The Perfect Press Up
Press ups are a classic exercise and the first proper resistance strength exercise I remember performing, which I dare say is the same for most people reading this. It is likely that we were all first introduced to press ups in school for messing around in PE or in classic army training films. Unfortunately when entering a gym, press ups tend to be neglected as we have machines or free weights that target the chest. When performed correctly, the press up can be an excellent exercise for multiple muscle groups.
Press ups, as simple as they seem, are actually quite a hard exercise so it’s not surprising that the high percentage of the population cannot perform one correctly. In this post we will go through how to perform the ‘perfect’ press up, give examples of how to build strength to perform a press up correctly, and give examples of progressing press ups.
To start with, we want to lay face down on the floor and place our thumbs underneath the armpits
The next step is to contract and hold tension in our abdominals & glutes. We want to look like the photo on the left thinking of our body as hard, flat and rigid when we press up, much like when holding a plank. The photo on the right is a prime example of a press up performed incorrectly where the shoulders are high and the hips are low with a lack of tension.
The next stage is to press up. Whilst maintaining tension, we drive into the floor through the hands and push until fully extended. During the pressing motion it's important that our arms and elbows stay in an ‘arrow’ position as shown on the left below, rather than the ‘flared’ elbows shown on the right. This places the majority of force on the muscles of the chest rather than placing excessive force on the shoulder joint, which could potentially lead to injury. As a side note, this technique should also be adopted when performing the bench press, dumbbell press and chest press resistance machine exercises.
Finally, when we lower our body, this should be in a slow and controlled manor maintaining tension throughout the core and glutes, then just before we touch the ground, drive back up. In terms of breathing patterns, we should breathe in whilst lowering and breathe out forcefully when pressing back up.
As mentioned at the start, below is an example of a progression press up. Very simply we perform a press up with our hands raised on a surface, following the same technical points as described before.
Once we can perform a minimum of 10 'perfect' press ups we can look to advance the exercise. By performing the press up with raised feet we increase the difficulty, but still following the same technical points as a normal press up. This variation could be on a step or using the suspension strap handles as shown below.
Press ups are an excellent exercise for upper body toning and strength, so have a go at mastering the press up and as always if you want any help on technique please don't hesitate to ask a member of the fitness team.