Improving push up technique can be the difference between struggling to do 5 press ups or being able to knock out a set of 15 that increases your upper body strength!
Despite push ups being so widely practised and simple in terms of execution, people tend to make elementary mistakes that make them less effective and even harder than they need to be.
Luckily, we can fix these mistakes very easily and this guide will teach you proper how to do press ups properly and more effectively!
Common Push Up Mistakes
The most common push up mistakes are:
Not Tightening Core – When you are in the start position your core should be tight, you can achieve this by pushing your abs out.
Curved Body – Your torso should be straight, squeeze your glutes to straighten up.
Looking Forwards – Throughout the entire movement your head should be in a neutral position. You should be looking at the floor not ahead of you; this ensures your spine is straight.
Proper Push Up Technique
As with any exercise, proper push up technique can only be achieved by ensuring you are in the correct starting position BEFORE you begin the movement.
Here are your markers for you to remember each time you set up for push ups:
When you prepare to do press ups your hands are the first area you should focus on. Place your hands just outside of shoulder width apart with your hands turned out at a 45 degree angle.
The angle of your elbows determines the amount of pressure on the fragile shoulder joint therefore it’s important you don’t put yourself at risk of injury by flaring your elbows unnecessarily.
Your elbows should always be at a 45 degree angle to your torso throughout the movement.
As mentioned in the common mistakes, ensure your core is tightened by pushing out your abs and squeezing your glutes which will straighten up your posture also.
Ensure your head is in a neutral position so that your spine is straight throughout the movement.
Avoiding common mistakes and good push up technique go hand in hand so follow these guidelines and you’ll be confident that your form is correct.
What if You Can’t Do A Single Push Up?
Whilst it’s important to learn proper push up technique, it’s not particularly useful if you can’t perform a single push up in good form.
So what do you do is you are not strong enough to do a single push up?
The answer is by substituting push ups for an exercise that builds your strength. Here’s a list of exercises suitable for this task:
The Plank (aka Prone Bridges) – Keep your core engaged by squeezing your abs and glutes and try to maintain this position for as long as possible.
Kneeling Push Ups
Should Push Ups Be A Part of Your Workout Plan?
The answer to this question will be highly dependant on your experience, access to equipment and countless other variables but I’ll answer it on the basis of a perfect healthy individual with access to a well equipped gym.
In the scenario above, I would suggest that push ups be replaced with other movements such as the Barbell Bench Press or Dumbbell Chest Press.
The reason for this is because these exercises allow you to add additional resistance regularly so you can keep working on improving your strength. Even perfectly performed push ups are limited as the only resistance is your body weight.
You can, of course add additional resistance using bands, loaded backpacks and even expensive weighted vests but none of these are sustainable long term. What I mean by that is, its difficult to keep adding weight to these movements week after week.
Can you imagine getting so strong at push ups that you need to add an additional 50 lbs on top of your body weight? How would you add the extra 50 pounds safely?
It would be difficult to do so compared to using weights where you simply add an extra barbell or move up to the next heaviest dumbbell.
It’s for this reason I recommend weighted exercises over push ups so if you are able to take advantage of them then do so.
As ever, increased resistance and progressive poundage is the name of the game. 100 reps with perfect push up technique are no match for a few sets of six reps with a new personal best loaded onto the bar.
If you want bigger, stronger muscles you need to life heavier loads for your body to adapt, not do more reps!