How to do: A Push Up
Are you tired of feeling weak and unable to do a proper push up? Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Push ups are one of the most popular exercises among fitness fanatics and it has held its ground as countless fitness trends have come and gone.
Push ups are one of the most effective exercises for building upper body strength, but they can also be very good for areas like the core and thighs. In this post, we’ll give you step-by-step instructions on how to master the push up and get those perfectly toned arms and chest muscles you’ve always desired. So get ready to sweat and let’s dive into our ultimate guide on how to do a push up like a pro!
Benefits of Push Ups
When it comes to simple, effective bodyweight exercises, it doesn’t get much better than the push up. Push ups work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core, making them a great all-around exercise for building strength and muscle. And because they can be done anywhere without any equipment, they’re a convenient way to work out at home or on the go and are easy to adjust according to your needs and abilities.
There are many benefits to doing push ups regularly. Here are some of the most important ones:
- They improve overall strength and heathy body: Push ups are a great way to build strength in your upper body and core. Doing them regularly will help you develop more powerful muscles and improve your overall strength and fitness level. A set of push ups stimulates your metabolism and blood circulation, allowing you to burn more calories throughout the rest of your workout contributing to healthy weight loss.
- They help you build muscle: In addition to improving your strength, push ups can also help you build muscle. When you do them with proper form, they target all of the major muscles in your upper body, including your chest, shoulders, arms, and back. As you get stronger and are able to do more reps, you’ll see an increase in muscle size and definition.
- They’re good for your heart: Push ups are a great cardiovascular workout. They get your heart pumping and make you breathe heavier, which is good for your overall heart health. In fact, studies by Justin Yang (MD, MPH) from Harvard Medical School, have shown that doing moderate-intensity push ups can help lower blood pressure and improve cholesterol levels reducing the risks of cardiovascular diseases.
- They improve your posture and help prevent injuries: As you regularly engage in push ups, you fine-tune your core muscles which are responsible for your supporting posture and also reduce pressure on your lower back. Push ups also assist on the prevention of shoulder injuries by strengthening the stabilizing muscles around the rotator cuff.
What muscles do push ups work?
Push ups are a multi-joint body exercise that can improve your overall upper body performance, especially shoulder strength stability and ability to produce high forces during pushing activities or to simply help you lift yourself off the floor.
There are two phases of the push up movement with each requiring different muscles to work. During each phase, motions are occurring at the elbows, shoulder and scapular joints.
Here’s a breakdown of which muscles are used during each phase:
During horizontal adduction of the shoulders, which occurs when moving your upper arms horizontally towards your midline of the body, the triceps brachia acts on elbow extension while the pectoralis major, deltoids, biceps, and coracobrachialis contract. The scapulae then move forward as they round the back of the ribcage, a motion also known as protraction. The serratus anterior and pectoral minor muscles power protraction assisting the scapular joint.
During the lowering phase, the same muscles that work in the pushing phase are active, but this time eccentrically (lengthening). At the elbow, flexion occurs as you lower your body, but with the triceps eccentrically allowing this motion. While in the shoulder joint, a horizontal abduction occurs, eccentrically controlled by the pectoral major, deltoid, biceps and coracobrachialis muscles. The scapular adduction, or retraction, then occurs, which the serratus anterior and pectoral minor eccentrically control.
Other muscles such as rhomboids (which connects your spine and shoulder blades), rotator cuffs and trapezius (muscles that extend from the back of your head and neck) will actively participate on the primary action of the push ups. They also help strengthen the abdominal muscles and your quadriceps as they work as stabilizers to keep your body in straight line.
Are push ups for everyone?
You are not alone if push ups make you cringe. There’s no denying it, push ups are tough! They require the combination of upper body strength, trunk stability, range of motion, and mobility – all at the same time! So, it takes time and practice to dominate the technique.
As any other exercise, push ups may increase the risk of injuries resulting from not using the correct technique. One of the most common injuries is wrist pain. This is because the wrists are not in a natural position when doing a push up and can be put under a lot of strain. To avoid this, try placing your hands on an elevated surface such as a step or a chair.
Another risk is shoulder pain and lower back pain. This can be caused by the same improper wrist position, but can also be caused by incorrect form in general. In the lower back, push ups may cause temporary compression of the intervertebral joints in the spine which is a section of two backbones separated by an intervertebral disc. Excessive weight bearing exercises may contribute to wear and tear of these discs, resulting in pain and stiffness. Make sure to keep your back straight and do not let your hips sag down during the exercise.
