There is a crap ton of ways to do a push up. I am a fan of most of them, but instead of going over all of them in one post (which would be super time consuming), I am just going to go over the standard push up in this post.
I will break it down into steps so that it is relatively easy to understand. Once you understand how to get into the right position, you will make a much more progress in terms of pushing strength.
Be sure to read through everything. If you only look at the pictures you may not grasp the entire concept. Don’t treat this like a book when you were a kid where you only picked it up for the pictures. I know, I need to work on my lats, but hey, we are all a work in progress right?
Onward to the instructions!
Step 1. Head Position
(See Figure 1 below)
You want to be sure to keep your head in a neutral position. This means that your head is not tilted back, but it also means that your chin is not tucked. This will ensure that you develop a motor pattern that favors spinal alignment.
Step 2. Rib Cage Down & Tight Abs
(See figures 2 & 3 below)
If you arch your back and puff your chest out, your ribs will likely flair out. When we do a push up, we want to get the rib cage down and keep it down by squeezing our abs as tight as we can. One of the benefits of doing a push up this way is that you are essentially doing a plank while doing your push up. It makes for a much more stable position.
Step 3. Neutral Pelvis (Hip Bones) & Tight Glutes
(See figure 2 & 3 below)
Similar to the rib cage, we want to put our pelvis (hip bones) in a neutral position. If you are not used to analyzing the position of your pelvis then this one might be a little tricky to spot. I usually que people to tuck their tail under a little but since most of the people that I see have a forward tilting pelvis. This will usually help them get their hips into a position where they can squeeze the glutes, which will further stabilize the push up position.
Step 4. Shoulder Blade (Scapula) Positioning
(See figures 4 & 5 below)
Your shoulder blades are called your scapula. When you are at the top of your push up, you want your scapula to be apart. In gymnastics, this is a little more exaggerated since most gymnasts train to strengthen the hollow position, which requires nearly full protraction (shoulder blades apart). You do not need to be this not picky, but you should definitely make sure that your shoulder blades are not together throughout the entire push up.
As you go down for the push up, your scapula will gradually come together and at the bottom position, they will be completely retracted (shoulder blades together). Going through a full scapular range of motion will help to strengthen the musculature of of the entire shoulder girdle. This is a good thing if you are trying to build strong shoulders, which if you are doing push ups I assume that is something that you want.
(For full push up, see figures 6 & 7)
This the best way that I know how to do a standard push up. Below you will find pictures in sequence according to the instructions. I hope this helps you do better push ups!
Figure 1. Neutral head position.
Figire 2. Rib cage flair and forward tilting pelvis. Not a good position.
Figure 3. Rib cage down, abs tight and neutral pelvis. Good position.
Figure 4. Scapula protraction. Top position for push up.
Figure 5. Scapula retracted. Top bottom position for push up.
Figure 6. Top position.
Figure 7. Bottom position