Push ups are one of the best upper body exercises, and they work the triceps, shoulders, and chest muscles.
The great thing about mastering pushups is that you can do them anywhere and you don't need any expensive equipment. In addition to building up your upper body strength, they can also increase your core strength and your overall fitness.
Below are some keys to doing the push up correctly.
Posture is very important during every exercise, and you should pay attention to the position of your ankles, knees, hips/pelvis/lower back, shoulders, and head/neck.
At the ankles, make sure that your ankles are in a neutral position. Your toes should not be pointed excessively.
At the knees, you should keep your knees straight by contracting the quadriceps muscles.
Your lower back and hips should also be in a neutral position. For many people, the tendency is to allow the lower back to arch excessively during push ups. When the lower back arches excessively, extra pressure is placed on the joints of the lower back.
Use your core muscles to keep your lower back in a good position.
At the shoulders, make sure that you do not shrug your shoulders. When your upper body is weak, you might have the tendency to shrug your shoulders during push ups.
Lastly, do your best to keep your head and neck in a straight line. Avoid letting your chin jut forwards to the floor, and avoid having your forehead point up towards the ceiling.
Keeping good posture is one of the most important parts of performing push ups.
Foot Placement: Generally, your feet should be about hip width apart. As you move you feet closer together or farther apart you simply change your base of support.
As you move your feet closer together from hip width you decrease your base of support and challenge the core a little more. And if you move your feet really wide apart you also slightly decrease your stability.
Choose a foot position that is comfortable.
Hand Placement: Generally, your hands should be placed a little wider than shoulder width. When you lower towards the floor, your body should be parallel with your upper arm when your elbow is about 90 degrees.
As you bring your hands closer to the center of your body, you will emphasize the triceps more so than the chest muscles.
As you bring your hands farther away from the center of your body, you will emphasize the chest muscles slightly more than the triceps.
It's okay to experiment with different hand positions. Use a comfortable hand position.
You can use many different breathing techniques, but generally you should exhale as you are pushing your body up from the floor and inhale as you are lowering your body towards the floor.
When you get fatigued, you might find that you have a tendency to hold your breath. When you hold your breath, during strenuous exercise you will fatigue more quickly and increase your blood pressure temporarily.
So don't forget to breathe.
There are so many variations to this upper body exercise.
If you lift one leg off the floor, your core muscles will work much harder and the overall exercise will become much more intense.
For more ideas, check out the page with 101 Ways to do Push Ups.
Hopefully, those tips will help you to do push ups with correct form. They are really one of my favorite upper body exercises, and they are great for both men and women.
Yours in Health,
Dr. Charles PT/PT
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