Progress to Perfecting the Push-Up + Giveaway from Nike Master Trainer Betina Gozo!
Ahh the push-up. The push-up is one of the body weight exercises that can really test your overall strength, when done correctly. In a trainer’s world, especially if you’ve taught group classes, they’ve probably seen hundreds of ways to do a push up incorrectly. Anywhere from not fully extending the arms, worming the body to the ground, hips up in the air, hips sagging like crazy, neck trying to reach to the ground, you name it.
One of the biggest indications of a person with a perfect push up is not just someone with a really strong upper body strength, but one with really strong trunk stability. Trunk stability is all about being able to control your spine and pelvis during movement. So bottom line is: push-ups are not just about upper body strength, it is about being able to keep your whole body activated as you work through the movement. Think: “head to heel, strong as steel”.
Here are 4 simple push up progressions to help you perfect your push up.
The power plank is one of my favorite exercises of all time. This move is simple, and it’s all about building tension in your body by learning to activate your core, glutes, and back. This same feeling and tension that you have during this plank is what you should feel while you are doing push-ups.
Do this plank on your forearms to begin. Get yourself set with a straight line from your head to your heels, making fists with your hands, keeping your forearms parallel to each other, shoulders over elbows. WITHOUT shifting your weight forward, tense up your fists, and start to drive your elbows back towards your thighs as hard as you can. Hold for 20-60 seconds.
Things to remember:
- Make sure you are not dumping all of the tension through your lower back when you start to get tired.
- Think about exhaling through your belly the whole time to keep yourself braced
- Squeeze your glutes while simultaneously pushing energy through your heels
- Keep your shoulders over your elbows the whole time, even when driving the elbows back.
The bridge march will help you focus on activating your glutes while adding a movement while you are holding tension. This is also a good way to focus on keeping your spine neutral while activating our glutes. A lot of us are hyper extended through our lower backs, so many people will often put most of their tension there. The initial position of the bridge is important on this one.
Lie on your back with your hands at your sides. Your feet should be hip width distance apart, a few inches away from your hands. Dig your heels into the ground feeling your glutes engage, bringing your hips up to the ceiling. Focus on keeping a neutral spine, with the rib cage down. As you build tension through one heel into the ground, slowly bring one knee to your chest, then switch one at a time. Move through 20 reps total, resting when necessary.
Things to remember:
- Slower is better on this move. Don’t rush it! Focus on your glutes and core.
- Keep your rib cage down, making sure not to put the tension through your lower back. If you’re not sure how to do this, sit up tall, put a hand on your rib cage, arch your back, then exhale through your belly and feel the ribcage depress and your abs engage.
- If you start to feel it in your lower back, then relax, then scale back to a simple bridge, without the march. Focus on the importance of keeping the rib cage down while bringing the hips up, and move through 10 reps of bridges, with 5 second holds on each one.
Elevated Eccentric Push Ups:
I will put every single one of my clients on an elevated surface for push-ups before having them go to their knees. Remember, push-ups are about trunk stability, and if you want to get better at them, put yourself in that fully extended plank position to get better at it. The eccentric push-up is about the lowering phase
Start on an elevated surface, anywhere between 12-25inches high. With your hands on the surface, make sure your hands are in line with your chest, shifting your weight forward or back however necessary. Think about that tension you build during the power plank, and slowly lower yourself down to the surface for 5 seconds, with your elbows at about 45 degrees. Once your chest touches the surface, reset. Do not focus on the push UP, only the lowering phase. Once you can do 10 reps with perfect form, start to lower the surface, until you can do them perfectly on the ground.
Things to remember:
- It is easy to dump the tension in the lower back while doing these, so do your best to focus on bracing your abs on the way down.
- Slower is better, do not rush this movement. If you feel like you are rushing, take a rest or elevated the surface a little.
- Breathing is good. 🙂
- Do not let your neck come forward, remember your neck is part of your spine, too 🙂
Elevated Push Ups:
As mentioned in the elevated eccentric push-up, I almost never have clients go to their knees for push-ups. The focus is the plank position, so avoid push-ups on your knees, unless you absolutely need to (like in a group fitness class, where an elevated surface is not readily available). Once you feel like you are progressing, start shorten the height of the surface, and next thing you know, you’ll be doing push ups on the ground with perfect form!!!
Similar to the elevated eccentric push-up, start on an elevated surface, anywhere between 12-25inches high. With your hands on the surface, make sure your hands are in line with your chest, shifting your weight forward or back however necessary. Think about that tension you build during the power plank, and lower yourself with one count, then push-up with one count. Once you can do 15 reps with perfect form, start to lower the surface, until you can do them perfectly on the ground.
Things to remember:
- Exhale on the push: this will help you brace your belly on the way up, to keep that trunk strong!
- Do not let your elbows come out too far from your body.
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