The push-up is an amazing exercise that offers a ton of great benefits including:
1. Perform push-ups anywhere. You can do push ups anywhere because they only require your body weight. No fancy or expensive equipment required.
2. Increase pushing strength. Push-ups engage your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core for a complete pushing exercise. If you are benching, you won’t get the same core activation.
3. Variations. Push-ups are a very dynamic exercise with many different variations to satisfy the beginner to the advanced athlete.
While push-ups can be extremely beneficial to help improve your physique and muscle endurance, even people who have exercised for years may have improper push-up form. Here is a checklist to make sure you use perfect push-up form every time!
Tip #1: Straight Head/Neck Position
I see this as a common mistake for people who are simply not strong enough to complete a push-up (usually weak chest muscles), or simply have poor posture from working at a computer all the time. The head is forced forward and down in an effort to make the push-up easier. I would recommend doing knee push-ups (you have to start from somewhere, right?) until you can easily keep your head in line with your torso as you do the push up in a slow and controlled motion.
Tip #2: Hands Below Plane of Shoulders
If you have not developed your chest muscles, the chances are you will start your push-up with your hands above the plane of your shoulders. What I mean is that when you get ready to do a push-up, your hands are placed above your shoulders, almost in the same horizontal plane as your head. Keep your hand position slightly wider than shoulder width apart, next to the middle of your chest, which will properly work your chest, shoulders, and triceps pretty equally so they all benefit.
Tip #3: Hips and Torso Straight
In an effort to make the push-up easier, oftentimes I see people either slouching their hips downward, or pushing their hips upward. By not keeping the hips and torso straight, the abs are almost taken out of the equation. Keep your hips in line with your torso to properly engage your abs and properly recruit the muscles as they were intended (chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs).
Tip #4: Full Range of Motion
I’ve heard a million times how you should never let your body dip below a 90-degree angle in your elbows. I think this came about because of shoulder concerns. In my opinion, I think you should use a full range of motion (just as with every other exercise) as long as it doesn’t hurt your shoulders. Try to get your chest to slightly graze the ground, or come within an inch of the ground.
1. Position your body with your arms straight out, abs tight, holding your body in a plank position.
2. Hands and arms should be positioned slightly below your shoulders, fingers pointed forwards. Shoulders are pushed down away from your ears.
3. Lower your body until your chest is an inch or two above the floor, elbows pulling back at roughly a 45-degree angle.
4. Push your torso away from the ground until your arms lock, then repeat.
5. Keep head up and exhale as you push-up.