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Benefits of the press up

Benefits of the press up

The humble press up has stood the test of time, it has been, is, and will continue to be one of the most popular exercises out there. There is good reason for that, its extremely effective! So why do I and other personal trainers out there love the press up so much? Lets take a look at some of its key benefits:

  1. It requires two arms and a floor. This is something that most of us have with us for most of the time meaning that no equipment and no kit is no excuse.
  2. It provides upper body strength, endurance and stability. The lifting phase of the press up requires great effort from the chest, shoulders and Tricep muscles. The lowering phase requires control from the Biceps, shoulder and back muscles.
  3. It promotes core stability. The prone set up position forces the abdominal muscles to switch on and support the lower back, maintain tension and internal pressure. The dynamic movement tests the core muscles ability to maintain back position and the rotator cuff muscles in the shoulder work hard to provide smooth, safe shoulder motion.
  4. It creates body awareness. An awareness of what position your joints are in without looking at them is key to moving and exercising safely, without injury. Over time individuals that spend limited time moving, don’t use full joint range of motion or have poorly rehabilitated injuries loose touch with this internal system designed to protect us and make our movements skillful.
  5. It encourages muscle synergy. Although the press up works the upper body muscles the hardest it is a whole body resistance exercise and doesn’t just work one area. Maintaining elevation off the floor in the press up position requires whole body tension meaning that all of the muscles from the toes to the finger tips must work together to provide support and stability. This is something you wont achieve with a machine based exercise.

When press ups go wrong

Press ups are great when performed correctly but I’ve found that there are plenty of ways to cheat this great exercise both consciously and sub- consciously. Avoid these common mistakes for a full proof press up:

  1. Depth. To actively engage all of the prime mover muscles you need to lower your sternum to the height of 1 fist from the floor. That’s low, very low.
  2. Chicken head. Don’t trick yourself into thinking your getting low by sticking your neck out and reaching for the floor with your head. Lead through the sternum. Chicken impressions do nothing for you.
  3. Bottoms up. Many sub-consciously try to take pressure off the core muscles by sticking their bum up in the air. Its not a good look and it does nothing for your stomach muscles. Your hips and head should be the same height.
  4. Saggy back. If you start to feel low back pain its likely that your lumbar spine is hyper extending. You will see this in the mirror as a
  5. ‘C’ shaped curve in your lower back. Flatten out that curve by rolling your tail bone down and under your pelvis.
  6. Humping. Most of the motion in the press up should come from the shoulder and elbow joints. If they are not moving very much but your pelvis is you will be doing a great impression of humping. This is not good for your upper body or your street cred.

The press up challenge

This is a favourite bench mark of mine to monitor overall fitness so many of you may have attempted this challenge with me before and its great to revisit. Perform as many press ups as possible with good technique inside 60 seconds. Use the table below to grade your result. Plenty of practice will see you move up through the grades in no time.

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