Lifting heavy weight is sexy. Regardless of overall goal, most folks would prefer to be stronger rather than weaker. If you don’t, to me, you’re doing it wrong. Getting strong can help you with loads of things, from making your daily tasks seem easier, to giving your metabolism boost, and helping you look better naked.
Most of the time, we think about deadlifts, squats, bench presses (the powerlifts), the clean & jerk and the snatch (the Olympic lifts), and other bad ass barbell lifts. It’s strength that you can see; most gym rats can quickly count the plates on the bar. When we discuss the importance of exercises such as the push-up, the sex appeal disappears. It’s not as cool to talk about posture or movement quality, but when it comes to overall health and performance, that’s more important than just loading the bar up and lifting. Push-ups are the Rodney Dangerfield of strength training: They get no respect!
Dismissed as a boring calisthenic, they’re typically used for conditioning as few people implement them as a true strength exercise. As a result of this careless dismissal, when they are done, push-ups are usually done with abysmmal form. It isn’t uncommon to see someone turning their spine into a model of the Coney Island Cyclone:
The resemblence is uncanny! Most sets of higher rep push-ups are performed so that on video, you’d assume it was a dance move from Magic Mike. Rather than dropping and bangin’ out 50, slow things down and focus on proper alignment. At the top of the movement, you should look like this:
Stop thinking of the push-up as a chest exercise, with your body around the ride. The push-up is a plank...it just happens to move up and down. Plank first, then start moving; it’ll clean up almost instantly.
Most of the time, I find that a bottoms-up push-up works the best. Lay down on your stomach, and set your hands under your your shoulders. Brace the glutes, brace the abs, and pack your chin. Then, after you’ve done that, push yourself off the floor. You’ll find that you rise in a solid plank, rather than flopping around like you’re on the Cyclone. Here’s an example:
Give the bottoms-up technique a try, and let me know how it goes. I’m sure you’ll find your push-ups look way better, and you’ll get much more out of them. If you’re part of the “Push-ups Aren’t Sexy” crew, don’t worry. Practice a perfect push-up for the next few days, and on Friday I’ll post some of my favorite variations for you to try. Remember, the push-up is a plank.