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To say that the push-up is an exercise that most people really struggle with would be an understatement.
The push-up is undeniably the most recognisable exercise the world over, yet at the same time it has the ability to strike fear and defeat into many people before they’ve even tried to crack its code!
So, to start this article off you should know that if you’ve never done a single push-up, or if you’ve failed miserably any time you’ve tried them, then you’re not alone.
Better still, you’re in the right place to learn.
In this article you’ll learn the top 5 mistakes people make when they do push-ups, and how to fix them.
Then I’ll show you the step-by-step approach I use with my own clients to get them from ZERO push ups to completing full push-ups in less time than you might think.
Ready to get working towards your first proper push-up?
Let’s dive in…
Common Mistake #1
Elbows flaring out too wide.
This has to be the biggest mistake people make when trying to complete the push-up.
When you have your elbows flaring out like this the movement of your shoulder joint becomes restricted and there’s little chance of you being able to get a good range of motion or level of power when this happens.
You’ll also notice that the image shows how the shoulder blades hunch up easily when your elbows flare out, this is another factor that can limit the range of motion when working on your push-ups.
When you limit the ability of your muscles to work through their full range you generate less power.
Less power means less chance of cracking the push-up!
When you set up for the push-up focus on gripping the surface with your hands, middle finger pointing to 12 o’clock and twisting your elbows in very slightly.
Position your elbows to a 45o angle and aim on keeping that angle throughout the lowering and pushing phase of the exercise.
Common Mistake #2
Hands set too wide
Setting your hands too wide makes completing a push-up much harder than it should be…
In fact, having your hands set wide is a great push-up progression, but for now we’re going to class it as a mistake.
And here’s why…
Having your hands set out like this creates a longer lever and puts the working muscles under a greater level of stress (which is why this is a great progression further down the line).
When you’re working towards your first push-up the goal is to make your push-up technique as smooth, efficient and powerful as possible.
Setting your hands too wide will reduce your ability to generate a powerful push phase and is therefore off the cards to start with.
Start by positioning your hands just outside shoulder width.
Keep your hands at shoulder level too, not in front, not behind.
Now the muscles we want to use in completing a push-up have the ability to power you back up from the floor in the push phase of the exercise.
Common Mistake #3
Hips dropping down
As we already covered in the previous section our goal is to develop a smooth, efficient and powerful technique for your push-ups…
So, letting your hips drop down is a big no, no.
And here’s why…
When you’re trying to generate a good level of power in the push-up you need to be engaging not just the muscles in your arms and chest but also those of your torso too.
Not being able to keep a straight line through the body from head to feet whilst performing a push-up will mean you’re expending energy unnecessarily and losing the efficient movement needed.
Developing strength and stability in your torso and core will give you the ability to hold a straight line throughout the push-up….
By engaging the muscles in your torso, you start to create a good level of tension throughout the body, it is this tension that helps to hold the body in line.
Keeping a straight line is imperative when you want to be smooth, efficient and powerful.
It is however easier said than done….
Here’s a good place to start learning exactly how to work on your bracing action right away.
Phase 1:Supine Alternating Leg Lift
Your goal here is to keep the natural curve of the lower back throughout the movement…
Start by placing your hand under the lower back, use this as your pressure gauge.
When lifting and lowering your legs focus on keeping the pressure of your back stable on the hand throughout…you should be able to feel even the slightest of pressure changes now.
Try to complete 8-10 repetitions each leg.
Did you notice how hard you had to work when switching legs to stop your lower back lifting up or pushing down?
Phase 2:Supine Alternating Leg Lowering
Remember the goal of keeping your natural curve in the back and not letting it draw up or push down.
Complete 8-10 repetitions each leg.
Phase 3: Supine Double Bent Leg Lowering
Complete 6-8 repetitions.
Phase 4: Supine Straight Leg Lowering
Complete 6-8 repetitions.
Want to work on improving your core strength so you can hold a straight line when doing your push-ups?
Well now you can, and best of all it will take no more than 10 minutes a day to see big improvements quickly.
Common Mistake #4
Poor Shoulder Mobility
The nature of a push-up means you need to have a good range of movement at the shoulder joint….
The problem is most of us sit for far too long hunched over laptops, smart phones and tablets or behind the wheel of a car or laying in unnatural sleeping positions.
Our newly developed western posture is one of rounded shoulders and jutted neck position…all of this is a recipe for disaster when it comes to having a freely moving shoulder joint!
Rest assured there is a fix to this postural problem.
Try adding these simple mobility drills to help with that as a starting point;
Supine Shoulder Flexions
Complete 10 repetitions
Supine Shoulder Floor Glides
Complete 10 repetitions.
Side Lying Windmill
Complete 5 repetitions each side.
Common Mistake #5
Starting on too harder exercise option
As I mentioned at the start of this article the push-up is the exercise nemesis for many people….
So starting off by trying to complete a full push-up simply sets you up for failure!
Struggling to lower yourself down to the floor awkwardly and then not having the strength to push back up again will do absolutely nothing for your confidence… or shoulder health.
By taking a step back and really focusing on improving your technique you’ll find that your speed of progression towards completing a full push up will increase rapidly.
The time to hone in on your technique is whilst working on the push-up variations that are less daunting than the full push-up.
These include the wall push-up, incline push up and kneeling push-up.
All of these variations will play a role in helping you perfect your push-up technique whilst staying injury free!
Starting Your Journey To The First Push-Up
Finding out where to start on your journey to conquering the full push-up can be confusing.
And remember, starting out by trying to complete a full push-up right from the off is probably not the right way to go about things.
So, I’ve broken things down and made it really simple for you to find out where you should begin.
Here’s where to start;
Go through each of the following 4 phases below.
Test yourself against the target repetitions on each phase.
Decide for yourself which level you want to start working at.
Phase 1: The Wall Push-Up
Target – Complete 15 good quality wall push-ups to progress onto phase 2…
Phase 2: The Incline Push-Up
Target – Complete 10 good quality incline push-ups at waist height.
Phase 3: The Kneeling Push-Up
Target – Complete 10 good quality kneeling push-ups
Phase 4: The Full Push-Up
Target – Complete 5 good quality full push-ups
No matter what level you’re at right now there is a way forward for your push up ability…
Get hold of the Push-Up Progression System now and learn how to keep performing your push-ups effortlessly!
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