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6 Common Push Up Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)

Push-ups are one of the most popular exercises, yet somehow they end up being one of the most incorrectly performed! The fact that our arms are supporting most of our body weight means that we tend to adjust our position in order to compensate for insufficient strength. Doing this can lead to a higher risk of injuries, and it will reduce the effectiveness of the exercise.

If you want to blast your chest, shoulders, and triceps correctly, here are the most common push-up mistakes you need to avoid:

  1. Flared-out elbows – When performing push-ups, your elbows should be closer to your ribs (think chicken wings), not flaring out to the sides. Flared-out elbows are the result of insufficient triceps strength. To correct the problem, spend more time working on strengthening those arm muscles. When doing push-ups, make a concerted effort to keep your elbows as close to a 45-degree angle out from your body as possible.
  2. Improper hand placement – The right place to put your hands is directly beneath your shoulders, which will extend your arms straight up and down like a solid pillar. Placing your hands too far forward will strain your shoulder joints, while too far back will increase the risk of wrist injury.
  3. Sagging back and high butt – Your core muscles may struggle to keep your spine and hips properly aligned when doing push-ups, which could lead to either a sagging back or a high butt. You should pay special attention to your back and hips when doing push-ups, and feel the tightness in your core with every push-up. Squeeze your butt cheeks together to engage those glutes, and keep your pelvic bones tilted toward your body for proper spinal alignment.
  4. Holding your breath – This is a huge mistake, one that can increase your risk of injuries while doing push-ups. You need to breathe in when you lower, and expel air forcefully as you push back up. That will help you get more "oomph" into the exercise and will keep your muscles properly oxygenated.
  5. Incomplete reps – For many people, it's too difficult to go all the way down into a push-up, so they end up stopping at a half push-up—halfway down to the floor, often letting their head drop to compensate. Ideally, you should be able to touch your chest to the floor before pushing back up. That way, you know you're doing the full range of motion and working those chest, shoulder, and triceps muscles properly.
  6. Chicken head – You've seen how chickens eat, dropping their heads toward the ground to pick up food. If you're doing the same with your push-up, you're cheating your body out of the full range of motion. A proper push-up involves a stiff, unmoving head. Keep your head in place, and let your arms do the work of lowering toward the ground.

The reason most people struggle with push-ups is that they're a difficult exercise. If you lack sufficient strength to do a full set of proper push-ups, don't compensate by using poor form. Instead, do fewer push-ups, but do them right! Over time, you'll get up to the proper number of reps, all of which will be highly effective thanks to your correct form.

[Image via Shutterstock]

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