Push-ups. Everyone knows ‘em. Very few can actually do ‘em. In fact, I’d wager that only about 38% of gym goers — young or old, athletic or couch potatoic — can do a single good one, let alone multiple sets of multiple reps like I do in the video below. (Go me!) Maybe even a smaller percentage than 38, but 38 is my lucky number, so we’ll go with that.
Why the epically bad performance on such a staple exercise? First and foremost, there’s a definite lack of awareness about what constitutes proper form:
- Proper form begins with the setup: wrists stacked directly under the shoulders and a straight line from head to heels. To achieve that straight line, the abs must be braced and the glutes (butt muscles) must be squeezed. This will necessitate a gaze neither ahead nor directly at the floor, but rather downward at a 45° angle. If you don’t get the setup right, the actual movement is doomed for sure.
- Proper form continues with a slow and controlled descent at least to the point at which the upper arms are parallel to the floor (elbow angle equals 90°), if not deeper if you're able and pain free. On the descent, the elbows should track inward at 45°. When viewed from above, the torso and upper arms should form an arrow, not a ‘T.’
- Throughout this descent, the same straight line from the setup must be preserved without deviation. Everything moves as one rigid unit. (Ipso facto, the push-up is really just a moving plank!) Hip sag and lower back sway are not okay, and the hip pike is also right out. Tension in the abs and glutes must be maintained.
- Proper form finishes with a strong ascent to return to the starting position. The ascent is the exact opposite motion of the descent. No funny business is to be allowed at the hips, lower back, or neck. The upper body should not rise up before the lower body. Unless you are a seal. Which you are not.