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3 TIPS TO BOOST YOUR PUSH-UP

By Muhilan Kandhasamy
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YOU CAN’T TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS; EXCEPT IN THE NAME OF FITNESS GAINS

People have been doing pushups since the beginning of time, and good reason! It is a ‘gym rat’ classic, and has huge popularity for workout newbies with a set of dumbbells at home, flexing in the mirror until red in the face. They are extremely effective for developing strength and conditioning adaptation, and are a good fit for nearly every type of a persons training routine; nearly all of athletes, expert lifters, calisthenic training, and even this baby. Alright, maybe that’s a bit of a stretch,but you are starting to see my point. However, there is a drawback, and one of the the biggest problems are…

JUST BECAUSE YOU CAN DO THEM, DOESN’T MEAN THEY ARE CORRECT
Yep, I said it. Sorry to blow your mind, but the chances are you fall into the category of “I need some touch up on my technique”, just like I am. If world class athletes are working daily on efficiency, there is no reason to think there isn’t room to improve. That would the equivalent of sitting in for a few calculus tests, walking into the final exam, and throwing down every single formula and integral you could thinking you nailed it, and submitting it with a smile. Well since that false reality is over, let’s put this in some rational terms; if you want to become proficient at doing anything, it will take time, quality practice, and acceptance of critique.

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IT CAN TAKE UP TO 8,000 PROPER REPETITIONS TO PROPERLY LEARN A MOVEMENT PATTERN!
I see many of my students become discouraged and without-a-doubt pissed off when they keep making the same miscues again and again. Yeah I get it, it can become frustrating to keep fixing the same thing over and over before that “ah-ha” moment. Imagine as if you were a super efficient sports car that has a leaky gas tank; you would find yourself constantly needing to stop, refuel, and then get back to the open road. Not before long, you find yourself right back at the gas pump looking to solve your dilemma. In this case, our “refuel” is the belief that by doing a ton of reps you will become stronger and better at a movement. The key is not just movement, but the quality of the movement! By consciously filling up your physical gas tank, eventually you’ll get yourself up and cruising on the autobahn with no signs of stopping.

Push-up variations can add spice into lifters both novice and advanced across the board. The reality is, there is a small percentage of people who can properly execute the perfect push-up 10 times in a row. Some typical errors are;

  • Head dive forward like a turtle to the floor

  • Elbows flare out, looking like the letter ‘T’

  • Hips rise and we take on a pike position

  • Hips drop below our chest and nose, leading to a gnarly low back arch (no bueno)

  • An ‘overactive’ upper trapezius elevates our scapulas, rather than retract them

We’ve all seen that guy, strutting around the gym with their nipple revealing tank top, snaback hat and obnoxious beats headphones and end looking like this with their push-ups or burpees:

And if for some reason your push-ups resemble that fine lookin’ dance move, grab a notebook, and get ready to upgrade your software!

SIMPLICITY: YOU NEVER OUTGROW THE ESSENTIALS
In order to move forward, sometimes it is necessary to take some small steps backward. Some people become unsatisfied, embarrassed and ego-shattered when they have to regress a movement. This is totally the opposite! By allowing yourself to take a step back and focus on correcting some weaknesses you may have, I find that much more impressive than any amount of weight thrown on a bar. Acknowledging flaws, addressing them, and executing them until they are become proficient is what will separate the average gym-goer looking for fast results versus the hunger for longevity and a real lifestyle shift. To polish-up your push-up, I have 3 must use exercises to instill proper movement at the joints utilized:

UTILIZE SCAPULAR RETRACTION AND PROTRACTION

Retraction and Protraction (no, not that kind of protraction). The retraction of your scapula is the posterior movement of your ‘shoulder blade’ along your rib cage toward your spine, and protraction is the forward movement. If that still didn’t clarify, watch this short clip of a band resisted example:

It is pretty common that this sensation isn’t utilized nearly enough, seeing as we become locked up in our shoulder complex from sitting slouched over driving, relaxing or typing at a desk… *subtly fixes posture*. This is the motion we want to utilize and emphasize when performing pushups to:

a) Maximize potential performance from proper stabilization, and

b) Minimize potential injury of the glenohumeral joint during movement.

A quick elaboration on point ‘b’. The glenohumeral joint is the ball and socket joint between the humerus and scapula. When scapular movement is compromised, impingement can occur in the tendons, leading to a compromised structure of torque and force production.

NVIGORATE YOUR ANTERIOR CORE

The primary role of the anterior core is to resist lumbar spine extension. When performing pushups, many people allow their belly-button to sink towards the floor, so they wind up in a solid Cobra pose rather than a powerful pushup position. More often than not, the lack or core engagement or strength will put you in this position, and that’s opening up a new can of worms to injury you shouldn’t want to find out. In short term, a lack of anterior core engagement can lead to acute or chronic low back irritation that can be further intensified through inadequate postural alignment during daily tasks. Once we can gain control and stabilize our trunk 360 degrees (with our deep, full belly breathing!), performance will increase while leaving your risk of injury in the dust.

Add these variations into your training routine, in any capacity you need, and experience the effects of newfound strength and ability!

Wishing You Great Health and Strength,

Coach Sean