Want to get stronger? Want to improve your push up skill from puny to powerful? Build up your arms and chest and add reps to your total? Then you need to read this!
Everyone knows this exercise, from yoga to martial arts the push up is a widely renowned exercise used to strengthen the upper body and core and build stability in the shoulders. This guide takes 4 steps each designed to help you set up, execute and build on your push up skill. Lets get started;
Part 1: Getting in Perfect Position
The first thing you need to know about push ups is that it involves a lot of core strength. To maintain that straight line from head to heels as you lower and press you need core control and midline stability. If you get lazy and slouchy in the hips or shoulders then you are going to put yourself in a bad position, making it harder to perform the movement correctly or worse, risking an injury. To do that start of by getting into a high plank position, heels together and hands perfectly stacked under the shoulders. From here brace your abs and squeeze your glutes a little to generate stability through the mid section. Next get some torque. Screw your hands into the floor keeping the palms flat and the shoulders tucked in with a small amount of lat engagement. Your fingers should still be pointing straight ahead, with your elbows pointing behind you. From here simply bend and drive through the arms, your shoulders and chest will be in the perfect position to fire and you will avoid any niggles in the elbows.
Part 2: Building Strength
If you struggle to even do 1 push up then this section is for you. It will help to pass on tips and tricks to let you build muscle and strength to boost your press ups.
1. Using Regressions
Starting of with press ups can be difficult. So attempting them on your knees or at an inclined angle can be of great benefit to you. Allowing you to build the muscle and strength needed without loading your entire body weight onto the arms with each press. Similarly just holding the position can build core strength that will help assist the press up. Treat them exactly like normal push ups but know that he goal is to build strength in this position before moving on and adding more weight in the full push up position later on.
2. Negative reps.
This is the idea of starting at the top of the push up and lowering yourself as slowly as possible with good technique and control all the way down to the floor and then picking yourself up, re-establishing your primary position and repeating this process. I find 3 sets of 8-10 negatives to be a great help for those who struggle with press ups. It allows your body to take the strain without having to push your weight every time. It can be used as an entire set of 10 negative reps or as an add on at the end of your set. Say you aimed for 10 and got 7, then do 3 negatives to finish off and keep the muscles working.
Part 3: Building Endurance
If you find that you have the strength but not the stamina to do lots of push ups unbroken then this is the section for you. There are 2 main ways I train for endurance, one is just a challenging routine and the second is a specific programme that aims to boost your strength at the hardest section to help you continue past your previous failure point.
This method stands for as many reps as possible. Take a timer or set up your stop watch and go for as many reps as you can in say 10 minutes. Then try to beat this next time out. However you should always remember that quality beats quantity, but lots of quality is even better.
2. Using the pause
Pause reps are a great way to build up your strength and endurance especially at the sticking point of the press. (About half way up) to do this start by performing 5 reps and then lowering yourself down to around half way and holding this position for 5 seconds then push back up and repeat it again and again with no rest. If you can, repeat this 5 times for a total for 25 reps and 25 seconds of pause. Or if you can’t then work on doing 5 reps and holding for 5 seconds and then have a break and start fresh for 2 or 3 sets and build from there.
Part 4: Avoiding injury
We want to not only be great at push-ups and be able to do them unbroken, but we also don’t want to get injured while doing them. There are three main things you should consider to help reduce injury risk;
1. Get into a good position. See above for more info.
2. Make sure to stretch and mobilise your shoulders and chest. Mobilising and stretching will reduce injury risk and help to get you into that perfect staring position. It will also help you warm up prior to starting and after you are doing. Start with stretching the shoulders and chest and also add some stretches for the thoracic spine and upper back. Add some foam rolling or massage balls if needed.
3. If it hurts stop. Listening to your body is crucial in any exercise from running to weightlifting. If the movement hurts then you should stop. I don’t mean the muscle burn or ache I mean pain in your elbows, wrists or shoulders. If it feels weird stop and reset your position. If it is still sore after you correct your posture then take it as a sign that you need to rest and stop. We grow by accumulating work over time, not rushing it all in a day.