The Official Push-Up Checklist (AVOID MISTAKES!)

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The Push-Up is one of the most commonly performed exercises in the gym, unfortunately it is also one of the most often misperformed exercises. In this video, I’m going to give you a step by step checklist to make sure that you are nailing every piece of the pushup correctly so that you get nothing but gains and avoid the pains that come from doing this wrong.

The first thing that is helpful to do however is to see the similarities between the pushup and the bench press. If you visualize the movements, they are essentially the same in terms of the mechanics of the press except one is done with a barbell as the resistance and the other utilizes your own bodyweight.

If you work your way from the top down, you will want to be sure that you’re fixing each area of the chain that could present a weakness. It starts at the head and neck. When you bench press you want to avoid pushing the back of your head into the bench as you press the bar up. This often occurs as people try and generate a counter force to the bar being pressed away from them. On the pushup the head is often driven downwards. The reason here however has more to do with visually trying to cheat the rep. Making your eyes think they are closer to the ground than your body actually is. In either case you want to keep the head in neutral throughout the exercise.

Next is the shoulders. It is important on both the bench press and the pushup that you unshrug your shoulders prior to starting the repetition. This puts your shoulders in a better position and with less likelihood for impingement. It also naturally helps to correct the position of the elbows during the descent which is something that we will cover later.

The next place to focus on is the upper back and scapulae. You need to realize just how important this area is if you want to perform a bench press or pushup with maximum force generation and stability. Just as you would not attempt to perform a max vertical jump off of an unstable base like sand, you would not want to try and press from one either. The stability of tightening the shoulder blades and squeezing them together is something that can improve the force with which you can push off of them. Be sure to tighten yours and keep the bar over this area at the beginning and end of every rep.

Finally, the last set up checklist item is the activation of your glutes. On the push-up in particular, this will create a rigidity in your entire body that will make the transfer of force much more efficient and less likely to be lost at any point in the press. Really squeeze your glutes tight or drive your feet into the floor if you are pressing and you will find that you instantly increase the strength you have on the lift.

When you begin the press the most important thing you can do is focus on the position of the elbows as they relate to your body. Instead of letting the elbows flare out to the sides be sure to drop them from the horizontal about 30 degrees. This will once again protect your shoulders and actually put you into a more biomechanically strong position to push from.

Finally, the bar path is critical. Most have heard that the path of a bench press is straight. That is true but that doesn’t mean that it is straight up and down. To perform a bench press properly you want to press on an angle, from low on your chest to back up directly over the position of power and stability that we talked about already. Pausing at the bottom of each rep here will reinforce that you got here with control and not momentum.

The details like this matter no matter what exercise you’re doing. If you’re looking for a complete program where we put the science back in strength on every exercise to create the best results you are capable of, head to the link below and check out the ATHLEAN-X Training Systems.

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