A Trainer Explains the Ways You’re Probably Doing Pushups Wrong

Over on the Athlean-X channel, strength coach Jeff Cavaliere C.S.C.S. has been pointing out all of the common mistakes he sees people making in the gym, from squats to crunches. In a new video, he breaks down all of the ways in which you might be doing pushups wrong, starting with basic form: your chest should be touching the ground at the bottom of the rep, and your arms should be reaching full extension at the top end.

If you’re just dropping your hips to the ground then you’re not doing pushups, you’re doing what Cavaliere colorfully describes as “floorf***ers.” Alternatively, you might be keeping your hips too high. “Neither one of these is actually going to give you the results you’re looking for,” says Cavaliere. He advises focusing on getting the “target zone” between your waistline and upper chest to touch the floor on each rep by tilting your pelvis downwards.

It’s also important to find the right width to place your hands for this movement, as this can be different for everyone. Cavaliere demonstrates how to find what works for you: lie face-down on the floor with your arms stretched out overhead, then slide them down until your elbows are between 45 and 60 degrees from your side. Then slide your hands underneath your shoulders and press yourself up.

Equally as important is the direction your hands are facing: Too far inwards and it will cause your elbows to flare out, too far outwards, which can lead to additional stress on the shoulder. Facing the fingers forwards or even slightly outwards can help to provide more stability and freedom of motion. If doing pushups this way causes pain or stress in your wrists, Cavaliere recommends grabbing a pair of dumbbells and performing the move with your hands wrapped around the handle instead.

Just as the bar follows a natural path during a bench press, so too is there a preferred pattern of motion for the body to follow in a pushup, with the head and torso moving slightly forward as they travel down into the lower end of the rep. This can be achieved by letting your toes nudge the body forward on the way down, and then reversing that movement on the way back up. “If you do this right, it not only feels better, but natural,” says Cavaliere.

Another common error is performing your pushups too quickly. “Speed is actually the enemy of good form,” says Cavaliere, explaining that doing your reps too fast will ultimately “shortchange” your ability to achieve full range of motion, either at the bottom or at the top.

“The best key I can give you is two seconds on the way down, and two seconds on the way up,” he says. “This will not only ensure you get the exercise right, but it allows you to do all the other things I’ve talked about correctly.”

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