Proper Push Up Technique

It occurs to me that people have many different definitions of what a proper push up is. And with the most recent survey on the site suggests that people actually care about proper push up form.

When I started doing push ups, I was doing them according to what I was taught in junior high school. Now I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure that my junior high school gym teacher took the time and effort necessary to educate us on proper push up technique.

Browsing through the internet, I’ve come across many sites that tell you how to do a proper push up. I’ve even come across the push up rules for the Guinness Book of World Records.

Armed with all this information, I have come up with what I feel is a unifying definition of proper “regular” push up form. Here goes.

1. Hand placement: hands are to be placed just outside the shoulders. If you were to draw a rectangle that encompassed your body with the sides of the rectangle being the edge of your shoulders, then your hands should be just outside that. Here is a pictorial:

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2. Foot placement: it says everywhere that feet are supposed to be at midline. I feel that you can have equally good form if you place your feet at shoulder width apart, i.e. within that rectangle described and drawn above. I say that because pushing your feet out actually helps you from arching your back by forcing the abs to tighten.

3. Body position: your body should be perfectly inline, from the neck to the heels, throughout the push up.

4. Head position: you have a couple of choices here. Many people suggest looking straight down. When I do that however, I end up moving my head up and down with the push up (which is incorrect - the head should be perfectly still). Another option, which is one I prefer, is to look “up” slightly. That helps focus on one point, and it also helps keepng the head from bobbing around and avoiding neck strain.

5. Top position: while in the top part of the push up, the arms should be straight, but should not be locked at the elbows. If you don’t allow the elbows to lock, the muscles will be conracting the entire time.

6. Bottom position: at minimum, you must go down until the inside portion of your elbows are 90 degrees. You may however choose to go all the way down to the floor if you would like to increase your range of motion and srength.

7. Timing: experimenting with timing, I have found that doing 40 push ups a minute is a good compromise. Ideally, you would do each push up in 4 seconds. However, when going for maximum reps, it’s not really ideal to do slow push ups. Doing very fast push ups though won’t give quite as good a pump.

After practicing the perfect push up technique, I started using rotating handles to get maximum muscle stamina from my push ups. They’re not necessary, but they sure help a great deal.