I recently wrote a note on how to complete 210 push-ups in 10 minutes. The note teaches a creative way to do as many as 210 push-ups in as little time as possible (10 mins in the case of the note). The essence is to get the chest highly activated by upping the intensity of the exercise. Few of those who’ve read the note have challenged themselves by giving it a try and I’ve been more than impressed with the feedbacks on the time taken to complete the challenge at first try. However, it necessary to know that the whole point of the challenge is missed if the push-ups are performed with bad form. The good news is push-ups remain one of the most rewarding body-weight exercises for the upper body if performed with good form, and for this reason, it is important everyone performing them does so with the proper technique. The bad news is a lot of people don’t know what ‘good form’ is. That is why I felt a strong need to write about this (how to do push-ups correctly).
Learning to do push-ups correctly is a massive step in a person’s upper body development because if rightly done, one can build nice-looking pecs and triceps. I can tell you that authoritatively because I built my chest with push-ups before I knew the four walls of a gym!
My pecs are not like that of a Greek god yet, but they’re impressive (I know, I know.)
So, it’s a big plus if you get it right (whether as a gym beginner or not) because it’s not every time you’re chanced to go to the gym. Sometimes you just don’t have the time to go looking for the nearest gym in your vacation location or in your new neighborhood, and for a lot, the gym subscription could even be too expensive. However, all these shouldn’t prevent anyone willing from building an amazing upper body. Even if you go to the gym, sometimes you still have to go back to the basics. Push-ups are the basics.
Okay, so let’s get straight to it.
How to Do Push-ups Correctly
- Assume the plank position but with your arms fully stretched vertically and your palms on the floor facing straight forward
Place your palms right under your shoulders and get into a high plank position. While in this high plank position, your elbow should always fold inwards, not outwards. There shouldn’t be elbow flaring.
Now, go down while using your elbow joint as a ‘pivot’ through which your whole body goes up and down. This is an important movement to watch out for. If you perform this movement well, you find that you are not helping your body up by tilting sideways or through the help of some other muscles which leads to you not working your chest adequately. Let your body touch the floor but not rest on it.
A little tip here: Try to look just slightly forward while in this position instead of looking directly downward. This helps a bit with your range of motion as you’re able to go as low as possible in this position in order to be able to activate your chest like you should. When you look forward, you can comfortably bring your chest to touch the ground or as close as possible when going down (the higher the range of motion, the better) unlike while facing directly down.
- Retract your shoulders when on the negative
This is where most people get it wrong. In fact, only two out of ten people get this right. And guess what? It might actually be by far the most important thing to do if your focus is to actually build an amazing chest (you can do push-ups to work your triceps while putting less emphasis on your chest).
A lot of people tend to feel more stress in their shoulders and arms and they don’t feel it so much in their chest. I have had a few people who’ve spoken to me about shoulder pains since they started doing push-ups. If you fall in this category of people, what you should do is pull your shoulder blades back as you go on the negative (as you go down). You should push up from this retracted shoulder position.
Don’t have your shoulders rolled up in front of you. Retract the shoulder girdle. You want your shoulder blades squeezed.
- Keep your body parallel to the floor
Do not arch your back. Keep it straight without necessarily locking it or putting so much emphasis on making it rigid. Do not lift your hip up; your body should be parallel to the floor. Tighten your abs too.
- Keep your arms closer to reduce stress on shoulders and increase activation of chest
Like I have earlier said, keep your palms just under your shoulders (i.e. have them at shoulder length). If your arms are too wide apart, the more your shoulders are involved. The closer you bring your arms in, the more your triceps get involved (this could be good for people with shoulder problems). Place your palms in a way that your chin is approximately on the same level as the tip of your fingers.
I have given here all the most important tips of doing push-ups correctly. For regular push-ups, sticking to these points would help you work your chest appropriately. Even for the different push-up variations, these points would still be very relevant in working the chest well.
Some other important tips for performing push-ups the right way are:
- Keep your neck straight but relaxed
- Breathe- breathing is important
- Do not stiffen your neck or elbow