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Proper Push Up: Do It Right Or Not At All

Dec 8, 2007
Everyone knows how to do a proper push up. Or do they? Sometimes I cringe when I see men and women, or boys and girls, perform a push up. Actually, they tell me it is a push up, but I'm not really sure! In this article I'll go over what you must do (and not do) in order to perform a proper push up.

But first, why should you even do push ups?

The push up is more than an upper body exercise. It is a full body exercise requiring core stability and balance as well as strength to complete. I'm a big fan of exercises that require the entire body because it teaches your body to function as one complete unit, instead of a bunch of unrelated parts.

So, what constitutes a proper push up?

The push up is a slow and deep lowering and raising of the body while the body remains straight and stiff. The body has to remain stiff and straight throughout the entire lowering and raising. The only thing that moves during the movement is the arms.

The body should be straight at the top, during and at the bottom of the movement. This is accomplished by using your core stabilizer muscles, butt and legs to make your body as ridged as possible. As you can see, your whole body is involved in completing a proper push up, and not just your upper body.

Upper body strength and core strength must be coordinated to do a proper push up. If either your upper body or core is weaker than the other, errors will occur and performance is reduced.

If you are making any of these common mistakes, you are not performing a proper push up.

- Don't sag in the middle. Your stomach should not drop down... you must remain ridged.

- Don't raise your butt. Your butt should not be in the air in an attempt to rest or decrease the distance the proper push up must travel... remain straight.

- Don't lead with the head and neck. Don't crane the neck and seek the ground with your nose in an attempt to shorten the push up distance... your whole body must be lowered and raised.

- Don't bounce. Your body should stop short of touching the ground... don't hit the ground for the rebound effect.

- Don't stop short. You must complete the full range of motion to be considered a proper push up.

- Don't go too fast. Many people go fast to use elastic energy to help them complete the up movement... the tempo should be slow and steady to be considered a proper push up.

- Don't rest. If you have to stop, the set is over.

If you find yourself committing any of these mistakes during the set... terminate the set. I would much rather you do a few great push ups than a lot of sloppy movements. You'll get more physical benefits by performing each repetition perfectly, than boasting high numbers of bad push ups.

Now, drop and give me 20 good push ups, if you can!
About the Author
Coach Eddie Lomax, author of Workout Without Weights uses bodyweight exercises like push ups to improve fitness, burn fat and build an attractive physique. No equipment necessary, so you can start today!
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