If you asked people who work out what is one the most basic bodyweight exercises you can do, what do you think the answers would include?
Probably movements like pull-ups, chin-ups, squats, lunges and of course push-ups. If you think about push-ups might be the most common answer as you don’t need a bar to grab as for a chin-up or pull-up and lower body training is usually equated with going for a walk or a run.
So push-ups could be considered the gold standard of bodyweight training. This makes sense when you think of all the versions that exist of this exercise. You can do regular, hand reset, feet elevated, scapular, shoulder touch, Spiderman, off-set and many more types of push-ups.
But there is something that unites all the various types of push-ups. And I don’t mean that they are all closed-chain horizontal pressing movements.
No, unfortunately the common trait is that they are all done incorrectly.
What? How is that possible? Isn’t a push-up simply placing your hands on the ground, setting the feet and then pushing the body away from the ground?
Yes, it is but there are a number of other things going on which create problems and undermine many of the benefits that come with doing this exercise.
So here are the 3 Most Common Mistakes Made When Doing Push-ups.
Check out the video first if you’re in a hurry or to get more out of the text.
Mistake #1 – Pecking the Ground Like a Chicken
When you do a push-up the arms and should be the only parts of the body that are moving. And when the set starts to get a little tough you see the head start pecking the floor like a chicken.
Rather than let the head start moving around like this it should be stable and motionless. You can think of pushing the back of the head towards ceiling in order to maintain that ‘packed neck’ position. This is a safer and more stable position.
Mistake #2 – Increased Extension of the Lumbar
Do you remember the previous tip about mistakes made when performing roll-outs? One of the common mistakes was increasing the arch in the low back. I used the analogy of building a bridge. If the bridge isn’t strong enough to support the load it will break. And while your back doesn’t necessarily break in two it does compensate to allow you to continue performing the exercise, incorrectly.
So when performing your push-ups watch that you don’t increase the arch in your low back. If you notice this happening stop your set, rest, and then complete your set when you can maintain lumbar control. And make sure to program in some extra core stability exercises.
Mistake #3 – Elbows Point Back
Do you get pain in your shoulders when you bench or do push-ups? While this is more common with bench press than it is with push-ups it doesn’t mean it’s unheard of with push-ups.
One technique point that may help is to ensure that the elbows point vertically when performing a push-up. Now for many people they are going to find they lack extension at the wrist in order to maintain this position. This is especially true of all the desk jockeys out there that spend most of their days with their hands on the mouse and keyboard. If that’s the case it will take some time to get this extra mobility but your shoulders will thank you for it.
The last thing to mention about performing push-ups is to think of leading with your hips off the floor. This is of course assuming that you are performing full range push-ups. And if that’s the case imagine leading with your hips as your chest will follow almost immediately and lead to near perfect technique. The opposite is not true however. If you lead with your chest the hips will most surely lag behind, create increased extension in the low back and may lead to injury.