How to master push-ups

Simple, intense, and achievable almost anywhere, push-ups are an almost universally known exercise and a mainstay of military, athletic, and fitness training programs. Push-ups are a “fundamental core movement,” said James Whitener III, a strength and conditioning coach at Bethune-Cookman University in Florida.

Because it requires awareness of body position from head to toe, the exercise helps develop what’s called kinesthetic awareness – an understanding of how the body moves through space. This awareness, in turn, can help users develop a sense of their body’s capability and prepare them for “bigger, more complex movements,” like deadlifts or squats, he said. -he declares.

But getting the most out of push-ups requires good technique. Here’s what you need to know.

Push-ups tone your chest, shoulders, and arms, especially the deltoids, triceps, and pecs, but they’re really full-body movements. “We think of it as an upper body exercise, but it also works the core muscles and also builds coordination,” Whitener said. Holding your body in a stiff plank position while performing a push-up activates your core muscles and may even require some leg work.

“They’re very versatile because they target so many things at once,” said Tessia De Mattos, physical therapist and strength, conditioning and performance rehabilitation coach at The Strength Athlete.

To start, get into a classic plank position with your palms on the floor, your arms slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, and your palms about level with your shoulders. Mastering regular planks is important, Dr. De Mattos said, because “if you can’t do a full plank with proper form, you’ll struggle to do a full pushup.”

To make sure you’re using good form, try filming yourself with a smartphone, advised Hampton Liu, personal trainer, fitness influencer and founder of Hybrid Calisthenics. “You don’t need to show your video to anyone! You can even delete it immediately afterwards. It’s just for you.

Two common mistakes, Dr. De Mattos said, are letting your stomach sag or arching your lower back rather than keeping it aligned with the rest of your body.

The number of reps you should do depends on your current ability and your goals. For the average person trying to get healthier, fitter and stronger, the best approach is to aim for momentary failure – the point of fatigue where you can’t complete another rep with good form – rather than a specific number of repetitions, said Patroklos Androulakis-Korakakis, a researcher at Solent University in England and a strength trainer at

“By reaching momentary failure, or at least getting very close to it, people can ensure that they are getting enough stimulus to adapt to strength and hypertrophy,” he said. he declares.

If you can’t do more than a handful of reps before you reach that point, you can try some of the easier variations below. As you progress, you can go back to standard pushups and then move on to more difficult variations to increase the difficulty as you get stronger, Dr. Androulakis-Korakakis said.

“There’s nothing to be ashamed of if you can’t do push-ups. Fitness is a journey and we all start somewhere,” Liu said in a push-up video. If you can’t do a push-up yet, “you can build,” he added.

If you’re just starting out, Mr. Liu suggested trying wall-mounted push-ups. Standing facing a wall at arm’s length and place your hands shoulder-width apart against it. Bend over until your face almost touches the wall, then return to your starting position. Do as many reps as you can, and when it gets easy, you can switch to a knee push-up.

If you can’t do a standard pushup yet, you can give yourself a little boost by initiating the movement from a kneeling position, which reduces the amount of load you put on your arms, shoulders and shoulders. your chest,” Dr. De Mattos said.

As you become more proficient at doing push-ups, you will need to do more to reach the point of momentary failure. Exercising to this point can maximize motor unit and muscle fiber recruitment, Dr. Androulakis-Korakakis said, which in turn will stimulate adaptations and make you stronger. “Achieving momentary failure is a great way to ensure people get the most out of every set.” Here are some ways to get there.

Once you become adept at standard push-ups, you can increase the difficulty by beginning the push-up motion with your feet elevated above you, Liu said. Starting with a few pounds on the floor under your feet should make a noticeable difference, he said. From there, you can try a short stool (perhaps a foot off the ground) and then move up to a chair or even a railing.

This is a more difficult variation of push-ups that you do by holding your hands together with your thumbs and index fingers touching so as to create a diamond-shaped hole where your hands meet. You can work your way up to these by simply bringing your hands together until it becomes easy, then bringing them closer and closer until they finally touch, Mr. Liu.

When you can easily do sets of 10 push-ups, you can increase the difficulty by placing a small weight plate on your back to increase the weight you push. If you’re doing them at home and don’t have any weights, you can throw a few heavy pounds in a backpack and use them as weights, Dr. De Mattos said. The extra weight shouldn’t be such that you can’t do more than a couple, but should be enough to bring you to the point of momentary failure in about ten reps or less.

These require excellent core strength to hold your body in position when pushing with one arm, Liu said. “It’s a great core exercise.” The trick here is to use your legs and core to keep your body stable when pushing with one arm. Spreading your feet further apart can help stabilize you as you go.

There are many ways to do push-ups, Liu said. “Find one you can do and work on it.” As you get stronger you can upgrade to a harder version.

Christie Aschwanden is a Western Colorado-based writer and the author of “Good to Go: What the Athlete in All of Us Can Learn from the Strange Science of Recovery.”


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