By: Anthony Campo
In prior posts I have discussed proper squat form with progressions in great detail. Now is time to do the same for the pushup. Pushups are another exercise that should be a part of everyone’s training in one way or another. If you are not able to do a full pushup, then it is important to be developing the all-around strength and intra-muscular coordination that you need to be able to do this important exercise. As a powerlifter, pushups will better teach you how to turn a bench press into a closed chain movement, thus maximizing your strength potential. As a bodybuilder, adding high frequency pushups into your regimen can help to build some pretty impressive arms, backs and chests. As someone looking for general fitness and health, pushups will give you a better base of total body strength, and help to build a strong core and stable joints. There are many different variations of pushups that can be trained, so for the sake of this article I will just discuss a traditional pushup.
Let’s first talk about stability. Stability initially needs to be present in order to perform a “full” pushup. I define a “full” pushup as being able to keep your body in correct posture, and moving through the full range of motion (arms locked to chest to ground back to arms locked,) without breaking form. Perpendicular to the ground, the landmarks of your shoulders, forearms, and palms should be as close as possible to a straight line. Your back should be in normal curvature, and main in such throughout. For your back to be in proper curvature, you should be able to draw a straight line from the landmarks of your head to shoulders to your butt. Whether it is the arms or back, there might be slight variances amongst different people depending on the length of their levers. However, your goal should be as close to a straight line as possible with the landmarks mentioned. No matter what width of stance or grip, you should try and maintain this posture.
Once you have the main posture of the pushup, you can focus on some accessory movements that will allow you to maximize your ability. I will go right down the body starting at the head. When a weakness is present many people will try and lead the movement with their head. This is improper, and you should lead with your chest instead of the head. To better facilitate proper movement, you should try and keep a neutral head, and pinch your shoulder blades together by retracting your shoulder blades (scapula.) This will put you in position to lead with your chest. The scapula should also be in a position of downward rotation. To best facilitate this movement, while in the top locked out position before your descend to ground, you should turn your elbows inward, or towards the midline of the body. You can also think of “spreading” the floor apart with your hands to stimulate optimal scapular function. This position will give you the most power, in that all the muscles of your back with be able to stabilize the movement. As you descend your elbows should bend at approximately 45 degrees. When you begin coming up, near the top of your movement you can “flare your elbows” to facilitate optimal triceps function and lockout power.