Learn how to master perfect press ups with these top tips from The Sports Edit's Ambassador Tara (@movewithtara)
In theory, push ups are pretty simple. Start in a plank, lower your body in one straight line all the way to the floor, then push yourself back up to a plank. They may be simple but they’re far from easy, especially when done with correct form.
Push ups are a standard move we’ve all come across if we’ve done any sort of HIIT (high intensity interval training). Why? Because they’re great for working both the upper body and core, plus they don’t require any equipment at all.
A lot of people never learn to do push ups correctly, and they therefore don’t ever reap the full benefits of the movement. Any movement will be most effective when done properly, whatever the goal is. Here are three different exercises to help build up the strength to do a correct, strict push up.
Negatives are a fantastic way to build strength and can be used for various different moves, including pull ups (if you’re interested in reading about how to get good at these, head over to my other post). Start in a plank position, lower down to the floor for a slow count of 4, then come back up to plank through a tabletop position, using your knees to help. Here is the focus is on the downward (eccentric) movement. Practicing negatives will build strength in the muscles you’ll need to use to be able to push back up.
Grab a box, step, or anything similar that you can find. Place your hands on it, keep your feet on the floor and do your push ups from there. The ideal height of the step or box is one at which you can get your chest down to touch it and push back up again for 6-10 repetitions. Practicing these will improve your strength through the full range of motion rather than the ‘semi’ push ups that most people do where they only go down half way, then push back up. As you start to see improvements find smaller and smaller steps.
When push ups are being done in a HIIT class, we’re usually told to do them on our knees if we’re not confident doing the full movement. This is all well and good as kneeling push ups are still hard work and will help build the strength necessary to eventually do the full movement, but only when done properly. Start in a plank position, drop down to your knees, keep your elbows tight to your sides and slowly lower down keeping a straight line from your knees to the top of your head. This means your core must be tight, you’re thinking about tucking your pelvis under, your bum is squeezed and your shoulders aren’t moving backwards. Doing these correctly makes them tough, even if you can do a full push up.
Practicing all of these movements regularly with consistency will get you there. I’m telling you from experience as it worked for me. Now when I’m in class and I’m a bit tired instead of doing sloppy full push ups I do them on my knees because that will be better for my body. It’s important to know the progressions and regressions of movements like this to prevent injury and continue building strength.
NEXT UP: A beginner's guide to headstands >