distance apart. I often see people starting off with hands far too high up, thus again using shoulder strength far too much which is easier in the short term but not in the long term.
- Tips To help you build up to the FULL Push Up:There are some good drills to help you build towards the full movement:
Negative Pushups as demonstrated here.
From the top position of your push up, lower yourself as slowly as you can all the way to the floor with excellent form. Reset and repeat. If you can’t do this with full range of motion, elevate your body until you are at an angle that works for you and progress from there.
Box Push Ups:
Find a bench, sofa arm, table, or other elevated stable object you can put your hands on for push ups. Make sure it’s not too easy. It should be a height that is challenging, but at which you can do a full, chest-to-bottom push up with excellent form.
Practice your push ups at this height. As you get stronger, use lower and lower surfaces until you reach the floor.
You can also use a banded to take some of your bodyweight off the movement.
Place a band around two J-Hooks, just like the ones you use to rack a barbell. The height will determine difficulty, but my favourite would be to have a medium light band and have it between the rack about hip height.
You will simply place the band just below your sternum, allowing us to maintain optimal positioning when it’s applied.
Get into a push-up position, with a hollow body position, complete some perfect push-ups. Change band height to add just enough assistance to challenge yourselves.
I find this method is significantly more effective than “girl push ups” (and I hate that term, too). Your body does not behave the same way from your knees as it does from your toes. If you practice knee push ups, you’ll get very good at knee push ups. Practice full push ups instead.
In this position, you are taking your legs out of the equation entirely. It becomes more difficult to engage your glutes (just try to squeeze your glutes in this position – it isn’t as easy). You also don’t need to stabilize your lumbar spine as much, and you couldn’t anyway as you are effectively turning off the stabilizers of the hip (which play a huge role in lumbar spine stabilization).
I personally find that push ups on the knees do not carry over well towards the full movement. So, stick with the above two movements to help you build up the movement.
Triceps – To really help this movement, I recommend strengthening your triceps. Your triceps straighten your arm at the elbow, so getting them strong can help any sort of pressing exercise. Overhead extensions, skull-crushers, bent-over extensions, pull downs, and dips are just some of the exercises you can use to build triceps strength.
Plank Holds – Push ups are like a moving plank so being strong in the plank position will help you get stronger in the position.
When you have Good control in the plank, Negative Push ups and Box push ups, then it is a good time to test to see if you can do a full Push Up.
I hope this helps