Elbow pain is another possible injury from doing push ups. This is usually due to overuse, so make sure to take breaks in between sets if you feel any pain. Wearing elbow pads can also help protect against this.
If you’re new to pushups, you can modify the move to make it easier. Try doing them on your knees instead of your toes or place your hands on a high surface. You can also put your hands closer together so that your elbows don’t have to go out as far. As you get stronger, you can start doing them with your toes and with your elbows further out.
Focus on quality over quantity – it’s better to do fewer push-ups with proper form than it is to do more with poor form. Keep your core engaged throughout the entire exercise to help stabilize your body and prevent injuries. And make sure you have a full range of motion by lowering your body all the way to the ground and pressing back up until your arms are fully extended.
How to do a Push-up
There are two different hand positions for a push up – wide and narrow. Wide base allows a greater range of motion and higher activation of the pectoral major while a narrow grip will require more help from the triceps.
The key for a perfect push up is to work on your skills gradually by breaking down the movement into small, doable exercises. Start by developing a strong core while holding your body in a high plank position. This is the foundation of a push up!
Get into a high plank position on the ground by pressing evenly into the floor through your palms and each of your fingers until your arms are fully extended. Make sure the wrist alignment is in line with your shoulder. Extend your legs out behind you with your knees off the floor and toes tucked under. Put a slight bend in your elbows. They should point about 30-45º out from your body. Slightly tuck your chin so your neck is in a neutral position. Create a straight line with your body by using the broomstick tip. Lightly engage through your core and glutes.
Hold this position for 5-15 seconds (that’s one rep out of 5). Release by dropping your knees to the floor.
If placing your hand on the ground is too challenging, aim to place your hands over a bench, chair or a countertop. This will allow you to maintain a straight line and get used to moving your entire body.
Now that you have mastered the high plank, below are some examples of push ups and its variations:
Progression 1. Get into an incline high plank position (as described above) with your hands on a box, bench or chair and arms fully extended. Bend your elbows to lower yourself as far down as you comfortably can. Once you’ve lowered down as far as you can, drop your knees to the floor. Reset by getting back into your incline high plank position.
Progression 2. Get into an incline high plank position with your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder width. Your palms should be flat on the floor and your elbows out to your sides. Inhale and lower your your body down towards the floor as low as your elbow. Exhale and push your palms into the floor to fully extend your arms without locking out the elbows at the top.
Place your hand on a bench in similar position as the normal push up. Your hands should be placed firmly on the bench and spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Elbows are bent and upper arms are out to your sides. Your body should be extended behind you with just your toes touching the floor and legs hip width a part. Raise your body up by pushing your palms into the bench to fully extend your arms without locking out the elbows at the top. Reverse the movement to return your upper body toward the bench.
This is similar to the incline push up, but your body position is reversed. Your hands are placed firmly on the floor and spaced slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Elbows are bent and upper arms are out to your sides. Your body should be extended behind you with just your feet up on the bench and just your toes touching the bench. Raise your body up by pushing your palms into the floor to fully extend your arms without locking out the elbows at the top. Reverse the movement to return your upper body toward the floor.
Diamond push ups (narrow grip)
Start in a high plank position. Position your index fingers and thumbs so they’re touching, forming a diamond shape, maintaining your arms extended. Lower your chest towards your hands, ensuring your elbows out to the sides by 30–45º and keeping your back flat. Stop just before your chest touches the floor, then push back up to the starting position.
Power push ups
As a normal push up, inhale and lower your body down towards the floor. Exhale and raise your body up from the floor by explosively pushing your palms into the floor to fully extend your arms so that your palms leave the floor. As you land, allow your elbows to bend and immediately lower your body back to the floor.
The number of push-ups you should do each day will vary based on your current level of fitness and other factors such as age, sex, and weight. For all the variations above, I would recommend performing 2–3 sets of 5-10 reps and rest 1 minute between sets. It is not recommended that you do it everyday as it may lead to burnout or injuries, however trying small repetitions regularly is ok and listen to your body.
Push-ups are a great way to challenge your body, build strength and improve core stability. With the correct form, you can make sure that you get the most out of each repetition and avoid any unnecessary strain or injury. Remember to keep your body in alignment and engage your core for maximum benefit from this exercise. Use our guide above to help you do push ups correctly so that you can reap all the benefits this movement has to offer!
Written By Aline: Female fitness expert at MotivatePT – Reps Level 3 Qualified / Pre & Post Natal