Do you add classic pushups into your workouts? It’s an easy exercise to overlook since you’ve likely done so many of them already. But there’s a reason pushups are a staple exercise—they work! Once you agree to do them, the question then becomes: are you doing a proper pushup?
Why You Should Add Pushups to Your Exercise Routine
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Sure, doing pushups isn’t as flashy as other exercises. We agree that you want to keep your workout routine innovative and fresh, but you don’t have to reinvent the wheel completely, especially when you can incorporate tried-and-true workout staples. Doing the proper pushup brings benefits you simply shouldn’t pass up when working out. Where do pushups fall on your list of “must-do” exercises for greater gains?
The proper pushup is one of the most effective exercises for your upper body and core. Doing this movement will activate your deltoids, pecs, and triceps along with your abs and core muscles. Your glutes and back will also be positively affected when doing pushups properly. Since it involves more than one joint, this compound exercise will get you working different muscle groups for maximum results.
Consequences of Doing an Improper Pushup
With any movement, if an exercise is based as a pushup, you want be proactive and prevent injury by avoiding certain postures. If you allow your head to move around, tilt upward, or reach towards the floor, then you could put your spine at risk for injury. You do not want to give the illusion you’re performing quality pushups by bobbing your head back and forth. Everything needed for the proper push is contingent upon you keeping your head stable.
Identify the Common Pushup Mistakes
You do not want to mess up your shoulders or posture. You want to help build upper-body strength and muscle. One common mistake would be, for example, if you raise your butt above your body. You may do this due to tight hips or weak glute muscles, but you want to correct this poor form before performing the exercise. Placing your butt too high will take tension away from your core and will add more pressure for your shoulders.
You can also falter in the opposite direction by dropping your stomach too low. Remember that you don’t want to arch your back while performing your push-up. You may be unaware that your stomach sagging in the middle is due to an unstable core. This results from your core being too weak, so make sure you strengthen it and purposely engage it.
Begin with the Basics in Mind
You’re already aware of the basics for doing the proper pushup, right? Well, let’s cover these simple steps to begin your mastery of the pushup. Set yourself up with the right form by placing your hands underneath your shoulders. You’ll extend your legs straight out behind you, making sure the balls of your feet are on the ground.
Similar to the standard plank position, you will keep your core tight the entire time. The main movement is a matter of doing a press push movement using your own body weight. You do this in a straight line and a controlled manner.
Working toward Your Proper Pushup
You may not realize it, but even fit people struggle with doing a proper pushup. It’s a movement that most people learned a long time ago and can take for granted what the proper form is when they assume a pushup position. Whether it’s intentional or not, there are too many ways to “cheat” in doing the pushups accurately. Therefore, you need to be especially mindful and deliberate on how to do the proper pushup.
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7 Pushup Tips and Methods
As with most exercise tips, there will be variation for each person depending on their level of fitness, including their range of motion due to injury or previous conditions. You’ll want to take this into consideration when you incorporate the following methods to improve your proper pushup.
1. YOUR NECK MUST BE ALIGNED WITH YOUR SPINE
One benefit of keeping a neutral neck during a proper pushup is for you to maintain control over the movement. Keeping this in mind, you’ll want to form a straight line from your head to your feet. A helpful tip is for you to imagine a broomstick laying along your back. The broomstick should make contact to all three points of your head, upper back, and butt to signify alignment of your spine.
To keep your head aligned, remember not to tuck your chin. Don’t look straight out ahead of you, either. A helpful tip is to pick a spot on the floor to focus your eyes that’s somewhere between 6 and 10 inches above your fingers. Staring at this spot as you perform the movement will keep your neck straight with the rest of your body.
2. KEEP YOUR SHOULDERS DRAWN BACK
Another aspect of good form for the proper pushup is to pull your shoulders down and away from your neck. It’s as if you can imagine feeling them move toward your feet. As you do this, you’ll feel your back muscles engaging more efficiently. The movement is similar to trying to bring your shoulder blades together so they meet in the middle.
This is important, as you don’t want to have your shoulders shrugged up toward your ears. This would put your upper back and neck in a compromised position that could cause injury. You don’t want your shoulders to push your neck around; rather, you must keep them as a solid unit.
3. PRESSING YOUR HANDS INTO POSITION
Most people think extending your arms to the ground at the start of your push is merely a resting position. It’s not just the set up for the exercise; it’s part of the exercise. You want to create torque with your hands and arms by gripping your hands to the ground. You’ll create natural force to provide tension in your arms, shoulders, and upper back.
To do this, as you grip the floor with your hands, simultaneously drive your palms down while slightly twisting them outward. It’s almost like you’re trying to rip the floor between your hands and the surface. Make sure that your elbows and biceps rotate enough that they’re facing forward.
4. FOCUS ON CLENCHING YOUR GLUTES
Since the pushup primarily builds your upper body strength, you wouldn’t think the glutes play a big role in performing the movement. The glutes have an important role, and you must focus on engaging them. For proper pushup form, you must squeeze your glutes to lock your hips into place.
This contributes to keeping your body in one straight line from your head to your heels. This helps activate your core while taking stress off of your lower back. You’ll be reducing your risk for injury and strengthening these muscle groups as you would with a plank position. The trick is to squeeze your glute muscles hard enough to feel your hips rotating into place.
5. BREATHE ACCORDINGLY
During the proper pushup, you want to inhale while as you go down and exhale when you come up. Take a deep controlled breath in as you lower yourself towards the ground. Then, as you push up, you will quickly exhale as much air as you can. Repeat this as you go, and if you notice your breathing is off, then re-position yourself.
Using your breath in the right way will push you even further to get the most out of the movement. You’ll feel your core muscles contract to help you force out that last bit of air. This is when you know your whole body is working as one cohesive unit.
6. CHOOSING THE DEPTH OF YOUR PUSHUP
Are you going deep enough when you do your pushups? This is a question that can be overlooked unless you pay specific attention to it. It’s also an aspect of doing pushups that will differ depending on your shoulder anatomy and shoulder mobility. These factors influence your shoulder’s range of motion, along with lifestyle or injury history, so you need to keep this in mind when you bear any load in a deep position.
Remember, as you lower yourself, to focus on using your upper back to control your downward movement. It should feel as if you’re pulling yourself towards the floor. Bring yourself as close to the floor. If you have had a previous injury, just be mindful to stop before you cause yourself any discomfort.
7. YOU WANT QUANTITY AS LONG AS IT’S QUALITY
A key factor with doing pushups is volume. This is an exercise you want to do in high quantity. Although you don’t want this to be at the expense of the quality of the movement, add two or three pushups each workout, and you’ll be well on your way to high volume.
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Do you feel like dropping to the ground to give 20 pushups? How about cranking out 100 of them? You’ll be able to do them with ease and precision sooner than you think. Just keep practicing the proper pushup form diligently, and your progress will add up!