While teaching my group class, Superhuman, you can bet your butt that there is going to be pushups in there. Equipment is limited, bodyweight training is awesome, and it's easy to get in and out of. They also stack easily with other exercises such as mountain climbers and fish tails. AND OH MY GOD THE VARIATIONS!
Spidermans, plyometrics, butt slaps, gorilla taps, t-outs, close-grip, wide-grip..........
I haz options
I do lots of pushups with clients, but in the group setting...they take center stage. We do enough pushups in there that many confuse the class for a Victoria's Secret End-of-Season sale....just pushups everywhere.
Yet, with pushups, as well as other floor based exercises, I often see people shaking out their wrists, or adjusting their hands around to make things better on their hands/wrists.
I have gone so far as to stop class dead in the middle of it and give a quick seminar on the proper pushups.
Plain and simple, I'm a strength coach and trainer first, group exerciser/entertainer second....My people will do things safely and correctly, or as correctly as I can make it in an hour long class with 30 or more people.
Thankfully, there are three awesome tips that I have that can help you boost your pushups to better ranges, and more importantly, keep you out of pain.
1. Press THROUGH the base of your hands, towards the thumb, and NOT the FINGERS
This is one of the more common mistakes I see when people do pushups. I look down, and their fingers are taking all of the pressure. Their knuckles white, and wrists cocked....they look more like a lineman ready to rush the quarterback than they do a person getting their pushing-sexy on!
Here is a drill. Pick up your dominant arm and lock it out in front of you with. Put in line with your eye as though it were a rifle and you were aiming down the sights. Put your palm out like you are telling someone to "STOP"....in the name of love.......What do you see?
You should see that the length of your arm runs through the base of your hand and not your fingers, and therefore, leaning onto your fingers will in fact, change the point of impact with ground and change the action of the joints above it (the wrist, the elbow, the shoulder).
Well, the elbow and shoulder are busy moving your butt up and down, and so it is the wrist that carries this mistake. It bends into extension under tension and slowly but surely those bones, ligaments, and tendons start to hate you....
Save your wrists and press through the "meat" of your hands...closer to the thumb and marvel at how you are able to crank out reps of your favorite pushup without feeling like your wrist is full of grenades.
2. You are NOT Headbutting the Floor, Tie your Chin to your Belly-button
The next common mistake I see has to do with how people move their heads during the pushup, which causes unneccessary pain in the neck, shoulders.
The move of the pushup is designed to take you from the "top" position in which your arms are locked out and back flat all the way down until your chest is just an inch to a few inches from the floor. Your head than, should be moving WITH your torso, and not in advance of it.
Look I get it, the more you bend your head...the closer your eyes get to the floor, which means your nose is so close you can smell what they clean it with.
Perfect Rep....Nailed it.
Not only are you limiting yourself from knocking out an awesome rep and getting the benefits of the exercise (which is why we do it in the first place), but you are also really cranking your neck.
Your spine goes into excessive cervical flexion, which brings your nose towards the ground and puts intense strain on the traps, scalenes, and the spine itself. It can lead to a condition refered to as "FORWARD HEAD" in which the cervical spine is fixed into this overreached and forward tilted position and requires therapy to aid in correction.
Here you'll see an epic turd and a horribly forward neck. You should not have a slope to your neck such as the....ahem...fella...above.
Here is the fix:
Imagine a board connecting the tip of your nose, or your chin that runs all the way down to your belly button. It's nailed into both places, and so, there will be no movement in your spine. Focus on this fix and your neck pain should go away soon!
Stay tight and keep that head still. The ground will come to you when it's ready!
3. Setting up with your hands too close together, and too far forward.
This is a problem that I see with females more than males, to be honest. I'm not sure if it is that men have done more pushups during their childhood and teen years due to sports and social expectations, or if it just that women really like to see their hands...
Often times, people will set up with their hands too close together and even with their eyes. This overburdens the triceps, which causes premature fatigue, skips over the pectorals, and puts excess stress on the glenohumeral joint and the rotator cuff muscles (the shoulders).
Many people see pushups as though they are to be set up like a big "T". Feet together, and hands spaced out to the side. This isn't horribly wrong, but it is still incorrect. To be honest, we want our pushups to have more of a 2D umbrella effect to them. See below
Imagine the handle being your feet, and the tip at the top your neck. You arms should flare out wide and down, and NOT STRAIGHT out to the sides.
Now, what we are aiming for is to have our shoulders broad. So, let's extend those arms out again and open our palms like we are about to do pushups. Pull your hands back so that the back of your thumbs are on your nipples (oh my, I said nipples).. Now, extend those arms wider until you make roughly a 90 degree angle at the elbow.
Boom. There is your set-up.
Lay down into pushup position now and knock out a bunch of reps you strong thing!
If you don't know 90 degrees...well oh my, and there are four of them in a square.
Because while writing this a few more good tips came to mind.
1. Arms should be at roughly a 45 degree angle when you are at the bottom of a pushup, and not directly to the side. Picture the bottom of a pushup looking like a directional arrow (the points are your neck, feet, and hands). The angle between your ribs and your elbows should be ABOUT 45 degrees to ensure you at max power, performance, and safety.
2. Keep your core tight by squeezing your glutes and abdominals. Never get lazy fat cat during an exercise, but especially not in a push up. You'll look a wounded person dragging their legs. Think about squeezing your butt cheeks together like you are trying to break something in between them.
(NOTE: Dean Somerset says to crack diamonds...I say build a whole damn Zales back there).
Pull your belly button towards your spine and squeeze those cheeks tight. Arms at 45 degrees at the bottom as your press through the base of your hand. Your head is in line with that belly button and your shoulders are wide and angled at the top. Push the floor away from you and maintain a constant tempo.
You got this in the bag. So, make these fixes and excel immediately!
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