By Dave Thomas
CPT-NSCA, USAW, RKC
We are unapologetic pushup nazis at P360. We love the little things done right and if you pay close attention to your pushup reps, you can get some very real benefit of out them, most notably pressing strength but even a little bit of trunk strength if you’re really on your game.
We wrote a comprehensive article covering everything pushups in part one of our ongoing “Take Pride in Your Bodyweight Work” series so be sure to check that out for much more detail. Today is just the cliff notes version, a short list of bullet points to immediately optimize your pushups, do them safer and get more benefit out of them.
- You’re Not a Dead Fish, Are You? – Hips sagged, feet apart, knees in flexion. Yucky. The best cue to give someone for an immediately better pushup is to tighten up everywhere as if you were doing a plank. That means feet together, knees and hips at extension, scapular retraction.
- Kiss the Floor – Lower yourself as if you are going to kiss the floor, only like Hitch, don’t go all the way in (bonus points if you actually do). This is to take your neck out of cervical hyperextension. You should never look upward on any movement, and even though it feels like you are just looking straight ahead, you are looking upward (remember, you’re in a horizontal position). Looking up causes the hips to sag and for reps to get sloppy. Look straight down at all times as if a drill sergeant was watching your every rep.
- Fingers Out – A good one from Coach Robby, by pointing the fingers outward at about 30 – 45 degrees, it will force your elbows in. With your elbows in by your side you are actually pressing, not bowing. In turn you’ll get much more benefit on the working muscles like the pecs and shoulders. With your elbows bowing out you get this weird representation of a pushup that is really just putting your shoulder in a weird impingement-type position.
- Follow the Speed Limit – Most do pushups way too fast. Slow down and get full range of motion, top to bottom, flexion to extension with a very brief pause at the top to signal a complete rep. When you’re in a hurry, you get sloppy. When you get sloppy, you lose gains, brah.
- Land Like an Airplane – Watching an airplane touch down is quite the visual. This big, powerful object capable of speed over 500 miles per hour, slows down under graceful control and able to touch down with all points together. It doesn’t dive in nose first or ass first, rather front to back hit the runway together. Your body should perform pushups like this. Head, chest, hips and knees should all arrive at start and end range of motion together and all of the checkpoints along the way.
- Check Yo’ Self – There’s absolutely nothing wrong with dropping to your knees for a modified version if it allows you to perform items one through five to their fullest potential. Half-asssed pushups on your toes won’t get anyone better. A lot of people ask, “How can I get off my knees on pushups?” It starts with doing these cues to actually build basic pressing strength.
When done properly, they should be smooth and powerful at the same time.
Drop these cues into your training and check back to let us know how they helped!
Have your own helpful cues? We want to hear those, too.
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Performance360 is a strength and conditioning gym in San Diego, CA. Named an official 2014 Top 5 Gyms in San Diego, P360 has locations in Mission Beach and Crown Point and specializes in results and community for all levels.