6:16 PM EDT, April 20, 2012
The push-up is probably one of the most loved, and most hated exercises of all time. OK, most people I know hate push-ups. Especially women who have never done more than one push-up their entire lives, or overweight people who feel push-ups are a lost cause. However, doing a perfect push-up is, in my opinion, a must-have skill to gauge overall upper-body strength and endurance.
How to perform a perfect push-up
Though nearly everyone has attempted a push-up at some time in his or her life, the vast majority of people have never performed a full range of motion floor push-up with perfect form and technique. If this describes you, don't sweat it. It's not your fault if no one ever taught you how to perform push-ups properly.
I mean, haven't we all heard this at some point before from an old-school athletic coach or gym teacher:
"All right, 20 push-ups now! No, not like that, get lower! What are you, weak? It's just a push-up! If you don't do them right, we're going to do them all day! I've got the time!"
But, oh well, let's focus on doing things right for ourselves. Below is a complete list of technique and coaching points regarding how to perform a perfect push-up:
Simultaneously tuck your elbows to your sides and pull your shoulders blades down and back. It's critical to keep your elbows close to your ribcage while performing push-ups. Letting your elbows "sprawl" away from your torso puts your rotator cuff at a much greater risk for injury. Visualize trying to hug your elbows to your ribcage while cracking a nut between your shoulder blades during all push-ups.
Simultaneously suck in your gut and brace your abs. The push-up is a great core exercise that requires good muscular endurance for your spinal muscles. By pulling your navel to your spine and bracing your abs as if you are about to be kicked in the gut, you will activate those key core muscles while performing push-ups.
Tense your thighs and squeeze your glutes. The straighter your legs during the push-up the more stable you will be. This is accomplished by tensing your thighs throughout the exercise. Tense your butt cheeks — this helps relax overactive hip flexors, alleviating strain on the lower back.
Power breathing. Focus on inhaling during the lowering portion of the push-up and then exhaling during the lifting portion of the push-up. By filling your belly with air during the lowering portion of the push-up, you make it easier to stabilize your spine, meaning that your core remains locked in, allowing for a smooth and seamless transition from the down to the up position.
Be flat as a diving board. Throughout the entire movement, the key is to maintain a straight line from the heels through the shoulders. You must not let your hips sag as this will put undue strain on your lower back. Also, avoid raising or "piking" your hips because this not only takes away much needed core work, but also results in a rounding of the upper back that potentially results in unwanted shoulder issues.
Head over to my blog, www.hometeamfitnessblog.com for a complete push-up training program.
Chad Smith is a Hagerstown personal trainer and co-owner of Home Team Fitness LLC. Go to www.hometeamfitness.net for more information.
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