How to Master the Basic Pushup
Like many women, I have a tendency to focus on the areas of the body that I think need the most attention – my legs and butt (booty, glutes, whatever you like to call it). However, I know that my weakest area where I should be spending more time working is my arms. Why? Because I lack strength and stamina despite the slender look I’ve been blessed with.
So, whenever many of us decide to work on these key body parts – our arms, we immediately think of pushups or using arm weights. However, if you don’t have any weights or easy access to gym equipment, then pushups emerge as the easiest exercise to do. And it is. If… it’s done correctly.
Does this sound like you?
Too often, when we decide we’re going to do pushups, we plop ourselves on the floor and start lowering and pushing ourselves up and down as quickly as we can. And we do this exercise without any consideration of proper body alignment or select focus on targeted muscles. In fact, we tell ourselves, ‘Pump out 20 of these puppies and we’re golden! Woo, hoo!’
In reality though, if we were to take a video of our glorious, get-‘em-done pushups, we would see that our core wasn’t engaged and sagging, our head and neck were hanging down (which can cause strain) and our arms weren’t aligned with our shoulders. All of these bad habits can cause us to fatigue too quickly or hurt ourselves. This is why so many people stop doing pushups.
Reasons for Doing Pushups
Although it’s a basic fitness move that’s been around for a very long time, learning how to do a pushup properly will provide many benefits. First, it targets the chest, arms and shoulders for strengthening and improved flexibility. Second, there is absolutely no equipment needed, which means you can do pushups literally anywhere. Third, pushups are great for beginners and as you build strength, they can then be modified multiple ways over time. Finally, pushups will help you build endurance for other activities including daily chores, like pushing the lawn mower, pushing a heavy door open, or pushing a baby stroller.
How to Master the Basic Push Up
Proper Alignment – Step 1
Come down to your hands and knees on the floor. (Use a mat, rug or carpet for extra support and comfort). Place your hands with fingers facing forward directly under your shoulders. Straighten your legs and place your toes directly behind you.
- Beginners – Use the modified version. Place your knees on the ground and pull your heels towards your butt. (Leaving your legs straight with knees on the ground will cause problems on your knee caps.)
- Beginners – Using the above technique is a great way to learn proper body alignment and gain strength and stamina. Once you’ve mastered that, then you can place your feet behind you with straight legs.
Proper Alignment – Step 2
Engage your core – pull your stomach/abdominal muscles in. Pull your shoulder blades down and do not shrug your shoulders. Keep your head level with your body – looking at the floor slightly above your hands.
Lowering Down – Step 3
Lower your body to the floor by bending your elbows slowly. Only lower yourself to a place where you are comfortable and can push yourself back up. Make sure you are engaging your stomach/abdominal muscles and keep your head straight. Your elbows can go out to the side slightly.
Pushing Up – Step 4
Once you’ve reached a comfortable lowered position, use your arms to push your body back up to the starting position. Repeat steps 3 & 4. If you are a beginner, try to work yourself up to 2 sets of 10 pushups.
Things to Keep in Mind
While doing your pushups, there are several things to remember about proper body alignment and technique.
- Do not allow your back to sag towards the floor.
- Do not try to overcompensate by pulling your hips up too high.
- Keep your head in a neutral position with your spine – do not let your head hang down.
- Pull your shoulders down and away from your neck.
- Remember to keep your core (stomach/abdominal) muscles engaged.
Advancing Your Pushups
If you’ve mastered the basic pushup and are ready to advance your technique and/or target some different muscles, here are a few variations you can try. Note: You can try some of these variations while still using the modified knee version.
- Decrease the amount of space between the floor and your body – Improve how far you lower yourself.
- Stagger your hands – Place one hand higher/more forward than the other. Do several pushups that way and then switch hands.
- Keep your elbows close to your sides as you lower your body. This variation focuses the movement towards your triceps.
- Raise one foot off the ground as you do your pushups. Then switch feet.
Although pushups have been around for a long time and are a fundamental exercise for most basic fitness routines, they require accurate body positioning to gain optimum effect. And as you can see, pushups can be modified for any fitness level, strength level as well as for targeting specific muscles.
Ready to strengthen your upper body? Ready to feel incredibly strong? Challenge yourself to doing a set of pushups every other day for the next week. Since equipment isn’t required, do a set before you get dressed in the morning or before you eat lunch. However, you decide to do it, start now!
Are you already a master of pushups? Tell me about it, send me a pic or tag me on your pushup pic on Instagram. We want to celebrate your progress!!
PS: Want another move that targets your entire body? Read this previous post – Ultimate Total Body Toner – Plank
All pics provided by Salt Air Exchange