Push-ups are one of the best overall drills for the human frame: upper body strength-endurance, core endurance, spinal stability all in one drill.
And the push-up looks simple.
Just get down hands on the ground, straighten your body and away you go. Right?
Done improperly, you increase the risk of injury to the shoulder, neck, and low back, and get less value out of
The Top Three Push-Up Mistakes
Hand Position- Hands high and wide = mistake
A lot of people place their hands high and wide forming a “T”
This reduces the workload on the triceps and pectoralis muscles but uses the passive restraint tissues (joint
capsule, ligaments) of the shoulder to create stability instead of the muscle system.
The upper arm (humerus) is actually in what’s referred to as an “impingement” position. The very small
amount of space that provides clearance in the shoulder for the rotator cuff tendons is reduced by the angle
of the humerus. So, it feels easier to do a push-up in this position, but the risk to your shoulder is greater.
Depth- Arms past the mid-line of the trunk = mistake
A lot of trainers and coaches will tell you that the best push-up is one where the chest hits the ground.
When the chest hits the ground, your upper arm (humerus) is positioned behind the trunk or in an extended
position. This places a lot of load on the front of the shoulder and is often a cause of anterior shoulder pain.
The argument for taking your chest to the floor is to stress all of the muscle fibers, so you get maximal
muscle contraction and development. I understand that but what you’re doing is sacrificing safety for vanity.
You’ll get plenty of muscle work by stopping the motion when the arm is lined up with the middle of the trunk
(so the upper arm will be parallel to the ground). And you lower the risk of injury substantially.
The other problem with taking the chest to the floor is that the arm is fixed. It can’t rotate in and out like it
does when you throw a punch. 80 again, as the arm moves past the trunk, the shoulder will move into more
of an impingement position (this is much more the case when the hands are flat on the floor than in the image
with the hands on handles, but I still would stop the motion at the trunk midline).
Going too low isn’t the only issue with depth. It’s pretty easy to crank out a hundred push-ups if you move
about three inches. Yes, lower risk of injury but you’re kidding yourself into thinking you’re stronger than you
Sagging- The spine and head sagging out of alignment = mistake
When you’re not strong enough to manage the push-up, your spine and head will sag toward the ground. This
increases stress in the spine and even into the shoulders. 80, if you find yourself dropping, it means the drill
is too hard.
And guys seem to have an enormous amount of trouble feeling okay about doing push-ups on their knees.
I’ve heard things like, “I’m not doing girlie push-ups!” Please. Get over yourself. It’s a push-up with less load.
That’s it. If it makes you feel better, strap a performance band around your chest, anchor it high in the door
and let the band help you by reducing the load. Same thing. Easier on your ego, though.
Avoid making these three common mistakes for the push-up and reduce your risk of injury while getting the
most out of a great drill.
My core health philosophy is simple: life is movement. When you can’t move freely or in a way you need or
want to, suddenly your life seems a lot smaller. 80, l promote movement through the fundamentals first:
know your abilities and weaknesses, work on the weakness, build your stability, balance, and endurance, then
your strength, then power, then stamina.