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Push-ups are a common body-weight exercise designed to strengthen the chest, arms, shoulders, and trunk. At One on One, we incorporate them into most training programs because they offer numerous health/fitness benefits, are scalable to all fitness levels, and can be done anywhere at any time.

Performing a push-up requires trunk stability through a symmetric upper body pushing movement. This combination occurs in many functional and sport activities. Any time your trunk stabilizers transfer force symmetrically between your upper and lower extremities, you’re using the skills perfected through push-ups. Movements such as getting up from the floor or pushing open a door are examples of this type of force transfer. If the trunk does not have adequate stability during these activities, kinetic energy will be dispersed and can lead to poor performance as well as an increased potential for injury.

Although there are numerous variations on push-ups, the following are important points to remember for every modification.

  • Maintain “I.” Your body should remain in a straight line from your heel to your ear. Your hips should not pike up or dip down.
  • Stay high on your toes, keeping your heels away from the floor. This will help engage your thigh and hip muscles for better stability.
  • Your shoulders should remain packed down, away from your ears. Avoid rounding your back.
  • Your arms should be wide enough to allow your elbows to bend to 90 degrees at the bottom.
  • Your body should remain rigid throughout the exercise, moving as one solid unit.

For beginners, it’s smart to start by doing elevated push-ups or having your knees (rather than your toes) on the ground. In all cases, perfect form must be maintained from the first rep to the last. Once you lose the ability to hold your form, it is time to terminate the set or make a modification (e.g. push-up from knees or elevate hands).

When performed properly, push-ups are an effective exercise for building muscle as well as increasing upper body strength, joint integrity, and trunk stability. Be sure to talk with your trainer about what push-up varieties are appropriate for you to incorporate into your program. For this week and moving forward, get the most out of your push-ups by focusing on perfect form for every rep!