The humble push-up is one of the most basic exercises known to man. It’s most likely the first exercise you were ever taught as a kid. It’s simple and easy enough to perform, and everybody can do it.
Push-ups are great for developing upper body strength. They primarily engage the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders. If performed correctly, they also engage the lower back and strengthen the core. Push-ups are an effective workout for developing strength and overall athleticism. It’s no wonder that martial arts gyms around the world incorporate push-ups in their workout routine.
In most cases, an individual’s ability to perform push-ups is a great indication of that individual’s fitness level. The easier you can do them, the more in shape you are. But we also understand that many people struggle with push-ups. Although they are easy by nature, they can also be quite challenging for some.
Ever wondered how to do push-ups properly? Do you want to get the most out of your push-ups? We’ve come up with some pointers for you, to help you improve your form, and maximize the gains from this very simple but inherently tough exercise.
Today, Evolve Daily shares five ways to level up your push-ups.
1) Learn the proper push-up form
It’s the first exercise you learn in primary school PE. Our teachers share with us the basics, but from there, everyone has their own deviation. Whether that’s touching the knees to the ground, pointing the elbows outward, or arching the back, these deviations exist because they make push-ups less challenging, and place the burden on other parts of the body.
However, improper form is one of the major reasons for weak push-ups. Understand how to do them correctly, and you instantly get more out of them.
A proper push-up begins in the high plank position, with your hands in line with your shoulders, and your hands facing forward. Your core should be engaged and tight, and your back should be straight for the whole exercise. This involves positioning your head properly as well, which should not be dropped nor bent like you’re looking upward. It should be in a neutral position, directly facing the floor.
The next step is to lower your body slowly until your chest barely grazes the floor, with your elbows pointing slightly back at an angle, tucked in tight. Then, quickly push back up to perform the perfect push-up.
2) Build your strength
In order to build strength for proper push-ups, you must also engage in various push-up variations, which will only help to stabilize your body and strengthen the muscles involved in the exercise. We understand the proper push-up may be difficult to perform as a beginner, so you can try these easier versions while building enough strength to do proper ones.
Wall push-ups are the easiest form of push-ups, and it puts the least amount of pressure on your joints. Stand with your body parallel to the wall, an arm’s length away. Your body should be straight as you bend your elbows and lean forward into the wall. Push back to your starting position to complete the wall push-up.
If wall push-ups are too easy for you, or have become easy over time, then you’re ready to level up. Proceed with modified (kneeling) push-ups.
Your body is essentially in the starting position of the standard push-up, except that instead of your feet, you will be balancing on your knees. Your arms should be shoulder-width apart, hands facing forward, with the neck neutral and the core engaged. Bend your knees with your feet pointing up, and then proceed as if you’re doing a standard push-up.
Keep practicing, and eventually, you’ll find that even modified push-ups have become less of a challenge. You can move on to standard push-ups at this point.
3) Power up your core
The importance of a steady core when doing push-ups cannot be emphasized enough. Push-ups are full-body exercises that require stability from your head down to your toes. A core that collapses during push-up is a weak core that should be strengthened.
The best way to strengthen your core is by performing core stability exercises. Among those exercises are planks, sit-ups, and crunches.
Planks are endurance exercises that engage almost all muscle groups in the body. The proper plank form requires a straight spine, a tight core, and a neutral neck, which are also necessary for a proper push-up. Strengthen your core with a series of 20-second planks to level up your push-up quality.
And while it may be weird to talk about crunches and sit-ups while discussing push-ups, know that these exercises are all related and will help you in your chase for the perfect push-up.
4) Incrementally increase the number of repetitions
As you practice push-ups with particular attention to maintaining proper form, you’ll notice yourself getting used to the motion. Push-ups become easier to do, and you’re able to do more. This is where increasing repetitions is parallel to raising the difficulty level and challenging yourself anew.
Increase your reps per set, or incorporate an extra set. Make things extra challenging by completing a number of push-ups within a specific time. Try your best not to deviate from the proper form, and eventually, you’ll find that the proper form will become second nature. It incorporates itself into your muscle memory, and without having to think about it, you’ll be able to execute the perfect push-up every time.
5) Change the tempo
Changing the tempo of your push-ups is another way to incorporate some variation and amp up its difficulty. The exercise puts more strain and tension on your body when you add pauses or slow the overall movement.
Slow your downward movement, and add a slight delay when you get to the bottom before pushing back up. You can also do it as a hold exercise. Alternatively, you can speed up your push-up and turn it into a cardio workout in high-intensity interval training.
There are also many push-up variations that target different muscle groups, such as wide push-ups, narrow push-ups, decline push-ups, and plyometric push-ups, among others. Incorporate them into your workout as much as you like. Just make sure to keep their respective proper forms in mind at all times to maximize your gains and maintain safety.
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