This is a new series that I hope to put up regularly. It will feature a common exercise we perform at IFAST, why we perform it, its benefits, and how to perform it correctly.
Today, we are going to cover the push-up. I am sure many of you are familiar with this exercise, but do you know the many benefits it offers as well as how to correctly perform it?
If I asked you what muscles the push-up works, most of you would say the arm and chest muscles. This is correct, but we use it at IFAST to strengthen more than just these two areas. So what other muscles am I talking about?
The abs!!! Who does not want to strengthen their ab muscles?
The way we coach a push-up at IFAST requires you to be in a neutral spine position. A neutral spine is one in which the spine is in its neutral position – pretty simple, right? 🙂 This position is important because it will lead to the least amount of stress on the back. To maintain a neutral spine you must use your ab muscles. The abs, along with some other muscles, prevent your back from losing its natural position.
Take a look at the picture below, which shows a common starting position for a push-up.
This is not a good starting position. Her spine is not straight (see the dip in her low back) so her ab muscles are not fully engaged. Yes, she will still strengthen her arms and chest but not as effectively. Another benefit of a straight back is that the shoulder blades can move more optimally along the ribcage.
Now, let’s take a look at a proper push-up.
Besides the forward head, this guy starts with, and maintains, a neutral spine position. The spine stays straight and the only thing that moves are the arms. This is what we want to happen.
Most people seek ab muscles because they want a six-pack, but they can also be very helpful in preventing back pain. Our ab/core muscles prevent any excessive motion in the back, which is a common cause of pain.
Therefore, perform the push-up correctly and reap the many benefits it offers – stronger arms, chest, and midsection, as well as a healthier back.
Note: If you are unable to perform a push-up from the floor then perform on an inclined surface. The higher the incline the easier it will be to perform. Very few of our clients are able to perform a push-up from the floor when they first start with us.
Final tips on how to perform an IFAST approved push-up:
-Start with hands just outside shoulder width
-Get your stomach tight and squeeze your glutes
-Slowly lowly yourself down to the floor or bar (think about pulling yourself toward the floor)
-As soon as your feel your shoulder blades together push back up
-At the top of the movement make your arms really long
Now go get strong and healthy!