Common Push Up Errors
Today we are going to discuss some common push up errors and why they happen.
First, when performing push-ups, people often set up with their hand position high and wide. If you took a snapshot from above as in an aerial view, their set up would look like the letter T. People do this to make the exercise easier. Why is this position easier?
- The alignment of the pec fibers is better suited to produce force from this position.
- This position requires less muscle activation (as measured by EMG) in the pecs and the triceps.
- Shoulder horizontal abduction flexibility is limited, so the structures limiting flexibility will contribute much needed passive force in the bottom position.
Second is caterpillaring, or allowing the hips to sag resulting in anterior pelvic tilting and lumbar hyperextension. Here’s why this occurs. They lack the core strength to stabilize their lumbo pelvic region and simply allow their core to gain stability by “hanging” on the structures that limit this motion – namely the hip flexors and lumbar vertebrae. Basically, the hip flexors lengthen and contribute passive tension, and the neural arches of the vertebrae get closer together (aka approximation). This places the posterior elements of the spine at risk. People are stuck in anterior pelvic tilt due to tight hip flexors and erector spinae and don’t have the muscular strength in the rectus abdominis and gluteus maximus to override this tightness during the push-up. By keeping the hips low and hinging at the lumbar spine, a lower percentage of bodyweight is being lifted since much of the body is hanging toward the floor, thereby making the exercise easier. People aren’t strong in deeper ranges so they sag to “pretend” they’re going deeper since their hips will bottom out before their chest, creating the illusion that they’re using full ROM.
Third, people cut the movement short and perform half-reps. Here’s typically why this occurs. People lack end-range shoulder strength and stability. The bottom position of the push-ups involves a higher percentage of bodyweight than the top position, which makes the bottom more difficult. This makes the push-up the opposite of “accommodating resistance” since the loading increases as the push-up is lowered to the ground. People want to fool themselves into thinking that they’re in better shape than they really are. The ego can handle doing ten half-rep push-ups, but it’s tough for a typical person to admit that he or she isn’t in good enough shape to perform a single legitimate, full-range push-up.