The beauty of the push up is that you can do it anywhere, anytime, and it is as good for girls as it is for guys. Push ups do not only target the arms and chest (which is not necessarily top priority for the ladies), but tighten the core and strengthen glutes, triceps and the shoulders, too. An additional plus: the body burns an enormous quantity of calories, as it works all of these muscle groups.
The nice thing about the good old push up? It is fairly straight forward: up and down, your working with your own body weight, now equipment needed. The bad thing about the push up? It is not necessarily exciting and, surprise(!), there is a lot you can do wrong. A lot. Precisely because it is such a simple exercise, your form is crucial. To achieve comparable results every time you perform them, push ups need to be done perfectly. Here’s a How-To and a How-Not-To:
STEP 1 Get into a plank position with hands planted directly under the shoulders – slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Ground the toes into the floor to stabilise the bottom half of the body. Engage the abs and back so the body is neutral.
STEP 2 Begin to lower the body — flat back, eyes focused about three feet in front of you to keep a neutral neck— until the chest nearly touches the floor. (Note: Some experts say a push-up isn’t a push-up unless the chest actually grazes the ground). Don’t let the butt dip or stick out at any point during the move; the body should remain flat from head to toe all the way through the movement. Draw the shoulder blades back and down, while keeping the elbows tucked close to the body, so the upper arms form a 45-degree angle at the bottom of the push-up position.
STEP 3 Keeping the core engaged, exhale as you push back to the start position as explosively as possible without leaving the ground (pow!). That’s one! Repeat for 10-20 reps or as many as can be performed with good form.
THE MISTAKES TO AVOID
The Mistake: Focusing too much on the upper body.
The Fix: Sure, push ups are known for strengthening the pecs, shoulders, and triceps, but they’re a total-body move. Pay attention to the glutes and legs, and keep ‘em tight! Tightening that tush can help keep the lower back from arching during the move. Instead of letting the bum flop down first (and compromising the lower back), hit the ground chest first, keeping the hips in the same plane as the shoulders. Imagine the belly button drawing in toward the spine to help keep the torso flat.
The Mistake: Flaring the arms.
The Fix: Letting those arms pop out to 90 degrees can be really tough on the shoulders. Instead of forming a “T” with the arms and body, keep the elbows tucked close to the body.
The Mistake: Forgetting to breathe.
The Fix: Just breathe. Concentrating on form and reps can make it easy to forget one of the most important parts of working out — breathing. Inhale on the way down, and exhale on the way back up.
The Mistake: Cheating Yourself.
The Fix: The key is quality over quantity. Make sure each push-up reaches a full range of motion by getting the chest as close to the floor as comfortable, then fully extending the elbows at the top. Having sloppy form will make for a less effective strengthening exercise that targets fewer muscles.