Pushups: You’re Doing Them Wrong

The vast majority of people do pushups with horrendous technique. It’s not their fault – the body defaults to positioning itself in a certain way when it lacks strength in some key areas.

Bad technique also derives from subconsciously imitating pushups technique seen in fitness magazines and online. Notice how all those professionally done shots have the model looking forwards smiling into the camera, and arms flaring out like wings? It’s a photogenic shot.

Unfortunately, proper pushup technique is much less photogenic, so you don’t see it as much.

Avoid The Magazine Pushup Pose of arms sticking out and head up

Note: good pushups are modest and make for a bad photo, i.e. arms tucked in and head pointed at the floor.

Why Spend Time Working On Pushups Technique?

Aside from reducing your risk of injury, it puts your joints and muscles in their optimal position to produce force. More force = more pushups. More pushups = more strength and you achieve your 100 Pushups goals faster.

It also transforms what on the surface can be a monotonous training plan, to a journey of discovery. You connect more with the movement, your mind is within the effort rather than externally distracted. It is just a good feeling to take a movement and master it.

The 3 Most Common Pushups Mistakes

  1. Arching your lower back
  2. Arms coming out too far out to the side
  3. Forearms not remaining vertical

Watch this video. It highlights these three mistakes, and is a good go-to resource for pushup technique:

Video Notes:

  • 15secs – Tuck your bum under. Don’t stick your bum out. You want to be tucked under so your lower back stays more neutral or flat, and your abs stay engaged. Stay tight.
  • 43secs – Shoulder blades. Lots of people miss this. You need to be able to protract your shoulder blades at the top of every pushup. Avoid ‘winging’. You should see your shoulder blades move out towards your body as you finish the pushup.
  • 1:38secs – You need to be able to hold a perfect plank position.
  • 1:50secs – You want your hands to be slightly wider than shoulder width apart, not too wide though. Spread your fingers wide and turn them out slightly (it helps the elbows stay close to your body). My opinion:
  • 2:30secs – You lean forwards slightly so your shoulders are just above your fingers. When you lower down, your elbows are bending and staying close to your body. Elbows should not flare out.
  • 3:12secs – Forearms stay vertical throughout the movement, like a post. To achieve this, the shoulders come ahead of the arms.
  • Rest of the video is about progressions: he talks about incline pushups to make the movement easier. This is one way to go, but I prefer you start out doing negatives and pushup planks if you can’t do full pushups. His advice about not doing kneeling pushups is sound.

Next Section: The correct arm position →

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