Push ups offer 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 – Pushups are a very dynamic exercise with many different variations to satisfy the beginner to the advanced athlete.
While pushups 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 7 step checklist to make sure you use perfect push up form every time you do a push up!
Proper Push Up Form #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 on 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.
Proper Push Up Form #2: Keep Shoulders Back & Stable
As some people do push ups they start shrugging their shoulders towards their ears, which forces more pressure on the triceps. Typically this is a result of weak chest muscles, or similar to the neck position, poor posture. Keeping your shoulders down, back, and stable will force your chest to work much harder, which will make the exercise more effective.
Proper Push Up Form #3: Hands Below Plane of Shoulders
If you have not developed your chest muscles, the chances are you will start your pushup with your hands above the plane of your shoulders. What I mean is that when you get ready to do a pushup, 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.
Proper Push Up Form #4: Pressure on Outside of Hands
While push ups are a great exercise, they can easily cause overuse injuries, especially in the wrists. Put the pressure of the weight on the outside of your hands, not the bottom of your hand/wrist, which is what I did for years. The outside of your hand is very stable and strong, which explains why MMA fighters strike with the outside of their palm. You can pretend like you are gripping the floor to help keep the pressure off your wrists. I wish I knew this one 15 years ago!
Proper Push Up Form #5: Hips and Torso Straight
In an effort to make the push up easier, oftentimes I see people either slouching their hip 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).
Proper Push Up Form #6: 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. In fact, if I couldn’t get the full range of motion and get that stretch in my pecs and shoulders at the bottom of the rep, I probably would never do push ups. Try to get your chest to slightly graze the ground, or come within an inch of the ground.
Proper Push Up Form #7: Controlled Tempo
I think this applies to most exercises along with the full range of motion. Control the descent and push up forcefully. It’s cool if the positive phase is very quick in the beginning, but in general, a 1 second up, 2 second down count is ideal. Controlling the tempo dramatically reduces risk of injury and substantially increases muscle stimulation.
Hope this was helpful and let me know what you think of this video.
Proper Push Up Form: How To Do A Push Up,