There are 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
I’m not going to tell you that you need to take a bunch of supplements, try a specific training plan, or buy super expensive equipment. I want to explain how simple it can be to be relatively healthy.
Most of you are not looking to be top performing athletes. If you were then this would be a very different post. You likely just want to get or stay healthy enough to continue to enjoy life. I wholeheartedly understand this stance on health, so I am going to go over the 3 main determinants of staying well.
This is not groundbreaking information. To an extent most of you already know what to do. This will honestly just serve as a reminder of how important these things are. So with that, here you go:
Some of us are champs at sleeping. I envy those who can fall asleep, and stay asleep throughout the night. Some of us can thrive on less sleep and have no side effects but for the majority of us, 4-6 hours a night just won’t cut it. The CDC recommends different amounts of sleep for different ages (see HERE), but generally adults should aim for no less than 7 hours per night.
Sleep is a time for your body to repair itself. Your brain in particular clears away damage done from the waking hours of the day, so if you consistently get suboptimal sleep, your brain and body will hate you for it. Your immune system can suffer, leaving you open to all of the nasty things that lurk in the air and on publicly shared surfaces.
If you have trouble falling asleep or staying asleep, try to figure out what is causing it. If you have no clue, perhaps it is time to consult your doctor. He or she might have you do a sleep test to determine what the potential causes are.
I will go over some sleep tips in another post so as to keep this one short and sweet. Onward!
This is the one that everyone seems to struggle with the most. I must say that I have never struggled with my weight, but I have been through struggles related to nutrition. We all like the foods that are going to give us the most pleasure. Our brains and guts crave it. I’m talking primarily about processed and refined foods. Unfortunately processed carbs are too common in our diets these days and these are the foods that end up causing the most damage. We need foods that have high nutrient content, dietary fiber, and are as unrefined as possible. These are foods that we all know we should be eating. Things like vegetables of all colors, certain fruits, meat from healthy animals, and quality sources of fat like extra virgin olive oil are what our bodies function best on. Check out the nutrient content of ½ cup of chopped BROCCOLI.
Everyone has different needs, so one diet is not going to work for everyone. The main thing that everyone can focus on is eating as much unprocessed, nutrient dense food as they can in whatever forms are best for them individually. If you want to find out more about your dietary needs then you can do that research. It is hard to find unbiased information these days, so if someone tries to rope you into specific type of diet that they swear by, be skeptical and do your research before jumping in. Your genetics, environment, food allergies and current gut health will play a major role in what you can and can’t eat, so just be careful. Talk to a functional medicine doctor or a regular MD that you trust before making any major changes to your diet
This one is near and dear to my heart. I work in the health and fitness industry and I have had the pleasure of teaching people of all backgrounds how to move just a little bit better. Human movement is one of the coolest things in existence. We can do so much with our bodies and yet many of us get trapped in our industrial cages. I do not blame anyone who has fallen into the routine of getting up in the morning, going to work, sitting down all day, going home, sitting down at home, going to bed and repeating. It is a slippery slope because prolonged lack of physical activity usually makes it harder to get back on the wagon. Your body will get really good at sitting in an office chair if you let it.
So what should we do? Most of the people that I see just tell me that they “want to be toned.” This is almost always in a gym setting and is followed by a discussion about lifting weights and doing cardio. Weights and cardio work very well. Especially for people who just want to be generally fit and healthy. I want to make it clear that weights and cardio are not bad options. However, there is so much more out there that you will probably be able to stick with longer.
For most relatively healthy people with little or no restrictions, I would recommend two things in particular. First, choose one or more sports or physical disciplines. Traditional sports like football, basketball, soccer, etc, are fantastic and you can usually find clubs and leagues for all ages if you search around. You also have other disciplines like martial arts, rock climbing, gymnastics, and yoga. Choosing one or both of these options will allow you to treat physical activity more like a game and something to train for rather than having to force yourself to go to the gym. What’s more is that you will have other people that you play or train with to hold you accountable so that you are more likely to stick with it long term.
The second option to hire a coach or trainer and to come up with specific and meaningful goals. If you do not have a good “why” behind your training then you are much less likely to continue training. One simple example is to come up with the standard goal of progressively increasing the amount of weight that you can lift, or increasing the distance or speed that you can run. Keeping things varied or periodized can also help to keep training from becoming stale. Also, paying for a coach or trainer can be a good thing because you can constantly remind yourself that you ain’t doing this for free. Seeing it as an investment can really help move things along nicely, especially if you find a really good coach.
Hopefully explaining health in three categories has made it easier to understand than trying to sift through all of noise out there. Health can be a very complicated topic, but if you can break it down into simple pieces then it is so much easier to take action. Do not be afraid to experiment with things. Try new foods, start a pick up game, and make sure you get your beauty rest.
I will be posting more soon, but until then, thank you for reading and be well!