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5 Common Push-Up Mistakes You Could Be Making

When it comes to building a better, leaner and stronger upper-body, there are few better exercises than the push-up. 

No matter what your fitness goals are -- weight-loss, strength, endurance, to look and feel better, or a combination, the push-up should be a big part of your routine. 

They are a fantastic way to:

  • Improve the strength of your triceps, chest and shoulders
  • Increase core stability
  • Improve shoulder health and function
  • Burn fat

Here is the thing though...

In order to reap all the great benefits of push-ups, your technique, posture and position must be spot on.

This will not only allow you to display better strength and stamina during your push-ups (leading to better results), but it will also decrease your risk of injury (especially around your wrists, elbows and shoulders).

Although push-ups may be the most popular strength exercise and seem simple, they are one of, if not the most improperly executed strength exercise on the planet. 

Today, we are going to master your technique with 5 of the most common push-up mistakes and how to correct them. 

1| Progressing too quickly to the floor

The number one mistake people make with their push-ups is going to the floor right away. 

This is the most challenging version of the push-up and requires the greatest amount of strength and stability of nearly the entire body. 

When strength or technique isn't quite right, compensation occurs and people end up doing more harm than good on their joints. 

We start just about all of our new members and their push-ups from an elevated surface like a bench. 

This is the best way to set our members up for long-term success. 

The elevated hand position places less stress and weight on your upper-body and core, allowing you to progressively increase your strength and work on proper set-up and technique.

The fix: If you are new to the push-up or are looking to improve your technique, start your hands from an elevated surface. The higher the surface, the easier your push-up is going to be. As your technique and strength improves, decrease the height of your surface closer and closer to the floor. 

2| Hip Sag

Number two on our list of most common push-up mistakes is letting the hips drop or sag into extension. 

This is typically due to the individual either not knowing they are in the position or they lack the hip and core strength to hold themselves in proper position. 

The problem with this position is that it puts excessive stress on the low back. Instead of using your abs and glutes (active restraints) to hold your spine and pelvis in a neutral position, you compress and hang on your spine and ligaments (passive restraints) for stability. 

This can cause problems down the road such as disc herniations and bulges. 

The fix:  Bring your hands to an elevated surface like a bench to decrease the amount of weight your core needs to support.

During your push-up, roll your hips underneath you keeping your glutes squeezed and abs braced. Do not lose this during any part of your push-up.

3| Hands too high

When most people set-up for a push-up they set their hands too high above shoulder height. 

This is typically due to a lack of strength to hold themselves in the correct position throughout the movement. 

By placing the hands too high, the stress shifts off of where we want it like your arms and chest and goes mainly to the front of your shoulders, upper traps and neck which can lead to injury down the road. 

It also forces you to have your elbows too wide as you lower into the push-up, excessively stressing your elbows and wrists.

Once our coaches correct the hand position our members usually say something like, "that is much harder!" 

The fix: When you set up, start with your chest resting on the floor or your elevated surface. Have your hands just outside shoulder width and your thumbs directly under your arm pits. Push up out of that starting position and you are good to go. 

4| Not reaching at the top

The finish or top position of your push-up should look like the image on the right, not the left. 

The image on the left shows an uncompleted push-up where the shoulder blades remain retracted and wing off the rib cage. This is a very unstable position for your shoulders to be in, making your wrists and elbows work double time to support your body. 

The image on the right is where you want to finish. The protracted scapular position allows for a much stronger and more stable start and finish position as the shoulder blades are able to rest flat on the rib cage. 

This also strengthens some of the most important stabilizers and injury prevention muscles of your shoulder like the serratus anterior and low traps.

The fix: When you complete your push-up, think of driving your chest away from the floor. We often cue our members to pretend their is a flame under their chest and to push away from it. You should feel the muscles of your upper back working hard. 

5| Forward head posture

Our final common mistake is known as forward head posture.

This is typically due to a lack of shoulder stability as the head and neck tries to compensate and pushes forward. 

Like the hip sag, reaching your head forward places the stress on your cervical spine and off the important stabilizers of the neck like your deep neck flexors. 

This can lead to long-term neck and shoulder problems. 

The fix: In the top position, think of tucking your chin slightly down, like you are making a double chin. You should feel the muscles in the front of your neck working. 

Our coaches will also cue our members to lead the push-up movement with their chest rather than their head which typically cleans up the movement. 

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