The Official Push-Up Checklist (AVOID MISTAKES!)

What’s up, guys? Jeff Cavaliere, Today we’re going to talk about the pushup. One of the most common exercises performed
in the gym. However, it’s also one of the most commonly
mis-performed exercises. I feel that what happens with this exercise
is we don’t pay it the same attention as we do, say, the bench-press. That’s ironic because we’re going to cover
both exercises side by side, creating a checklist so you can see the commonalities between the
two exercises, therefore hopefully better understanding the cues that you’re looking
to integrate and make sure you follow them when you perform this exercise. So, you make sure you get the most out of
it. Are you ready? As I mentioned in the opening, if you’re
looking at the two exercises, they are very much the same exercise. One is being done with a barbell and one is
utilizing your own bodyweight as the resistance. If I were to lift my knees up onto a pair
of dumbbells to try and equate the torso positioning here, you can see the mechanics of the ‘pushing’
portion of the exercise is the same. We want to make sure we’re doing the same
thing across the board, utilizing the same mechanics and focusing the same attention
to get the most out of it. We start at the top here and work our way
down. That is with the head and neck. Where do you want your head and neck to be? Well, we don’t want them to do this. If you were doing a bench-press you would
never try to push your head back into the bench. Although, that is a common flaw. As people try and generate more force away
from their body, they do everything they can to produce force from the opposite direction. Often times, pushing with the back of their
head. That not only creates neck strain most often,
but it’s also taking away from the mechanics of the exercise and how to do it properly. What we want to do is make sure, if anything,
we keep our chin down and tucked in, so we prevent that from happening. With the pushup it’s the same thing. We’re not trying to bend our head all the
way back or flex our head all the way down toward the ground, sometimes creating the
illusion that our eyes and body are getting closer to the ground before it actually does. That’s why we do that. What we want to do is keep it in neutral and
maintain that position from the very first rep, to the last. The next thing we want to do is look at the
shoulders. The most important thing you can do here is
un-shrug them. What do I mean? If you look at a bench-press, one of the most
common flaws people make is, in an effort to create that tightness or retraction that
they hear we should have on the exercise, they pull up into this shrug. That’s not what we want. As a matter of fact, we want the exact opposite. We want the shoulders together, but we also
want them down. We can do that by consciously un-shrugging
the shoulders here. The secondary effect of this is that it’s
going to put the elbows in a better position as we perform the press. Why? Because as we shrug up the clavicle is going
to change its angle, dragging the scapula along with it. As those two go together we know the relationship
between it and the shoulder joint itself, you’re going to change the mechanics of
the shoulder joint. Mostly elevating it inside the socket, creating
a higher elbow angle as you go down into the press. We’re going to cover that in depth as we
get down here. But the most important thing you can do is
start by initiating a conscious un-shrugging of the shoulder. It doesn’t just apply for the bench-press,
obviously. It does the same thing here in the pushup. Before you even descend into a single rep,
consciously pull your shoulders down and back. We’ll get into the specifics of what you
want to do with your scapula next, but the most important thing you could do here, before
you do anything else, is un-shrug those shoulders. Moving onto the upper back, the most important
thing you could do here is create stability and tightness through here. Why? Because it’s what provides the stable base
from which you will press off. Whether you’re doing a pushup or a bench-press. Let me explain. When people tell you to retract your shoulder
blades what they’re trying to do is tell you to create tightness there. Why? Because the bar will start and end over this
base, if you’re doing this exercise properly, and we’re going to talk about this more
when we talk about bar path later on. The fact is this: you have your most force
and power when you can push off something stable. If I were to give you one opportunity to produce
your highest vertical jump ever and I give you two chances to do it would you rather
do it off sand, or off this hard floor here in the gym? Most likely, if you’re smart enough, you’d
be choosing the hard floor in this gym because you know you could generate the most force
into that floor to push off in the opposite direction. The same thing applies here in both the bench-press
and the pushup. You want to make sure you consciously pull
your shoulder blades together and make them tight. Create as much tightness as you can right
through that shoulder girdle. Realize that’s where you’re going to be
pushing off and generating force in the opposite direction. If you get this right, guys, I promise you,
not only will the pushup become easier, but the bench-press will as well. The next part is one that catches some people
by surprise. That is activation of the glutes. We know that your body’s ability to perform
any exercise is infinitely made better if you can involve, not just the upper body,
but the lower body as well, where some of the strongest muscles in your body reside. When you’re looking at a bench-press you
actively want to contract your glutes. This provides additional strength and force
in that opposite direction from the ground up. As I push the bar away, I can drive my feet
down, creating these equal and opposite force here, to allow me to do that with more efficiency. We can do the same thing here when we do the
pushup. I want to make sure that I’m not lazily
hanging out in the pushup position, but I’m actively contracting my glutes. The second I do this – we call this ‘plugging
the energy leaks’. You create more total body tightness. You create more efficiency from the top down
throughout the entire kinetic chain. So, when I do a single rep, I’m not losing
it and having the force dissipate from what I’m generating, pushing into the floor throughout
the weak spots of my body. Tightening the glutes alone will give you
