Perfecting your press ups

Press ups. I mention them in class and people groan. I hear you. In fact I used to groan too. That was until I learnt how to do one correctly and felt the benefit of being able to do them. Using your bodyweight as resistance is an awesome way of gaining strength and challenging yourself. I’ll admit it, press ups are not easy. If you can’t do a full on press up then there are lots of options that will help you work your way up. So let’s break them down and work out how to do them properly.

Press Up Positives: 

A great upper body workout . Strengthens pectorals major, anterior deltoids and triceps. That’s chest, shoulders and upper arms. So if you want to tone up your “bingo wings” and sculpt your chest and shoulders these are the bee knees.

Builds bone density. The weight goes through your wrists and forearms helping to build stronger bones. This has huge benefits for later in life. When you fall, you put out a hand to stop yourself, so a strong wrist is essential.

Gets your heart rate up. Some people aren’t a fan as you feel a bit out of breath and flushed after press ups. But that’s one of the benefits, you are increasing your metabolic rate and burning more calories.

Core strength. When done correctly with the spine in neutral a press up works your core, if it doesn’t you are doing it wrong, see my tips below.

Press Ups Problems:

Some of the top issues I see are:

1. Saggy back. Your spine needs to remain in neutral. No saggy lower back is allowed, it can be damaging and is not using the core properly. Keep your range smaller and go down a level to build your strength first.

2. Arm position. When doing a tricep press up your arms need to be narrow, shoulder distance apart and your weight right forward over your wrists. This will lead to your elbows bending under you and not out to the side. Often people do not have their weight far enough forward, it needs to be as far forward as you can take it.

3. Neck dipping. Your spine and body need to move in one unit. In an effort to get down lower some people dip their head and neck down. I totally understand why but you are straining the neck flexors and will just end up with neck pain, so make it smaller 😉

4. Breathe. The sheer effort of these can mean you forget to breathe. I wouldn’t advise that 😉 You should breath out as you push up from the floor, the hardest part of the press up.

5. Bums ahoy. The bum in the air look is not an attractive one 😉 It means your weight is not shifted far enough forward. Check it out.

Building up to a Press Up:

You don’t have to go right in and do a full press up… perfect the technique and work up to it.

1. Wall Narrow Press Ups – stand facing a wall, arms shoulder height and shoulder width. Take a large step backwards and stay on your toes, weight over your shoulders and wrists. Think about your alignment, slide the shoulders down in the back, find your neutral and engage the core. Inhale as you bend the elbows and lower yourself towards the wall, keeping in neutral and not letting the neck or lower back dip. Exhale as you press up.


2. Half Press Ups on your Knees  – come down to the mat and progress to half press ups. Start in hands and knees to find neutral spine and engage your core. Then walk your hands out about 1 hands distance further forward, still shoulder width apart. Shift your weight forward so you feel the weight through your wrists. Now try out that press up just going half way down.

3. Full Press Ups – when you feel confident with a half press up and can do 8 well, then move up to the next level. Keep your full press ups small to start with and keep checking your technique. Use a mirror to check your alignment, no lower back sagging, no bum in the air and no neck dipping. Ensure you are working through your triceps, going too far too soon can mean you end up collapsing and using every other muscle possible to get back up! Less is often more.