Maybe the most primal and basic of all exercises. We all know what they are. We all try to do them and know they’re good for us.
But like squats and pull-ups, 95% of the people I see doing push-ups do them wrong.
Build an incredibly solid foundation, and you’ll be on your way to attempting more complex bodyweight movements in no time. But like the foundation of any house, you need to start with a solid base.
Mistake #1: Flaring your elbows out wide.
In a correct push-up, hand position and elbow position are crucial. Your elbows should be tucked in slightly, not out like a chicken! What’s the solution? Imagine you were trying to give someone a light push. You wouldn’t squeeze your elbows directly into your side, and you wouldn’t lift your elbows up to your ears (hopefully). Instead, you will likely fall somewhere halfway between that. In other words, when you drop into your standard push-up, your upper arms should be at your sides at about a 45 degree position to your body.
Mistake #2: Not doing a full rep
Not 100% sure you are doing a full rep? To check, you should be able to ick your hands off the floor in what the CrossFit world calls a hand-release push up. You don’t actually have to lift your hands up, but if doing so at the bottom of your push-up would require some Wingardium Levi-oh–sa action (i.e. you are not all the way to the ground) then you can stand to go lower!
Mistake #3: Not maintaining a straight line from head to toes.
Your whole body should move up and down together. We often see this when people get tired or do too many reps… their upper body comes up before their lower body! Your body should basically be in a plank position from head to toe: core tight, butt clenched, through the entirety of the reps!
Mistake #4: Your head/nose touches the ground first.
In proper push up form, your chest should be the first thing to touch the ground, not your nose /head. If this is the case then your form might be wrong. The solution? Keep your head tucked back slightly to prevent your nose from touching the ground first.
Mistake #5: Trying to progress too quickly through variations
When you attempt to add more weight or try a variation of a bodyweight exercise that is tougher, the form of the movement can break down in ways that can lead to injuries and lost progress. The solution? Keep to an easier variation until you can competently complete the variation. If you need to, start with knee push-ups. If you need to start with something a little easier, try doing push-ups with your hands on a stable elevated surface. You can also combine the two and do knee push-ups on an elevated surface.