Push-ups are a staple exercise in many workout routines, doing wonders for the entire body. That they work the muscles in your upper-body is obvious, also, they strengthen your core and glutes even without introducing variations.
For all their popularity, push-ups are easy to do wrong which could lead to injuries. Doing them effectively, on the other hand, builds strength and endurance. Here are 7 tips to get better with your push-ups and reap all the benefits.
Tip #1 Strengthen your core
The plank pose is the foundation of the push-up (the push-up is simply moving the plank position vertically) and requires strong core muscles. Without a strong core, your lower back sags, putting undue pressure on your shoulder joints as you try to compensate.
It invariably means that to improve the quality and volume of your push-ups, you need to strengthen your abdominals and back.The plank pose itself is the simplest way to begin the process.
Try holding the position for as long as you can for up to 3 sets, 1-2 days per week. Take a minute rest between sets. Aim to increase the length of time you can stay in position on each day you practice them.
Tip #2 Strengthen your quads and arms
Apart from your core, your quads also tighten up to keep your legs extended in the plank position. It’s common to see people with weak quads cheat by rounding their backs.
Strengthening your quads is the way to go, and squats are effective for this. Perform 8 -10 squats for 3 – 5 sets on the same days you practice your plank pose. You need strong arms to lower your weight down and to push yourself back up again.
Lift heavy weights to work your biceps, triceps, pectorals and upper back (with curls, fly’s, and presses). Perform 2 – 3 sets of each exercise for 8 – 10 reps. Incorporate these exercises into your workout routine, 1 – 2 times a week.
Tip #3 Position your arms correctly and use proper form
You can earn all sorts of shoulder and wrist injuries by placing your hands on the floor incorrectly, and neck sprains by lowering your head. To ensure you use the correct push-up form:
- Start in the tabletop position with your palms and knees on the floor while maintaining a straight back.
- Your knee should be at a 90-degree angle from your hip.
- Your hands should be directly underneath your shoulders to begin, then inch each palm a little outward, so your hands are just wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Engage your core and lift your knees off the floor to plank position keeping your entire body in a straight line.
- Lower your chest to about an inch from the floor by bending your arms at the elbow.
- Push your body back up to plank.
- It helps to keep your gaze fixed on a spot in front of you throughout the move.
Tip #4 Drop a few pounds
Your reason for exercising may be to build muscle or to lose weight so this tip might seem counterintuitive but hear me out. I know people who groan at the mere mention of push-ups because they can’t lift themselves back to plank from the lowered position.
For an overweight person, it’s not hard to imagine why. Hence, the reason to drop a few pounds.Don’t be despondent though, because that excess weight is a remedy of sorts.
You are lifting a heavy resistance which is good for building muscle, which is useful for weight loss. After dropping a few pounds, you’ll see that push-ups become easy and you’ll be able to crank out more of them.
Tip #5 Try an elevated surface or other modifications
If you are one who struggles to push off the floor, you can still get the benefits of push-ups with some modifications. Try pushing off an elevated surface instead, like a bench, table, or wall even.
Higher elevation equals easier push-ups. Aim for 3 sets of 10 push-ups with a minute rest between each set. Do this on the same days you work on your planks. When you’re able to churn out 3 sets, you can lower the elevation. See you on the floor soon.
You could also try modified push-ups where the front of your knee remains on the ground. However, I find that many who use this method still struggle to transition to full push-ups. As such, I prefer the elevated surface strategy.
Tip #6 Vary your speed
If you want to build endurance, perform as many push-ups as you can within a given time period. Your goal would be to increase that number.
If building muscle is your goal, reduce your speed and notice how your body shakes. From the plank position, instead of lowering to the floor in one movement, take 10 – 20 s to lower down to the ground. Then push back up. Repeat for the number of reps you can muster, your goal being to increase that number with time.
You could also reverse this by spending 10 – 20 s to push back up to plank position while lowering down to the floor in one move. Or you can mix it up, whatever, it’s your workout.
Tip #7 Turn up your push-ups
When you have mastered the basic push-up, the fun continues still. You can increase your strength and fitness by adding variations to the basic movements such as:
- decline push-ups,
- push-ups with varying hand placements (diamond shaped hands, hands close to the sides, etc)
- push-ups with one leg raised
- Spiderman push-ups,
- ploy push-ups and much more
Is it a wonder why push-ups are so famous? Whatever variations you are performing, take care of your wrists. To avoid sprains, push off the floor using the outer edge and heels of your palms instead of the inside of the palm. You can also use your knuckles or hand grips.