I take a lot of fitness classes….where we do a lot of different exercises…and one of the oldest moves in the books is: the pushup. Duh!
It’s everywhere…in basically all classes because it works…and it is a true testament to fitness levels. I couldn’t manage many push ups for the longest time. I had terrible form and I wouldn’t get through more than maybe 1 or 2…so lame I know!
But I notice that a lot of women have trouble with pushups…and not just that they can’t do them- they aren’t doing them right.
That weird half pushup thing that only works a tiny portion of your shoulder and puts a lot of pressure in your neck? Yea..those are no good you guys…and they certainly aren’t doing much for your body.
Another issue I have with the typical way most people do pushups is the elbows out to the side thing…you know, the way that we were all originally taught to do a pushup? It’s not a very functional movement. Think about it: when have you ever in life pushed something away from you or thrown something with your arms in that position elbows out to the side? Probably never. Right? It is not a powerful way to move, which is why we don’t use that position for many things in life. What we do use when pushing, though, is the very efficient elbows in at your rib cage form.
Think about if someone was coming at you- maybe someone is getting too close for comfort or was going to fall into you…you would probably hold your hands out in front of you to push them away, elbows in line with your rib cage, not flared out. That is because it’s the most powerful way to push. It also uses more of your muscles and ensures you aren’t going to strain a shoulder muscle in the process.
A lot of people call this the “tricep pushup”. I just call it the pushup, because it’s the only way I do them.
It’s also how you “chaturanga” in yoga class- you would never see someone doing that move with their elbows out…and yoga has been around for…well basically forever. I think over all those years, they know what they are talking about.
I’m not saying that the elbows out way is wrong…I just don’t think it is as good as when your elbows are in at your sides. I think it can put a lot of strain in your shoulders and neck…AND I think more people have terrible form when they do them that way! Give the elbows in way a shot- I think you’ll be happy with the results!
And like I said above, I couldn’t do many of them at first- I really had to practice my form and gain some strength first. I started out doing these only on my knees and I wasn’t able to go all the way down to the floor. But eventually, over time, I was able to do more and more…and now I am pretty good at them! I can do a lot on my hands and toes, and when I get fatigued, I simply drop to my knees- no shame in that!!
When doing a proper pushup, your chest must touch the floor (not rest on it and lay down, just a light tap is all you need) before pushing back up…and your core and butt should always stay engaged- NO sinking down or “worming” your way back up.
So my tips to all of you when it comes to pushups:
Keep practicing them! Practice on your knees and really work on form. Keep your butt down and core engaged and really focus on using your arms muscles to push you up.
Keep your elbows at your rib cage! Your arms should graze your body as you lower and lift- flaring them out isn’t as efficient and ends up working things that you don’t want to work.
Don’t get discouraged! This isn’t the easiest move…it takes practice and strength. Like I said, it has taken me a while to be able to do more than just a few, and I am still not perfect at them. They are something I constantly work on and see improvements as time goes on.
Engage your core! This is a major core workout if you let it be. You know planks right? Those are so good for your core…and a pushup is also a plank, but with movement added in. Keeping your core tight will ensure good form AND an ab workout.
Photos by Ben Jorgensen Photography