Ah the pushup. An exercise that countless women are convinced they’ll never do, and one that most men feel is a God given right to do. I’m tired of seeing women doing these from the knees, and the contortion act many men put on while attempting them. Its got to stop. If any woman has hopes of doing an actual pushup one day, it’s time to start training for them correctly.
The pushup is like a mobile plank. You maintain neutral spine throughout the range of motion. The chest, shoulders, and triceps fire to move the body while the core, legs, serratus, and upper back musculature work to stabilize the body. The elbows stay close to the body to generate external rotation and torque from the shoulder joint & upper body, and the scapulae retract and depress on the way down and on the way up to stabilize the shoulder joint until end range is reached at the top, where they protract a bit.
So ladies, how are you going to do a pushup if it’s not from the knees? Well, first we can try elevating the surface that you’re pushing from. A bench, step, or even an elevated barbell will do. The idea here being that you eventually work your way down to a more parallel position, i.e – the floor. The idea here is to train in the position that you’re trying to achieve, only modified. You can also use bands to help offset the load of your own bodyweight. Trying to do this from the knees isn’t going to cut it in the long run.
Elevating the surface that you’re pushing from is a great way to help scale the exercise, but there are a few key components you’ll need to do them properly.
– Scapular stability (Keeping the shoulder blades in retraction and depression, aka – “down & back” while descending to the floor and on the way back up)
– Adequate core strength and stability
– Glute activation to help further stabilize your core
What’s scapular stability? Simply put, it’s the ability to keep the shoulder blades in a controlled/fixed position while the arms and rest of the body moves. What you often see when people have poor scapular control is a forward head posture as they descend towards the floor in the pushup. This is a common compensation for the individual’s inability to properly retract, depress and stabilize their shoulder blades, among other things. A lack of scapular stability also prevents the chest and shoulders from firing maximally to drive the movement. A lack of upper back strength and scapular stability puts you at a disadvantage, and makes your pushups look like crap.
There’s another thing I’d like to touch on in regards to upper body positioning. The elbows. Keeping the elbows “in” is important for proper recruitment and shoulder mechanics. The more you “flare” the elbows out to the side away from your torso, the more the shoulders become internally rotated. For pressing mechanics, we want an externally rotated shoulder. This allows us to generate more torque through the joint, and keeps the shoulder joint in a safer position to operate within while loaded. Plus, healthy rotator cuffs are kind if important.
Core strength and stability. Ever see people doing pushups with a ridiculously swayed back? Of course you have! Excessive lumbar lordosis (extreme lower back curvature) can be pretty to look at, but it’s not very comfortable in a loaded position. If the anterior core (aaaaaab-dominals) isn’t firing, you’re going to see that lower back arch like Nicki Minaj doing the Anaconda. In this instance it’s not a good thing.
Glute activation is also extremely important because the glutes have to fire in order to help stabilize the lumbar spine as well. I’ve always said, “Never underestimate the power of the ass”, and this also holds true for the pushup. The combination of a weak anterior core and poor glute activation makes doing a proper push up pretty much impossible. So get that booty fired up!
So to summarize:
• Elevate the surface from which you’re pushing from while maintaining proper position
• Make sure you’re squeezing your shoulder blades down and back to maintain proper stability in the upper back
• Make sure you’re bracing the core musculature while performing the push up
• Keep your elbows close to your torso throughout the range of motion
• Squeeze your butt!
Pick up something heavy.