February 6, 2011

Cheating pushups

Think you are good at pushups?  If you are like the majority of the people I see at the gym, there is a good chance you are doing them wrong.  The pushup is one of the best exercises around; it is great for your arms, chest, shoulders and abdominals, but most people do not seem to realize that form is more important than the number of pushups you can do.
Correct form for a full pushup is to start on your stomach, with your hands under your shoulders, legs straight and hip width apart.  Keep your gaze at the floor slightly ahead of your hands.  Maintain the normal arch in your back and straighten your arms without letting your hips or neck sag.  If your wrists hurt, you can try placing your hands on 8-pound octagonal dumbbells; this helps maintain wrist alignment.   Keep your abdominals tight and exhale as you straighten your arms, inhale as you lower.

Below are some common errors:

Scapular winging; this is where the shoulder blades protrude from the back.  This commonly occurs when fatigue causes the shoulder muscles to “give up”, and will cause shoulder and back problems over time.  In this picture his neck is also dropped.

Neck drop; this is where the head leads the way down.   It is a great way to cheat the pushup, as lowering the head makes it feel much easier.  Neck problems are the inevitable conclusion to this form. 

Hip lift; this is where the hips are higher than the shoulders.  This can be a safe modification to make the pushup easier as long as everything else is in alignment. This picture shows good alignment with the hips raised slightly.  The stick across the back is an excellent way to check alignment. 

Speed pushups.  If you can do 100 pushups in one minute chances are you are using momentum more than your muscles.  Try doing them slowly; you will be amazed at how much harder and more effective they are.

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