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How-To: Proper Pushup Technique

Over the next week I’ll be covering some key concepts related to the recently-released Primal Blueprint Fitness [1]. You can get your own copy of the free eBook here [2]. First up, proper pushup technique.

If you’ve ever taken a PE class, joined the military, played organized sports, or watched Rocky, you should be familiar with the basic pushup. In theory, it seems pretty simple, right? You assume the position, lower yourself to the ground, touch your chest to it, then push back up. Hence, “pushup.”

It’s a simple movement, but it’s arguably the best way to develop overall upper body strength and mobility. A proper pushup puts your shoulder blades (scapula) through their full range of motion, as opposed to the bench press, which forces you to keep your shoulder blades tight to protect your shoulders. The pushup is also unique in targeting the serratus anterior, an oft-ignored muscle whose development improves overhead movement and performance; the bench press doesn’t hit the serratus. Properly performed, the pushup also improves core stability by forcing you to maintain a rigid torso and straight legs.

The pushup forms the foundation of the Primal Blueprint Fitness Lift Heavy Things upper body program. It requires no equipment and can be scaled up or down depending on your strength and fitness levels. The basic pushup is easy to learn, but difficult to master, and the variations will keep your body guessing and growing for years.

How To Do the Basic Pushup

  1. Assume the pushup position: elbows locked; hands about shoulder width apart, flat against the ground; toes on the ground; torso and legs straight, core tight; body parallel to the floor.
  2. Lower yourself to the ground, touching your chest to it. Make sure you maintain a tight, rigid body. Think of your legs, hips, and torso as if they formed a cohesive plank or a straight line. Maintain that plank throughout the exercise.
  3. Push yourself back up, squeezing your pectoral muscles and completing the full range of motion.
  4. At the top, continue until your elbows are completely locked and your shoulder blades are fully protracted.
  5. Repeat.

Things to Remember

  1. Keep the tight, plank-like torso position at all costs. Never let your hips sag or bend; don’t point your butt in the air to make it easier. Maintain the straight line.
  2. Squeeze your glutes and flex your abs. This will keep your torso honest and avoid hyper-extension of the lower back.
  3. Head is part of the plank. Keep your head facing the ground; don’t tilt your chin up and strain your neck.
  4. Full range of motion! At the top, just as you feel like you’ve gone as far as you can, push a little more.

Watch this video on proper form and technique for the first 4 of 9 total pushup movements in the PBF Lift Heavy Things bodyweight progression.

Find out where you should begin in the pushup progression by taking the self-assessment test found in Primal Blueprint Fitness [2] and then get started today!