Push Ups: easily one of your coaches most loathed movements to coach. Not because it’s difficult to Coach, or because it takes a lot of time or equipment. Quite the contrary actually. The real reason your Coaches hate coaching them is because of the massive gap in what people think is a good push up vs. what actually is a good push up. Let’s talk about what some of the deficiencies we see:
The Setup Position (recall these are not what we want)
— hands in front of the plane of the shoulders with a very wide grip outside the shoulders
— back is angled up, not flat. Think: hips lower than shoulders (even if the back is straight, it’s still not correct)
— Elbows are completely perpendicular to the torso. Think: T shape, or saying, “it’s good” after someone makes a field goal
— Elbow joint gets to 90 degrees without the chest, or sometimes anything at all, touching the floor
— Event worse is the back and hips sinking down, placing an extremely excess amount of pressure on the lower back
— Coming back up, the back arches, snakes, or twists
There’s more, but you get the idea…
Now let's talk about what we consider a good push up at CrossFit New Haven
— Your hands are directly under the plane of your shoulders, and slightly outside the width of the shoulder
— Your back is perfectly flat and therefore parallel with the ground
— As you descent, your elbows stay at a 45-degree angle, or tighter to your body
— Full range of motion is complete when your chest touches the ground anywhere at the nipple line or above [pause for 4th-grade giggle]… without your thighs touching the ground
— Pressing back up, your back stays perfectly flat and does not arch, snake, twist or bend.
So here’s the thing about push ups that no one talks about (or admits): PUSH UPS ARE REALLY FRIGGEN TOUGH, especially if you’re doing them right. I was watching a Behind the Scenes from the 2016 CrossFit Games. They were talking about doing Murph and every athlete said they did their push ups in sets of 2s and 3s. These are the best CrossFit athletes in the world! Yes, they were wearing a weight vest, yes, they had already competed for 2 days to this point. But all things being relative i think it’s safe to say that push ups are tough even for the best in the world.
Therefore, we’re going to work on our push ups from now until Murph at the end of May. If you’ve ever done Murph, you know that the push ups are the hardest part and where most people slow down. We already started our focus on the “push” muscles last week, with the Heavy Single Bench Press kicking things off. You’ll see a myriad of other push variations, both on Push Days, and even some non Push-specific days.
But we need a benchmark TEST, and here it is:
The Push Up Test
— For those that are able to do a perfect plank push up as described in the video above: 1:00 for max push ups. These do not have to be Unbroken, but they MUST fall within the standards from the video above
— For those who use the racks: you have 3 attempts at doing 10, unbroken push ups, with exactly 1:00 of rest in between attempts. This is important – do not rest any more, or any less. Here’s the thing: you should find your failure point with this test. If you’re unable to complete the 10 reps, move the bar up. If you are able to complete the 10 reps, move the bar down.