Given the currently trending “22 push ups/day for 22 days” challenge that’s hit social media, it seems like a great time to address this complex movement.  A properly executed push up is a beautiful thing; pressing approximately 60-70% of your body weight in a fully coordinated movement that requires strength, stability, core stabilization, postural awareness and control.  All of this, with low risk and no equipment needed.

It is certainly worth some respect.

The only way to reap the benefits of the push up is to learn to do them correctly.  Slogging out a bunch of poorly done reps will get you nowhere… except perhaps in to the injury zone.  One of the most common things I see is the wide flared elbow position (hands far away from body, elbows sticking out).  Perhaps this feels easier, but, this is NOT a push up and it can lead to acute and chronic injury to joints and tissues.  At 22 improperly executed push ups per day for 22 days, that’s 484 opportunities for injury to occur in shoulders, joints and connective tissue.

One properly executed push up will be far more beneficial in the long run than 10 done incorrectly.

You will probably need to work with somebody who can instruct, watch and correct your form; however, here are some basics:

  • high on toes, heels pressing back, feet perpendicular to the floor
  • quads deeply engaged
  • hip flexors and core activated
  • head is in neutral
  • hands about shoulder width apart, under shoulders.  they are softly cupped, not pressed into floor
  • shoulders retracted, depressed and rotated towards spine
  • lifted sternum/proud chest
  • elbows pressing back towards feet, not out!

Once all that has happened, lower body in one plane to the floor, press back up in one plane.  That’s 1.

The only way to gain the attributes of the push up is to do them; however, you need some of the attributes in order to do them properly.  That’s where variations come in.  To be very clear:  there is NO such thing as a “girl push up!”  If your current strength is not quite ready for the full push up, you can set up properly, then, with feet remaining on the floor (no feet sticking up in the air!), bring knees down to floor.  Execute push up exactly as above.

If you were to commit to doing 1, or 2, or 5 perfect push ups at a time, at multiple times throughout your day, you would quickly begin to accumulate a nice sum of work.  5 push ups done 5x/day would give you 175 perfect reps every week, or, 550 for your 22-day challenge.