A few years ago I published a video on Youtube about proper push-up form, which has since attracted over 1 million views. You can check out the video and article here => How To Do A Push-Up With Proper Form & Technique.
When I watch this video now, I wish I included just three tips that I’ve since learned. My clients are able to use nearly perfect push-up form almost immediately after learning these tips.
The push-up is an excellent exercise to improve your core and upper body strength. In addition, you don’t need any equipment, so you can do push-ups just about anywhere.
Because the push-up is such a useful exercise, it has become a marker of physical fitness that is tested around the world by various organizations from sports teams to the military. This is an exercise you can incorporate into your routine every week, or even every day.
Tip #1 – Practice Air Push-Ups
The air-push up is a brilliant tip that I learned from Brett Jones of StrongFirst to help you feel proper push-up form without actually doing a push up.
While standing straight, extend your arms in front of you so that the top of your palm is in line with the top of your shoulder. Pull your hands back toward your chest, then push out forward again.
You’ll notice that your elbows are staying closer to your sides where they belong to help generate maximum power. One of the most common push-up mistakes is flaring out the elbows out instead of keeping them at your sides.
As you practice air-push ups, you are using perfect push-up form. You’re just standing up.
Tip #2 – Push-Up = Moving Plank
When you perform a push-up, the only parts of your body that should be moving are your arms. Everything else should be stiff as a board like a plank. Some very common push-up mistakes include the head and neck moving up and down, or the hips and torso moving as the push-up is being completed.
Ideally, your head, neck, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet should be roughly in one line that is completely straight and does not change. The push up when done properly is a very strong position that can help improve your core strength and stability.
Tip #3 – Contract Your Lat Muscle
Keeping your shoulders down away from your ears can help protect your shoulder joint and yield the greatest strength output. There is a common tendency for people to shrug their shoulders toward their ears when completing a push-up.
So how do you ensure your shoulders are dropped down properly and your lat muscles are contracted?
If you think about pulling the floor toward you as you lower down to the ground and twist your hands outward, it will help engage the lat muscles to stabilize your shoulder. The push-up is a full body exercise, not a chest exercise!
When your lat muscle underneath your shoulder is contracted, it immediately pulls your shoulder back and down away from your ears, which makes your very mobile shoulder much more stable. I want to thank Chris McGrath of MovementFirst for this tip.
A few more tips to help you refine your form:
1) Breathe in through your nose as you lower down, than forcefully out through your mouth on the way up.
2) Squeeze your glutes and draw your rib cage down to help flatten your lower back so it does not excessively arch.
3) Take about 2 seconds to lower, than about 1 second to push up. It’s not a race; feel the exercise and stay stiff with high tension.
Finally, depending on your shoulder flexibility, you may need to stop half way down instead of descending so far so that your chest nearly touches the floor. If your shoulders start rounding forward as you descend, stop right before that point.
After applying these tips, you may notice a proper push-up is harder than what you may have done in the past.
Give these tips a try and let me know what you think!