the most essential of movements...
I know what you're probably thinking...the push-up??? Isn't that a basic movement? NOPE. When done properly, the push-up is actually an incredibly complex movement involving more muscles and technique than you may think. As you can see from the picture below, the push-up strengthens most muscles in the upper back, shoulders, chest, upper arms, lower arms, and core. This seemingly simple movement is the basis for many more gymnastics movements, as it develops and strengthens muscles required for the ring dip, pull-up, muscle-up, and handstand push-up.
The standards are very clear: begin in a locked out position, touch your chest to the floor, and end in a locked out position. Unless you have an injury or limitation, EVERYBODY must follow these standards. I'll come back to those standards later, but first I want to talk technique. At the top of the plank position, wrists should be stacked directly under the shoulders, feet together, body tight, head in a neutral position. As the entire exercise is performed, you should squeeze your butt/legs tight. Why??? Because by doing this, you are protecting your back from injury. If your body is loose, your back can sag/arch, and is more likely to become injured.
The picture to the right shows a common push-up mistake. The athlete has his elbows flaring out wide, putting the shoulders in the most dangerous position possible for them- abducted and externally rotated. An abducted and externally rotated position is how shoulders become injured or dislocated.
The picture to the left shows the athlete hugging the elbows in tight next to the body. This style is often referred to as a "military push-up" and is the safe and proper way to perform the exercise. By tucking the elbows in, you are now recruiting the triceps muscles to help assist the movement, and your shoulders are no longer abducted and externally rotated, which puts them in a safe position.
A lot more to the push-up so far than you thought?? Well, I'm just getting started! I can't even begin to express how frustrating it is as a coach to watch people perform RX'ed or scaled push-ups incorrectly. Just like with any other movement (a pull-up, muscle-up, ring dip, etc.), if you cannot perform a push-up following the standards described above, you need to SCALE, and scale appropriately, without sacrificing the range of motion.
Check your ego at the door! There is no shame in scaling push-ups. Stay tuned, because this series on push-ups gives you unique scaling options that will build your strength, but don't abandon technique and range of motion.
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Want to find out about how I improved my push-ups?? Shoot me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org!
SO PUMPED to do push-ups on the Dolomites in August! Check out our Northern Italy & Switzerland itinerary below. Hope to see you there!