Are You A Pushup Cheater?

In my time as a fitness professional, I have seen many clients struggle with performing a pushup correctly.

And that makes me upset as the pushup is one of the premier exercises you can do to build your upper body strength. It is more useful than a bench press because you are having to stabilize the torso and are working more muscle groups such as latissimus dorsi and the body’s natural weight belt the transverse abdominus.

Unfortunately, you can cheat when doing pushups, and since I can’t be everywhere at once, I need to remind you that you are only cheating yourself.

And remember, your body will prevail as long as you have the mental strength!

Proper execution of a pushup:

To review, in this movie:
Hands are shoulder width apart
Palms of hands are under shoulder
Core is braced (suck belly button up to stomach)
Straight line from your shoulders to your heels or (knees if modified)
Breathe in through your nose as you lower yourself to the ground by flexing at the elbow.
Breathe out throught the mouth as you extend at your elbow and push through your hands.
Keep your shoulder blades retracted or squeezed together as this will line the shoulders up and decrease shoulder innervation.

Common Mistakes:
Holding the elbows out:

This will fatigue the shoulders as now small muscles in the shoulder are being worked isometrically and will result in your shoulder strength determining how long you’ll last. With most new bootcampers, you have weak triceps because of the lack of pushing movements in your day to day. Without these pushing movements that extend the elbow you will have underdeveloped triceps, which will result in your triceps being the limiting factor in your pushup performance.

If you are performing the pushup correctly and still feeling an uncomfortable strain in your shoulders (seperate muscle fatigue from muscle pain), then you may have a muscular imbalance and need to work on strengthening and flexibility around the muscles that connect to the shoulder joint.

Hands too far forward: Will overwork your shoulders and core and put them in a position where they are overworking.

Abs sag: This decreases your range of motion of the pushup and it just plain doesn’t look pretty.

Butt high: You can cheat and make things easier for yourself when you have your butt high in the air as you are severly decreasing the percentage of your bodyweight you are lifting. This is a favorite among beginners! Another way to cheat with the butt high is when you shift your weight back on your heels and raise your butt high in the air into the prayer stretch just when the pushups are getting challenging. You have now essentially transitioned into the prayer stretch – I see this movement generally being accompanied by a resting period.

Reaching with the head: Moving your head forward gives you the illusion you are going farther than you really are. Relax the neck keep it neutral and you’ll get there.

Low range of motion: Hey, if you can’t do full range of motion yet, I have no problem with that. You will work up to it. But I want to see you at least try it on your first few reps. Everyone falls. It’s a question of whether they get back up again which measures how strong they are.

Wall pushups: If you find a pushup on your knees to be tough, you should start with wall pushups as you will work a smaller percentage of your bodyweight, yet still get a feel for the exercise and movement. You can progress by positioning your feet further from the wall and become more horizontal. Points to focus on here are keeping your elbows in tight. I know a lot of ladies are looking to get those nice toned arms and this is where it begins. Although, you cannot spot reduce fat, I repeat you cannot spot reduce fat! This is an area on your body where you can add a lot of muscle that is going to give you that lean, sexy look and rev up your metabolic rate and help you burn more fat.

Knee pushups: You should brace your abs and have a straight line from your knees to your shoulders. No butt high cheaters!

Pushup: #1 favorite of bootcampers worldwide and a staple in The Bootcamp Effect regiment.

“Stay lean and mean,”
Josh Saunders