Common Mistakes and Techniques to Correct
Mistake #1 Elbows flare out too wide
Correction: Place your hands just outside shoulder-width and when you execute your push-ups, keep your elbows at a 45-60 degree angle forming an arrow shape with the tip of your head and your elbows. This will allow more pec (chest) recruitment and help prevent shoulder pain.
Mistake #2 Hands turn into much and weight rolls out towards pinky finger
Correction: Place hands neutral (middle finger forward), spreading fingers wide, and grip the floor. Then screw hands into the floor to promote external rotation in the shoulder. Think tearing a piece of paper apart. Push the ground away during the upward phase of the push-up.
Mistake #3 Shoulders Shrug
Correction: When this happens, tension shifts away from the chest and onto the traps causing a loss of pressing strength and stability. So instead, use lats to pull shoulder away from ears and into a stable and locked position. Also, work on proper scapula rotation by pushing scapulas (shoulder blades) out and away on the way up and then squeeze them together on the way down.
Mistake #4 Jutting head forward
Correction: When we jut our head forward during a push-up, we may be trying to reach the floor faster or we may have some muscle imbalance. Either way, instead, keep your neck in line with your spine by doing a chin tuck during your movement (think double chin!)
Mistake #5 Butt in air or Hips sagging down (No mountains or valleys!)
Correction: Create a straight line through your body by engaging the core, tighten glutes and push through your heels to activate quads.
Mistake #6 Speed too fast
Correction: Performing your push-ups too fast not only can encourage improper form but also can add shear force and torque on your joints which can cause injury. Instead, slow them down and put emphasis on concentration of form. Try taking 2.5- 5 seconds to really add some difficulty which will result in increased strength over time.
Mistake #7 Advancing too soon
Correction: Regress to progress your push-up! Choose a modified push-up until you are confident with your form. You may need to start on the wall, on an incline like a bench, or on your knees before progressing to your toes. Proper form is key!
Mistake #8 Pushing through wrist pain
Correction: Do you experience wrist pain during your push-up? You may lack wrist extension. You can improve your range of motion in your wrist by working on some self-myofascial release (try rolling forearm on a lacrosse ball) followed by a wrist extension stretch (with arm straight in front of you, pull back on fingers). In order to make the push-up more comfortable until you improve wrist ROM, you can try placing your wrists on a rolled-up mat, use your fists to keep your wrists neutral, hold dumbbells, or try using a TRX suspension trainer.
Well, there you have it! Fine-tuning the details will help you get the most from this exercise while minimizing injuries. Now go perfect those push-ups!