Stop hating push-ups

Change your mindset about push-ups

You planned your workout for the day.  You feel pumped. Then…it’s time for push-ups. As soon as you start thinking about how hard it is going to be or how much you hate them, you lose your power.  By power, I mean, you lose your actual strength. Push-ups are a fairly simple exercise, but the strength they require seems daunting.  The results of utilizing many parts of your body are worth it, though. Push-ups engage many muscle groups at once, so the strength they require, to do in repetition, is what messes with people’s heads.  The pecs, triceps, shoulders, core and hips are all engaged. But the important part of this process is the mind-body connection. I am always talking about your mind in the fitness process because it what will graduate you to the next levels of your fitness goals.

If you think you can’t do 50 push-ups, you never will.  But try to do them with the intent of doing them and you will get further than you think.

Push-up Form

The first thing people do incorrectly with push-ups is form.  I have seen many clients have an “a-ha” moment after I correct their form when we start working together. See the top photo and you will understand that a push-up starts in plank position and then moves.

You know that you are in the correct form for standard push-ups if you position your hands to be shoulder-width apart and not much wider with fingers splayed and with your middle finger pointing at 12 o’clock.

Once in the correct starting position, begin to bend your elbows and lower yourself to the ground so that your elbows are at about a 45-degree angle to your body. This is what consists of a standard push-up. 

Each person might need to have a slightly different adjustment, but if you use 45 degrees as your basic starting guide, you can move your arms in tighter or wider to/from your body, depending on how your shoulders and arms feel. You must listen to your body here so that you don’t hurt yourself. 

Your core is everything in this process. Engage your core while keeping your back flat. Make sure your plank is in one straight line from head to toe. Keep checking your lower back with each push-up. 

Don’t arch your back.

Don’t let your hips dip down too low.

If you keep slipping out of the form, it means that your core isn’t doing its job. Your push-ups will hurt and be harder to conquer this way.  You must keep your core strength engaged throughout to have a proper push-up.

Lowering your self to the ground

You must work your push-ups with your body’s full range of motion without getting injured.  When you begin to lower yourself to the ground, make sure to avoid neck strain and shoulder strain.

Engage that core and do a body check on each of the muscle groups you are engaging.  If you feel odd pain beyond the normal range of motion, as you lower down, for instance, in your shoulders, you are not in the correct form.  Build up to this exercise.  Lower yourself down, adjust by bringing your arms closer or wider to your body.  If a full push-up is still difficult after this adjustment, you may need a modification on your form.

Knee push-ups are ok to start out with, as long as you remember to keep the proper form.  Keep your butt tucked with your hips forward while squeezing your core, glutes, and quads as you lower yourself down. Check on your shoulders.  Are they relaxed? Be sure to not over-engage your neck or trap muscles, which will lead to pain and soreness. Knee push-ups are better for you if you find you are having difficulty in the standard form.

Either way, use a mind over matter technique.  Push-ups can prove to have great and immediate results when done correctly. I challenge you to start with 10 push-ups today every day for the next two weeks.  Drop me a note and let me know how you are doing! Once you have conquered that, move the goal to 20 and keep going! You got this!

T.J. McNally