Avoiding Common Push Up Mistakes

By Jaimi Jansen

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Push-ups are a great and simple full body workout, but even a simple exercise still has room for error.

Here are the top five common push-up mistakes you are probably making:

You’re not keeping your back straight:

If your back is bowing in one direction or the other, or your butt is sticking high in the air, you are making yourself susceptible to injuries. While keeping your butt raised makes the push-up a lot easier for some people, it is not proper form and may lead to injuries. A good way to think of a push-up is like a plank in which only your arms are moving, keeping your body straight from head to toe. This means that keeping your core and buttocks contracted are essential to performing a proper push up, so remember to keep them tight while performing the motion.

Your arms are in the wrong position:

Be careful not to place your arms too far forward, which can cause strain on your shoulders and prohibit you from working out other muscles like your abs and butt. A good rule of thumb here is that your hands should remain directly below the shoulders, and your elbows should be tucked in close to the body.

Need more guidance? Try working with a personal trainer!

You’re holding your breath:

It can be easy to forget to simply breath through your workout when you’re trying to focus on form, but it is important to exhale as you push up and inhale on the way down. Remember that you are exercising, and this means that the muscles will be in need of higher oxygen levels than usual in order to execute the movement properly. Therefore, it is important to remember to breathe through an exercise, rather than holding your breath.

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You’re not doing the full movement:

People often don’t go high or low enough when performing a push-up, but in order to reap the full benefits of the workout, you must utilize your full range of motion. This means you should try to extend your arms into a straight position at the top of your push-up, and make sure that your upper arms are parallel to the floor at the bottom of the movement.

Ensuring that you have the proper form and movement when doing a push-up helps you keep track of your improvement. It is not right to compare three full push-up you did one day to 25 half push-ups your did the next, as it doesn’t represent the same range of motion. While it can be difficult to perform a full push-up, it is the only way to keep track of your improvement under equal terms.

Your head is not in proper alignment:

Be sure that you don’t tuck your chin into your chest as you go through the movement. Try to imagine that you have a ball tucked below your chin, which will align your spine and relieve pressure on your neck. You should be looking slightly in front of you, not looking directly at the ground.

A great way to remember this is to remember that when you are at the bottom of the movement, your chin should be the first to touch the ground, not your nose. Try placing a small towel or an object slightly in front of you, keeping your vision on that object so you can get used to how proper form should feel.

Following the tips above should help to perfect your push-up, but if you find yourself still needing help with proper form, visit Santa Cruz CORE for more information on how to schedule a complimentary initial assessment!


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