If there is one body weight exercise that I cannot live without it is the push up! I love how toned they make my arms look, how they strengthen my core and most of all – I love the fact that I can do them anywhere! But I totally understand RADicals, many of you are terrified of the push up. The idea of being able to do this military based movement freaks you out. Well not for long. I’m going to not only tell you, but show you the secret sauce behind the perfect push up. Are you ready? Let’s get ready to push it – push it real good.
1. Push Ups Are Total Body Boo
The first thing I tell my female clients when they complain about having no upper body strength is – “That’s cool because push ups are total body boo.” This is the number one misconception when it comes to this powerhouse of a move. And truth be told, everyone has weaker upper body muscles – hello we walk around all day on our legs, not our hands. So with that said, before we start this “push it real good party,” know this – your entire body is on the guest list.
2. First, Perfect The Plank
Speaking of your entire body, the space between your upper and lower body (read your core) is super important in this process. Because simply put, all a push up is is a freaky plank – a plank that likes to take it to the floor! My kind of party animal exercise for sure. So before you start worrying about pushing your plank up and down first let’s perfect the plank. Your heels, hips and shoulders should all be in one line and holding for at least 45 seconds is key. Get this down and then let’s move on..
3. Oh My Quad Please Use Your Legs
Okay, so your plank is perfect and now you’re ready to start lowering it to the floor. Excellent! However when you do, make sure you use your legs. Many people don’t even think of their legs during a push up but the strength of your quads is crucial. If you have weak quads it’s hard to hold your knees in the fully extended position necessary for a push up. So if your knees want to buckle during a plank or push up, then add some lower body exercises to your workout too boo.
4. Stack Your Shoulders Suga
Another common mistake with the push up is hand placement. Holding your hands too wide can lead to rotator cuff injuries and ain’t nobody got time for that. So bring your hands under your chest and stack your shoulders. A good way to gauge if your hands are in the correct place is to lie on them. Literally lay on your stomach and from there shove your thumbs directly under your chest. Start on your knees, push up and then extend your legs. Pow – perfect push up (and plank) position.
5. Take It To The Floor
Okay, so now we’re about to get this party started for real. You are in perfect push up position so next engage your core, quads, glutes and upper back muscles as you lower your body down to the ground. Your chest (unless you are well endowed) and legs should hit the ground at the same time. If your hips are still in the air and your chest is on the ground first then your lost your plank on the way down. Not cool. So keep trying this sequence until you literally feel the entire front of your body hit the floor at the same exact time. I’m serious, no halfsies – read slightly bending your elbows. If going all the way to the floor is tough then go to your knees (see #7).
6. Flip It And Reverse It
Another way to build up strength for the perfect push up is to reverse the sequence. This means you will start on the floor. You’re still going to engage the muscles I mentioned before and your shoulders will still be stacked, only this time you’re pushing up, not down. This helps take some of the fear away that lowering seems to bring to the party. So if you’re a beginner do baby push ups (knees and thighs stay on the ground), intermediate do knee pushups (thighs leave the ground) and if you’re a pro then do the real deal (whole body leaves the ground). Confused? Check out my video above.
7. There’s Levels To This
Last but not least don’t be ashamed of the fact that there are levels to this exercise. Doing baby push ups for a few weeks will only lead to push ups on your knees, and before you know it you’ll be doing the real deal. This whole progression approach is about doing them right. No need straining your shoulders or injuring yourself in a regular push up if your core is not ready. So go back to the top, take your time, be kind to yourself and know that while there are levels to this push up fun there is no judgement.