an instant fix, and an instant plug of that common energy leak, allowing you to do this
exercise better. An additional benefit to not only getting
your upper back tightness and your glute activation in place is that you’ll also fix the positioning
of your thoracic spine. Why? As we tighten from below and tighten from
the top the thoracic spine will follow. We’ll get proper extension. We’ll give ourselves a chance to allow the
chest to get out in front, as opposed to letting the shoulders get out in front. This is an important distinction to make when
we’re trying to press safely. We know if the shoulders tend to dominate
the movement, not only will we have an underdeveloped chest from doing the exercises, but we’re
also putting ourselves in a position of a likely impingement and damage in that joint
over time. By fixing the upper back and by fixing the
glutes we’re correcting the thoracic spine’s positioning as an additional benefit. Up to this point, all the items in our checklist
were things you could change or modify before you even did a single repetition. But at some point, we’ve got to get going. When we do, we need to make sure we focus
first and foremost on what’s happening here in our elbows. When we perform the bench-press what we do
not want to do is allow the elbows to travel high because we know how dangerous that could
be for the safety of your shoulders. Especially considering the fact that these
are both exercises that you’re likely to rack up lots of repetitions on over the course
of your training in your lifetime. So, what we want to do is create a little
more subacromial space by allowing our elbows to drift downward, about 30 degrees off the
horizontal. Beyond that, we know it’s further reinforcing
what we talked about in the very beginning. That is to decompress those shoulders, to
pull those traps down. The third thing we know it does is, we know
it allows us to push with more force. If I were to ask you right now to push me
away from you, the thing you would probably do is keep your elbows in the position here. It’s a natural position for your elbows
to generate the most amount of force. You would not try to flare your elbows and
push me from here because you just turned a chest, shoulder, and tricep movement into
a simple tricep extension movement that doesn’t have nearly the same force generation capabilities. You want to make sure you get this right. Again, it carries over here to the pushup
as well. You don’t allow your elbows to drift all
the way up here. The same things that were problematic for
your shoulder in the bench-press would be problematic here as well. Just because you’re not using the same amount
of weight doesn’t mean it’s still not biomechanically bad for your shoulders. So, get those elbows tucked down and focus
on maintaining this position from the first rep to the last, to not only keep those shoulders
safe, but to get much more out of the exercise. Whether you’re doing the bench-press or
the pushup. So, we talked about the proper performance
of the bench-press, we talk about the bar path being critical to that because we want
an efficient movement pattern here. We can generate that by having a straight
bar path. But straight doesn’t necessarily mean straight
up and down. It means straight at an angle. We go from that position of power that we
talked about up here with the upper back. From this position of stability, it travels
down because we know the elbows are taking us in that direction to align lower across
your chest. From there we want to get back to that position
of stability. We know if we press straight out from there,
we’re going to create much more strain and stress on the front delt than we want. We want to get it back to that position of
stability, which is straight up over our shoulder blades, and up over that stable base. So, the bar path is going to be angled. So how do we do this on a pushup? Well, we can’t move a bar in space like
we can on a bench-press. But what we can do is manipulate our body
in space. So, as I go down into a rep, I want to allow
my body to drift a little bit forward into my hands, so my hands are lined up along that
lower chest line at the bottom of the repetition. From here, as I press up, I simply allow my
body to drift back just a little bit, so my hands come back up to a position like they
started, above that stable base of my shoulder blades. There’s a slight rocking component to this. It’s very, very subtle, but very important
to make sure you’re maintaining those same mechanics. Nothing changes between the bench-press and
the pushup. You still want to have that same path, whether
it be with a bar or your body, if you want to maintain efficiency, and you want the greatest
power output. Lastly, guys, one of the things that drives
me crazy about any exercise is when people bastardize the form in an effort to just perform
the exercise. It’s more important to do it right. So, we don’t want to bounce any bar off
our chest just to lift more weight. What we want to do is convince ourselves that
it was our muscles that did the work and not the momentum. So, when you get down to the bottom of a bench-press,
pause. Hold the bar against your chest for a split
second and then push back from there. There’s not difference with a pushup either. Guys, there’s nothing stopping you from
turning this pushup into a much more difficult version of a pushup by weighting is. The fact of the matter is, everything would
still stay the same. When I get to the bottom, I want that brief
pause because I want to know when I initiate the descent from that pushup, I’m doing
it with the work of my muscles, and not simply bouncing off the ground, or bouncing the bar
off my chest. There you have it, guys. A complete checklist to make sure you’re
not only getting the pushup right, but you’re also seeing the correlation between it and
the bench-press, so you can get all of them right. Guys, the mechanics of every exercise you
do are important. The details matter. If you’re looking for a program that puts
the science back in strength, that realizes everything you do in the gym matters, and
you need to pay attention to it; head over to and get one of our ATHLEANX
programs. In the meantime, if you’ve found the video
helpful leave your comments and thumbs up below. Let me know what else you want me to cover
and I’ll do my best to do that for you in the days and weeks ahead. And finally, guys, if you haven’t already
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