Push ups are a staple of any good resistance training program. Pushing is one of the key foundational movements of our life. We need to be able to push things away, we need to be able to push things off of us, and we need to be able to push ourselves up off the floor.
Besides being an important for part of overall strength for life in general, push ups make for sexy armpits. Yes, I am serious! Strong, defined chest muscles make for sexy armpits.
Push up require core strength, arm strength, chest strength and even back strength.
Don’t miss out on all these benefits by doing the exercise incorrectly. Take a minute to learn how to get the most out of your push ups. Even more importantly don’t hurt yourself because you do push ups incorrectly.
Let’s start with the arm position
Many women will have their elbows straight out from their shoulders. This can be damaging to your shoulders. If you already have a shoulder issue this is likely to really aggravate it. Sometimes people think,”Oh, it’s going to hurt my bad shoulder but I need to work it to get it stronger, so I will just work through it.” That can be true in some cases as you work to rehab a joint but in this case let’s first make sure you are in a safe position. Let’s protect your shoulders by getting out your “refrigerator arms”
Refrigerator arms is what I call the position your arms are in when you push the refrigerator back into place. Go ahead – do it. Put your arms up like you are pushing the fridge back. Hands are not wider than your shoulders, and your elbows are below your shoulders, at a 30 to 45 degree angle, versus being in line with shoulders.
Watch to ensure that your elbow stays above your wrists. Sometimes your elbows like to travel behind your wrists, and your shoulders should not move behind your wrists either. This can cause a lot of strain on the elbow.
No girl push ups here!
Let’s talk about modified push ups versus full push ups. I never call them “girl push ups” because first, there are plenty of guys out there that need to or should be doing push ups from their knees. Second, women are perfectly capable of doing full from their toe push ups.
I think everyone knows you need to keep your butt down when doing push ups. Sometimes it’s hard to tell that your butt is up in the air. I recommend that you try taking a video of yourself doing it. Check to see if your hips are in line with the rest of your body.
Modified push ups are easier to do because you are moving a shorter lever arm. (There is that physics class coming into play in real life. Thank you Betsy for helping me pass!) Some trainers are very against modified push ups, but I believe they have their place. However doing 50 modified push ups will not lead to being able to do even one regular push up.
You must also practice doing full push ups, but if you can’t do them from the floor you can do them from an elevated position. For instance, you can try putting your hands on a bench, or using the bar of a squat rack. A general rule is if you can do 20 elevated bench push ups you can likely do at least 1 form the floor.
Another trick I like is using a resistance band to assist you. This one is a little tricky to set up at home unless you have the right equipment but check it out.
Screw the Push Up
Now let’ s talk about the push up I love to hate. I call it “Screw the Push Up.” This can be done from your knees, your toes and even elevated from a bench.
If we pretend to be unscrewing a jar with your hands you will get just enough rotation that you really engage the chest muscles. If you like to be sore, this should do it.
I have to mention the importance of keeping your body in balance. Many of us are very tight in the chest, we do everything in front of us all day long. Type on a computer, text on the phone, drive, etc. This can lead to tightness across the front of the body. To counteract that add some chest opening exercises to your warm up.
I typically have my clients do up to two back or pulling exercises for every chest or pushing exercise they do. This can help keep good posterior strength and posture even with all the work we do in front of ourselves.
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