Look at the above pictures. See anything in common? As you can see, the proper posture one should have standing is almost identical to the proper form of a push-up. It’s not often said how related the two are, and yet it could make all the difference.
As a trainer, I can usually tell when I get a new client if they’re going to have good push-ups or not. Their posture is a dead giveaway. If they stand with their shoulders falling in front or slouched, if their chest is caved in or their heads not lengthening tall to the ceiling, chances are they will have some trouble executing proper form with a push-up.
This is because the elements are the same. If you look back to the pictures above you’ll notice the hips directly under the shoulders, head facing forward and chest out. In fact, if you took the picture of the push-up and flipped it so he was on his feet, they would look identical. That’s a mark of a great pushup.
So what’s the big deal? It’s just a pushup; after all if you’re a crossfitter you probably do 100s in workouts! This may be true, and this is exactly the reason why it is so important.
When we were infants we learned the natural progression for mobility and stability. We learned to crawl by learning rotational stability; we then learned to pull ourselves to one foot and knee then eventually to our feet. Then once we got to your feet we most likely have fallen a bunch of times until we got the correct posture and found our center of gravity. Next came walking then other basic functional movements. The point is this: having good posture is rooted in us as human beings, to have crap posture means we have been working hard and long for years to screw it up. As babies we were doing pushups just fine, so why do people look like snakes as they attempt them now? Most likely because their losing mobility. You can thank the desk and chair empire that has taken over the world for that one.
What’s worse is this can just be the beginning for a host of problems. If you cannot fully execute the push up then chances are your core is too weak to hold the plank for the duration of the movement. If your core is too weak you may also have a mobility or stability imbalance that increases your likelihood for injury by 3 fold. Not to mention if you do these things wrong I can almost guarantee you have back pain or will. This is due to the strain placed on the lower back while compensating for the bad posture and weakness in the core or from imbalances.
To prove this point further check out the below image of good vs. bad posture.
If you were to turn these pictures so they were facing the ground you would see the proper pushup (good posture) vs. the most common types of “pushups” (bad posture). Next time you see a workout in the gym with pushups, check everyone’s form. Typically there are more with bad posture then good, if left uncorrected.
So what do you do about it?
Two things: correct your daily posture, and correct your pushup. The former is more of a remembrance where the latter is a skill practice.
For posture I typically tell people to “anchor” it into their daily lives. So if you work at an office, every time you see your boss, or your phone rings, or you get a new email pick your chest up, push your shoulders back and sit tall. This will slowly replace the old habit of slouching over time.
For your pushup I would recommend using a PVC pipe. If you notice the below picture you should be able to do pushups with the PVC on top of you and staying in contact with your head, back and butt.
If you can’t do this it’s most likely a core issue, and in that case you should hit planks and midline stability drills.
In short, don’t take the pushup so lightly. I have known people who got injured by doing it wrong. Keep your body rigid tall and taut. Neglect could mean injury, imbalance and early fatigue.