By: Mike Boettger
Head Coach/Co-Owner @ CrossFit Critical Mass
The push up is a tried and true CrossFit exercise that helps develop and strengthen the chest, shoulders, triceps, and core. Everyone should be perfecting their push-ups because the push up is highly effective for developing strength and local muscular endurance. If done incorrectly it’s a surefire way to strain your body and possibly cause an injury. Here are the 6 ways for develop and maintain a push up that will get you stronger and healthier, while reducing your risk for injury during CrossFit workouts.
1. PUT YOUR HANDS DIRECTLY UNDER YOUR SHOULDERS
Everyone likes to move their hands wider apart because it puts a majority of the load on the chest therefore making the push up seem easier. Unfortunately, wider arms make the movement much more unsafe. You need to put your hands directly under or slightly outside of your shoulders with your middle finger pointed straight ahead. Next make sure to…
2. KEEP YOUR FEET TOGETHER AND SQUEEZE YOUR BUTT
When you set up for the push up, squeeze that butt as tight as you can. Activating the glutes will help you to stabilize the spine and pelvis in a neutral (safe) position. Also, keep your feet together to increase glute activation and tension. Once you squeeze your butt…
3. ENGAGE YOUR STOMACH
Squeeze your stomach like someone is about to punch you in the gut. It is important to maintain a tight core throughout any CrossFit exercise and the push-up is no exception. If you squeeze your butt and tighten your stomach, you will not sag in the middle. No sagging means good pelvic and spinal alignment during each repetition and reduces the risk of any back injury or discomfort. Next…
4. SCREW YOUR HANDS INTO THE GROUND
Shoulder position is paramount in preventing injuries to your vulnerable shoulder joints. In today’s world we live with our shoulders in an internally rotated state, so this external rotation is going to feel a little weird. Twist your hands into the ground away from your midline until your elbow pits are facing straight ahead. Now your shoulders are externally rotated and in a safe position. To lower yourself to the bottom…
No, not really
5. KEEP YOUR ELBOWS IN TIGHT
That’s right, do not let your elbows flare to the side. Keep them close to your body. When you flare your elbows out, you are attempting to increase the load onto the muscles of the chest, which neglects the triceps and deltoids. A good aid for beginners is Mark Bell’s Slingshot, this will help keep the elbows pulled in during the movement and will develop a good movement pattern for all your CrossFit training.
For the push-up you want the triceps to be the prime mover, the chest muscles’ primary responsibility is to maintain the shoulder in a good position. So keep those hands screwed into the ground, elbows tight, and….
Bad, very Bad
6. SEND YOUR BODY FORWARD
Do not just lower yourself straight to the ground. As you lower yourself with your elbows close to your body, send your shoulders forward and make sure to maintain a vertical forearm position. Sending your elbows back instead of sending your body forward places the joints of the wrist, elbow, and shoulder in a bad position and leads to pain and will eventually lead to injury. Lower yourself as close to the floor as possible and ascend in the exact same manner.
*Don’t be discouraged by how difficult performing the perfect push up may seem. In the past, you have probably been neglecting many critical core and arm/shoulder muscles during your push-up movement. Do yourself a favor and continue to practice the correct form at lower reps, and you will soon notice increased strength in this proper movement pattern.