Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

More Pushups

I love pushups and pullups. I think they're tremendous exercises that are sorely misunderstood and badly underutilized. So, given that...

...how could I not love this article?

What You Don’t Know about the Push-up by Zach Dechant.


Probably the best part of the article for me is where he discusses technique. He says:

"Watch most beginners set up and do push-ups, and you’ll find that they almost all set up with a hands wide, elbows straight out position. They may be stronger in that position for now, but once they learn and reinforce a more proper position, they will become even stronger."

This is my experience as well. I've had a succession of kids that I've trained say they "can't" do a pushup in any position except a full T, with the arms out to the sides if not out in front of their shoulders. They'll occasionally theatrically fall down (only if we're on a mat, though) if I try to have them do pushups with the arms back at 45 degrees. They're right in that the T position is slightly easier early on, but at a great cost to the shoulders. It is also ultimately bad form, in that in it keeps you from truly good pushup numbers. It's self-limiting - your body knows it's sacrificing your shoulders to get the motion, so it won't let you do too many. Get the arms in the right spot, get that 45 degree angle, and you can start cranking them out and loading them up.

I am also really happy with this one, too. I'm not sure how I missed linking to it before. Nick Tumminello discusses a large variety of pushup variations. Most of them are fairly advanced. But it starts with the basics of spinal alignment (and how to correct it with a dowel, pvc pipe, or foam roller), head position and hand position, and other nagging faults that limit your performance. Once you work on those, you can get a "proper" pushup, which them strengthens your body in proper alignment. That helps your posture, which in turn helps all of your lifts. The top position of a squat or deadlift or press is a normal, proper standing posture. So it feeds in a nice little circle of positive feedback.

I recommend both of these articles if you're training people with a pushup or doing them yourself. It's worth taking a video of yourself and checking your pushup form. It seems silly - it's just a pushup - but you might find some minor errors that are holding back your progress. Do a max set in front of the camera, and you'll find out what breaks down when you get tired. Then you can refer back to Dechant's and Tumminello's articles to see how to address it.

So drop and give me 20!

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