FIX YOUR PUSH-UPS

FIX YOUR PUSH-UPS

From ancient Sparta to the Navy SEALs to the Rocky movie montages, push-ups have been a staple in some of the world’s most demanding training programs.

Done correctly, push-ups provide a model for a stable shoulder that is transferable to virtually every upper body exercise, especially for more complex pressing motions like bench presses, dips, and overhead presses.

And because they require multiple body segments to work together, push-ups are a powerful diagnostic tool to assess core stability, shoulder range-of-motion, and motor control.

In today’s post, we’ll explore a few of the most common push-up faults, dissect their causes, and create a blueprint for correcting them.

Problem: Saggy Lower Back

Your anterior muscles—rectus abdominus, external obliques, transverse abdominus—are responsible for controlling the relative position of your hips, spine, and rib cage during a push-up.  These muscles act as a sort of undercarriage that uses tension to support your bodyweight against the downward pull of gravity.

During a push-up, this abdominal tension mechanism works to keep your back in a straight line with your hips and shoulders.  If abdominal strength or timing is lacking, you end up with excessive extension—inward curvature—of your lower back.

The fix:

From an all fours position, exhale all of the air out of your chest while slightly rolling your pelvis back (posterior rotation) and rounding your back.

Maintaining the above position, step your legs back and assume the top position for the push-up.  Maintain muscular tension around this position for the whole set.

Problem: Sloppy Elbow Position

Flared elbows are push-up kryptonite—destroying good form and sapping force potential.  As soon as the elbows travel above the scapular plane, approximately 45-degrees from the body, the shoulder is pushed forward into the front of the socket.  This loads the anterior shoulder capsule and decreases the amount of torque you can harness from the muscles that move your shoulders.

The Fix:

In the top position, screw your hands into the ground in an outward, or externally rotated, direction.  This should cause the pit of your elbow to face forward and upper arm to position at a 45-degree angle body.

Problem: Sunken Shoulder Blades

You’ve probably been told before to squeeze your shoulder blades together during an exercise, but rarely do we hear, or think about, pushing the shoulder blades away from each other.  Scapula protraction, where your shoulder blades move out and forward on your rib cage, is governed by a fan-shaped muscle called your serratus anterior.

The serratus anterior attaches the scapula to the rib cage, giving it leverage and stability during reaching and pressing movements like a push-up.  When the serratus isn’t engaged as your arm reaches forward, the congruency of the shoulder blade and the rib cage is lost.  Visually, this creates a valley between the shoulder blades.

The Fix:

In the top position, screw your hands into the ground in an outward, or externally rotated, direction.  This should cause the pit of your elbow to face forward and upper arm to position at a 45-degree angle body.

Conclusion

When done correctly, push-ups improve total body fitness. Understanding where common mistakes occur and how to fix them will go a long way in improving your technique and  reaping the benefits of this powerful exercise.

FIX YOUR PUSH-UPS

From ancient Sparta to the Navy SEALs to the Rocky movie montages, push-ups have been a staple in some of the world’s most demanding training programs.

Done correctly, push-ups provide a model for a stable shoulder that is transferable to virtually every upper body exercise, especially for more complex pressing motions like bench presses, dips, and overhead presses.

And because they require multiple body segments to work together, push-ups are a powerful diagnostic tool to assess core stability, shoulder range-of-motion, and motor control.

In today’s post, we’ll explore a few of the most common push-up faults, dissect their causes, and create a blueprint for correcting them.

Problem: Saggy Lower Back

Your anterior muscles—rectus abdominus, external obliques, transverse abdominus—are responsible for controlling the relative position of your hips, spine, and rib cage during a push-up.  These muscles act as a sort of undercarriage that uses tension to support your bodyweight against the downward pull of gravity.

During a push-up, this abdominal tension mechanism works to keep your back in a straight line with your hips and shoulders.  If abdominal strength or timing is lacking, you end up with excessive extension—inward curvature—of your lower back.

The fix:

From an all fours position, exhale all of the air out of your chest while slightly rolling your pelvis back (posterior rotation) and rounding your back.

Maintaining the above position, step your legs back and assume the top position for the push-up.  Maintain muscular tension around this position for the whole set.

Problem: Sloppy Elbow Position

Flared elbows are push-up kryptonite—destroying good form and sapping force potential.  As soon as the elbows travel above the scapular plane, approximately 45-degrees from the body, the shoulder is pushed forward into the front of the socket.  This loads the anterior shoulder capsule and decreases the amount of torque you can harness from the muscles that move your shoulders.

The Fix:

In the top position, screw your hands into the ground in an outward, or externally rotated, direction.  This should cause the pit of your elbow to face forward and upper arm to position at a 45-degree angle body.

Problem: Sunken Shoulder Blades

You’ve probably been told before to squeeze your shoulder blades together during an exercise, but rarely do we hear, or think about, pushing the shoulder blades away from each other.  Scapula protraction, where your shoulder blades move out and forward on your rib cage, is governed by a fan-shaped muscle called your serratus anterior.

The serratus anterior attaches the scapula to the rib cage, giving it leverage and stability during reaching and pressing movements like a push-up.  When the serratus isn’t engaged as your arm reaches forward, the congruency of the shoulder blade and the rib cage is lost.  Visually, this creates a valley between the shoulder blades.

The Fix:

In the top position, screw your hands into the ground in an outward, or externally rotated, direction.  This should cause the pit of your elbow to face forward and upper arm to position at a 45-degree angle body.

Conclusion

When done correctly, push-ups improve total body fitness. Understanding where common mistakes occur and how to fix them will go a long way in improving your technique and  reaping the benefits of this powerful exercise.

2017-12-08T12:30:17+00:00

About the Author:

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Adam Vogel is the founder of Pure Performance Training. He is a Certified Personal Trainer (CPT) through the International Sports Science Association, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength and Conditioning Association, a certified Functional Movement Screening Specialist (FMS), and Level 1 (KBC) Kettlebell Instructor.