Monday, May 6, 2013

Mobility Monday: Correcting The Push Up Form

I teach a course of my own creation on Saturdays at Shotgun CrossFit. Mo-Yo is a combination class mixing the methods from Mobility Wod and Kelly Starrett plus Vinyasa yoga. I take sad broken athletes, broken from a hard week of CrossFit and workday stress, and mush and stretch them into supple happy weekend warriors.
I figured, since so many folks come in tight as a drum on Saturdays, perhaps a few methods on the ol' site during the week would be beneficial!

Enter Mobility Monday!!

Let's fix some pain.

The Broken Push Up

Here I am a few years ago showing off my awesome push up to the camera. Little did I know, I was totally destroying my shoulder by flaring out my elbows and also missing important triceps work by relying on my chest to do most of the work. Who wants the flabby swinging triceps area? NOT ME!

How do I fix this?! I see so many people begin push ups on the knees and flare the arms out JUST LIKE ME. 
Here are some tests and fixes to get you mobile and on the path to stronger more awesome arms:

The Pretest
-Get in the plank position
-With a strong core and elbows tucked close to the body, lower yourself to the floor and let your chest and thighs touch the floor
-Can you keep that form and go back up?

OK! Keep doing that. This is your new push up position. Keep those elbows tucked in and feel the hot burning love of the triceps.

No?...Keep Reading

How To Get The Better Push Up

1. Say goodbye to knees on the floor. Seriously, this is only a crutch and does not train your core to hold your body tight and strong. 
Again...This is a faulty form. No likey!

2. Lower your repetition capacity. It's time to scale the workout. Your not going to want to do 100 strict push ups with baby triceps. Let's take it slow and work our way back up. 

The Form
- Start in the plank position. 
-keep a strong core and elbows tucked
-Lower yourself to just above the floor. Thighs or chest may touch, but don't flop down there!
-Practice holding the plank in an active position with chest and thighs on the floor. Work up to 10 seconds

The Push
-When you are holding close to the floor, keep your core tight and glutes squished (prison defense here folks)
-Work to push back to the plank position with elbows tucked and tight core

Like the pictures? My 7 year old was helping me today...

If You Can't Do That Yet
-Use the "Snake up"

-Snake your body back to plank by pushing up with upper body leading and legs trailing. It may not be pretty but it keeps the knees off the floor and core stays active.

What Will This Feel Like?
-You will notice your triceps are burning...this means you are using them. GOOD!
-You will feel soreness in your core and glutes too. Good! These are also being used. Awesome.

What it should not feel like
-Pain/ Injury in the front of the shoulder? No! that's bad. Keep your hands under the shoulders, don't place them too wide
-Lower back pain? No! Yuck, that stinks. Save yourself and keep your core active and tight

Continue To Progress
In addition to your regular workouts, practice perfecting your form weekly. Use a 5x5 strength set 3-4 times a week with plenty of stretching and rest in between mini workouts. This simply means, do 5 correct push ups in 5 different sets 3-4 times a week.

In as little as two weeks you will notice your strength increase and your arms feel stronger. Using correct form will keep you strong and save your joints for many years of functional fun.


  1. Ugh, push ups are so frustrating for me. I thought it was something I could do pretty well, but when I started CrossFit and learned I was doing them all wrong (I wasn't keeping my elbows close to my body), I soon found out I can only do a few. Need to keep working at it!

  2. Ok, pushups! Here we go. Thanks for the information here. You make it look like absolute fun.


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