Do you include push-ups in your fitness routine? Well, you might be surprised to find out you’ve been doing them wrong this whole time. Doing push-ups wrong is a dangerous game and you could end up injuring yourself. But if you do them right, the results pay off big time. “They challenge our pecs, our triceps, and [the back of the] shoulders, and require a good understanding of core and hip stability as well,” Rob Sulaver founding trainer at Rumble Boxing and founder/CEO of Bandana Training told SELF.
Why you should do pushups
Push-ups help us to build strength in several muscle groups at once. These include muscles and joints in your arms, shoulders, chest, back, abs, and your legs. The chest muscles get the main workout followed by the triceps on the back of your upper arms and deltoids, a.k.a. your shoulder muscles. Push-ups are also great for building your core strength.
The best part about push-ups is that you don’t have to head to the gym to get this thorough workout. You can do them right in your own home. Doing push-ups also helps you to burn lots of calories, according to Livestrong.com. You’ll burn more calories from doing a push-up than you will from doing crunches. This is because you’re using more energy, in the form of calories, to move all your different muscles.
But the subtleties of the up and down movements can either make or break you. It’s crucial that you are in the right position and have proper form when doing a push-up.
It’s all in the form
Most people mess up the proper position by hollowing out or dipping their back. This limits how freely your shoulders can move and makes push-ups harder to do. Hollowing out your back creates a smaller space for your rotator cuff and tendons to move between your humerus and clavicle, which can cause damage.
“Before you drop down to give us any reps, take note that it’s extremely important to pay attention to the subtleties of the movement here,” writes Men’s Health associate fitness editor Brett Williams. “You’re not just flopping to the ground and pumping yourself up and down until you burn out — there are important aspects of the foundational plank position that you need to keep in mind every time.”
Getting it right
Doing the perfect push-up starts with doing a perfect plank pose, which is a full body tension pose. First, place your hands shoulder-width apart. You can go a little bit wider if this is more comfortable for you. Fingers should be splayed with your middle fingers pointing straight forward.
As you push up, squeeze your shoulders while keeping your glutes and abs tight. You must engage your core and keep your back flat. Properly engaging your core will help prevent your back from dipping. When you’re ready, bend your elbows and lower yourself toward the ground. Make sure you’re not just plopping down. Your body must be in full control and engaged while you do this.
It’s best to keep your arms at a 45-angle to your body during this process. But that’s not a hard and fast rule. This angle is what most people find comfortable but feel free to do what works for you. The angle that’s best for you will depend on your shoulder mobility and where you’re strongest.
It’s in your head
Doing the perfect push-up also has a mental aspect to it. So, if you feel like doing push-ups are difficult or you’ve had past experiences that tell you that you can’t do a push-up it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. “A lot of times there is the mental component,” said Lauren Pak, NASM-certified personal trainer and co-founder of Achieve Fitness in Boston.
So it’s important not to psyche yourself out. Instead, psyche yourself up. Tell yourself that you’re fully capable of doing push-ups and doing them correctly. Don’t stop until you achieve your goal.