This Three Step Plan Will Help Your Push Up Game!

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Push-ups are a great strengthening move that work the muscles in our chest, biceps and core.

In this blog I’m going to show you exactly how to increase your strength with this move so you can do them safely and effectively.

With proper form and practice, you will strengthen your muscles without injury or pain, and build yourself progressively up in your abilities by using these variations.

Since push ups are a front body “push” movement, it’s important to balance your training with back body “pulling” movements to help stabilize the rotator cuff and build balance in the body.

It is important to maintain correct form during each push-up progression.  Place your hands flat against the surface directly under your shoulders and extend your legs out behind you.

Perform a push-up by lowering yourself to meet the surface, back flat, core engaged, and eyes focused about 6 inches in front of you.

Push back up. Keep your core engaged the whole time and your neck in neutral alignment.

Level 1:

  • Standing Wall or Door Push-Up
  1. Standing at arm’s length from a wall, extend your arms so your hands are flat on the wall at shoulder height, with your thumbs touching each other.
  2. Inhale and, in one movement, press your body toward the wall as if doing a push-up.
  3. Exhale and push back to the original position, keeping your elbows close to your sides throughout.
  • Single Leg Standing Wall Push-Up
  1. Standing at arm’s length from a wall, extend your arms so your hands are flat on the wall at shoulder height, with your thumbs touching each other.
  2. Lift one leg backward as high as you can
  3. Inhale and, in one movement, press your body toward the wall as if doing a push-up. Exhale and push back to the original position, keeping your elbows close to your sides throughout.
  4. Repeat this as many times as you’d like then switch legs (optional

Level 2:

  • High Seat/High Bar Stool Push-Up
  1. Get in the standard pushup position and grip the sides of the seat of a chair.
  2. Your body should be in a straight line, angled upwards, with your legs straight.
  3. Keeping your core tight and elbows tucked close by your sides, slowly lower yourself towards the chair.
  4. Brace core and press your hands into the sides of the chair, while you drive your body upwards back to the starting position.
  • Single Leg High Bar Stool Push-Up
  1. Get in the standard pushup position and grip the sides of the seat of a chair.
  2. Lift one leg up off of the ground
  3. Your body should be in a straight line, angled upwards, with your legs straight.
  4. Keeping your core tight and elbows tucked close by your sides, slowly lower yourself towards the chair.
  5. Brace core and press your hands into the sides of the chair, while you drive your body upwards back to the starting position.
  6. Repeat as many times as you would like then switch legs. (optional)

Level 3:

  • Kneeling Elevated Push-Up
  1. Place your hands on the elevated surface at slightly wider than shoulder width – so that the upper arms are tucked at 45-degree angle to the torso – and fingers pointing forward.
  2. Distribute your weight between your hands and knees.
  3. Press the chest off the elevated surface until the arms are straight, then return to the starting position.
  4. Cue the descent by attempting to ‘pull’ yourself down to the floor with your shoulder blades.
  • Extended Leg Kneeling Elevated Push-Up
  1. Place your hands on the elevated surface at slightly wider than shoulder width – so that the upper arms are tucked at 45-degree angle to the torso – and fingers pointing forward.
  2. Distribute your weight between your knees and hands.
  3. Lift one leg back and up off of the floor
  4. Press the chest off the elevated surface until the arms are straight, then return to the starting position.
  5. Cue the descent by attempting to ‘pull’ yourself down to the floor with your shoulder blades.
  • Full Plank Elevated Push-Up
  1. Place your hands on the elevated surface at slightly wider than shoulder width – so that the upper arms are tucked at 45-degree angle to the torso – and fingers pointing forward. This position will be the same form as a standard pushup
  2. Press the chest off the elevated surface until the arms are straight, then return to the starting position.
  3. Cue the descent by attempting to ‘pull’ yourself down to the floor with your shoulder blades.

Different variations of push-ups:

  • Wide Arm Push-Up
  • Single Arm Push-Up
  • Pike Push-UP

Practice your push-ups, but don’t overdo it! Strengthening your chest muscles is important to building a balanced physique but we also want to train our opposing muscles as well – the muscles that do the opposite to pushing, which is pulling.

Pushing movements activate the front body, or medial rotation muscles. These muscles also get worked with many of the movements we do on a day to day basis. Since we see in front of ourselves and do so many activities with our hands (driving, holding our phones, working at a computer), it’s natural that we work these muscles frequently.

Overuse of these muscles without proper training for their antagonists (muscles that do the opposite motions) can lead to pain in our upper back, wrists, and neck and set us up for injury.

In order to prevent these common issues, it’s useful to do movements and exercises that work those pulling muscles and lateral rotators, and the muscles in your posterior chain. Strengthening your back and shoulders will help pull your shoulders back into correct alignment and counter-balance your day to day activity.

Stretching is also a great way to bring balance to your body. Overly tight and weak chest muscles can lead to back pain and neck pain so it’s important to not only strengthen your chest muscles, but also stretch them.

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