The push up is the ultimate upper body exercise. Everyone touts the bench press as a superior exercise but this is a fallacy. People may disagree with me but here are my reasons-
- Push Ups can be done everywhere and require zero equipment.
- Push Ups do not stress the nervous system and joints as much and can be performed frequently and with high volume.
- Being a closed chain kinetic movement it builds the tendons and the joints as well as the muscles. It allows the joints to stack up on each other and compensate for errors, something which can never happen in a bench press due to the scapula being wedged against the bench.
- Push ups transfer to almost any pushing movement. It will build both overhead and horizontal pushing power and due to the planking position teaches you to express force in a standing position as well.
- Pushups build the stabilizer muscles and as such will develop all the muscles required to express pressing power in a standing position.
- Push ups are great for the triceps, shoulders, chest, forearms and fingers, rotator cuff and the abs.
- Push ups are very safe and can even reverse shoulder injuries.
The real issue with push ups is that no one ever does them right. In addition to that no one knows how to progress correctly on them as well. Here is a simple list of points for quality push up technique-
- Use a handspacing that is exactly shoulder width. Do not over estimate your size and take a wide grip. In a correct push up the arms will be parallel to each other when straight.
- Position your hands a little lower and under the body. Basically space your hands and feet such that at the bottom of the push up the hands will be just at the intersection on the chest and the stomach. Most people will position the hands far above this point.
- Open your finger and spread them. Grip the floor with your fingers and twist the ground outwards. This way the elbows will come inwards and the shoulders will be tight.
- The shoulders should be down and away from the ears and the elbows should be somewhat tucked inwards.
- Push through the base of the palm.
- Keep your hips, knees and spine perfectly straight and do not let the body sag or A frame at all.
- Squeeze the glutes and abs to maintain a rigid position throughout the push up. Seriously squeeze everything. The more you do this the more you will understand how to get the most out of the push up. People who normally perform 50 reps may not even do 10 when done this way.
- Inhale while going down and exhale while coming up.
- Hold the bottom and the top for a full second.
- Go down fully until the chest touches the ground and come up fully till the elbows are locked.
- Do not jerk, swing, sway or twist the body at any point of time.
When you do all this you will quickly realize that even 10 push ups is a worthy goal. If you are unable to perform push ups in this fashion on the ground, rather than cheat to get your reps use the following exercises to build the strength and technique required-
- Wall Push Ups-
There are excellent to practice the technique and make your elbows stronger. Master this until 3 sets of 50 reps are easy.
- Incline Push Ups-
They build basic strength and technique and can be performed from any object that is hip level or higher. The higher the object, the easier the movement. I suggest mastering it for 3 sets of 40 reps from hip level in perfect technique before tackling the next variation.
- Kneeling Push ups-
This exercise accustoms you on being on the floor and builds strength. Do not try it until you have mastered incline push ups from the hip level. Master this until 3 sets of 30 in perfect technique are easy.
- Push Up Position Plank-
While this exercise does not build pressing power it helps you stay tight and rigid during push ups. To be able to perform strict push ups, you should be able to hold this position for 2 mins.