One of the most poorly executed exercises is the push-up. Core stability is one issue. Many people look like a dolphin “swimming” through their reps. The core needs to remain tight and stable with a neutral spine each and every repetition. Any deviation in form and the set should be terminated.
Another issue involves push-up depth. Full range of motion should be accomplished on every repetition, and the range should not deviate between reps. In order to stay honest and perform a “true” push-up, use the kiss-the-baby technique advocated by Paul Wade in his book Convict Conditioning. Here’s an excerpt from the book to explain how it is executed:
“When you use an object to determine your pushup depth, it’s important not to collide with that object. Descend gently until you very lightly touch the basketball, baseball, or whatever your use. To determine how much pressure you should touch with, we had a saying in prison; kiss the baby. If your upper chest (for example) touches a baseball at the bottom of the pushup, it should only make contact with the amount of force you would use to kiss a baby on the forehead. No more, no less.
This technique of pausing briefly at the bottom of a pushup removes any momentum and builds excellent muscle strength and control. It’s why I advocate a one second pause at the bottom of all movements. Incidentally, the kiss-the-baby technique can be applied to weight-training exercises, like the bench press or shoulder press. If you cannot very gently “kiss” your body with the bar in the bottom position – if you have to either bounce it or stop short – the weight you’re using is too heavy. What do I mean by “too heavy”? Simply this – if you can’t absolutely control a weight throughout a technique’s range of motion, it’s too heavy.”
Of course, performing a push-up in such an impeccable manner will force many to use a modified version where they pivot off their knees instead of their feet. Often, however, form is sloppy with this movement. A much better alternative is a push-away done against a wall, counter, or barbell set in a power cage or Smith machine. As I mention on page 122 of The Elite Trainer, the latter option allows you to control the amount of resistance. Over time, lower the height of the bar with the ultimate goal of reaching the ground.
To your success,
John Paul Catanzaro
Posted Feb 9, 2015