Friday, June 11, 2010
Pushups: an awesome exercise most people get wrong
Pushups are some of the best exercises there are. They require no equipment and work multiple muscles and joints. Depending on your strength, you can do them standing and pushing against a wall (easiest), from the knees (medium) or from the feet on the floor (hardest). There are many variations that add challenge and emphasize different muscles. Unfortunately, most people don't know how to do them correctly and either get a lousy workout or worse, hurt themselves. Here is what you need to know.
Pushups work your arms, chest and core, with a supporting role from almost everything else in your body. To do a correct pushup:
-Keep your body in a straight line. This applies whether you're working from your knees, from your feet, or standing up and pushing off a wall or counter. The hips should be in line with the knees and the head / neck. Don't let the positions of either change as you move up and down. Keeping your stomach muscles tight throughout the exercise will help you hold the position. Using a mirror is very helpful.
-Keep your hands under your shoulders and slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. If they are out under your head or even further, this exercise will be much harder and will probably hurt your shoulders.
-When you bend the elbows to come down, don't keep them out paralell to your shoulders. Bring them back at about a 45 degree angle from your body to avoid rotator cuff problems.
-Come down as low to the floor as you can while still supporting your own weight. Technically, a "proper" pushup means coming down close enough to the floor with your chest (not with you head - that should be higher than your chest, in line with the rest of your spine) to touch a fist placed below your chest's center. If you can't get down that far yet, just get as close as you can.
-If you are too tired to hold the correct position, stop and rest instead of trying to continue with bad form. This goes for pretty much any strength training exercise out there. It is better to do 10 pushups with perfect form that 20 that are out of alignment and sloppy.
-If you are having problems with your wrist hurting during pushups, try standard pushup handles or the "perfect pushup" rotating handles. With either, hold your wrist straight instead of letting them bend at the same angle they would if your hand were flat on the ground. Keeping the wrists straight and "neutral" will take the extreme stretching off the muscles and tendons in this small and vulnerable area of the body.