The Push Up Rant

Given its (relative) simplicity, one could argue that the push up is the most botched movement in strength and conditioning. OK, maybe as a whole other movements are performed more poorly, but I think perceived competency of the push up is grossly exaggerated. I’d say fully 99  out of 100 people I see think they have push ups, when in fact they’ve got quite a long way to go.

A quick YouTube search, for push ups will yield plenty of activities in the plank-ish position, but very few real push ups. One man has the record for the fastest 1000 push ups of which I saw zero push ups performed. There are plenty of bad examples out there and very few good ones.

I see two major issues show up in poor push up excecution:

1. Range of motion:Arms extended and chest to deck is the complete range of motion. There are plenty of ways to scale the load without compromising this range of motion. Every joint in your body deserves to move and train through it’s entire range of motion. One push up from the knees with full range of motion has much greater training value than numerous partial range push ups.

Down the line at FFOTB Nation.

2. Body Position: The hollow body position is vital to a well executed push up. If you look closely athletes often either never achieve hollow body, or loose hollow body position far before fatigue in the arms or chest fail. Hips tucked under and locked (via engaged stomach and glutes) is requisite for a good push up. Find it and hold it. Prioritize hollow body first.

And, I believe there are two major causes that contribute to lack of range of motion and poor body position:

1. Ego: There is zero ambiguity in the standards of a push up. The tactile feedback of your chest on the floor can’t be missed, so I believe there is a conscious choice made to move through smaller ranges of motion. Understand the push up is a gymnastic skill that can’t be assumed or taken for granted.

It’s OK if you don’t have a skill you thought you had. Treat the push up with the same diligence as the clean and jerk and you’ll be able to slow down enough to execute them with attention to detail.

2. Hollow Body Awareness: Knowing if you’re in good body position and even being able to get into position, are very difficult concepts. Practice finding the hollow body position in the sanding position, lying on your back, in plank, etc. Awareness is important and it takes practice to garner that awareness. You’ll be able to take your newfound hollow body skills into numerous movements, so it’s worth your time, too.

This post is about the push up but trust me on this one, attention to detail bleeds into everything in your life. Have enough in you to be meticulous about your standards in the push up, and you’ll surely begin to practice greater excellence in bigger, (seemingly) more important aspects of your life.

Logan Gelbrich


Thursday’s Workout:

Spend 20 min on the Split Jerk..

Then 3 rounds for time of:

10 Split Jerk (95/65)
20 Arch Rocks
30 Sit ups
200m Run


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