Pushups are a great upper-body workout, touted for their ability to develop a strong, muscular chest, cannonball shoulders, and arms worthy of recognition. However, there are many other things that pushups do for the body, and falling behind in one area can render pushups ineffective, leading to disappointment and, in more serious cases, injuries. Next time you go to do pushups, keep these issues in mind.
THE ISSUE: Weak Core
Exercises such as the plank improve core endurance, which are critical for stability during a pushup. The ability to hold that classic pushup position is directly correlated to how long you can hold a plank and is an indicator of overall core strength. A weak core can lead to a “sag” in the lower back that changes the angle of the shoulder joints and how the muscles are being worked. Changing this angle, or positioning, can lead to serious injury and diminished results. Work planks into your routine 1-2 days per week for 3-4 sets of maximum holds.
THE ISSUE: Weak Quads
Yes, believe it or not, quads impact your pushups. If you have weak quads, it's hard to hold your knees in the fully extended position that a pushup requires. An inability to do this will cause the knees to fully lock out, which is great for the end of a squat. Holding those knees fully extended leads to two things: decreased blood flow to the muscles that need it (the blood sits in the legs) leading to decreased muscle activation and therefore decreased results; and raised, posteriorly tilted hips, leading to rounding of the lower back and possible disk injury. Be sure to work squats into your routine 1-2 days per week for 3-5 sets of 8-10 repetitions.
THE ISSUE: Incorrect Hand Placement
Luckily, this one’s an easy fix. Start out by getting down on your hands and knees, and make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders. Shoot your legs back, get into a pushup position and hold it—your hands should still be under your shoulders. That’s a good start, but there’s one extra part that can be a difficult concept to grasp. Imagine your hands are on top of a big pile of sand or rice and try to grab on to the ground. This will activate all the muscles of the lower arm and hand, increasing your ability to push yourself up. A good way to prep for this is by wrapping a rubber band around your fingers then pushing them as far away from each other as possible, holding for a second, then returning to the start.