Whether it’s Instagram celebrity pimping diet teas #celeryjuicecleanse or that dude you went to high school with bragging about his “baller” start-up, nobody likes a poser.
Also, not cute?
Poser push-ups – aka when you try to do a push-up, but you haven’t mastered the skill yet OR it’s the end of your workout and you’re reaaa-aaallly tired, so this happens…
Your head falls towards the floor.
Your shoulders round forward.
You stop actually bending your elbows and instead stick your butt in the air like a down dog!
All these things = common, but not great push-up form and have the potential to set you up for cranky wrists and shoulders AND they aren’t actually going to make you any better at push-ups!
I don’t share this to scare you or give you push-up shame (true story, when I taught group fitness in my 20’s, I was essentially paid to demo shitty push-ups).
Practicing poser push-ups probably won’t hurt you (unless you do hundreds of them while ignoring screaming joints), but they’re also not an effective way to train. Conversely, making a few small shifts in how you perform push-ups can help you get stronger faster and reduce (or even avoid!) joint discomfort.
So…let’s discuss why poser push-ups aren’t as good as the real deal and what might work better.
This might be a #duh moment, but you’re only strong in the ranges of motion that you train.
When your version of a push-up involves barely bending your elbows, you’re not fully utilizing the muscles in your arms, which means that you’re not getting the full benefit of the exercise.
In fact, you’re mostly just doing an awkward plank while placing unnecessary stress on your wrists, elbows, and shoulders.
This brings me to my second point.
Swinging your elbows out to the sides and collapsing through your back and shoulders places excess stress on your joints.
As I mentioned above, practicing push-ups this way doesn’t doom you to a future of pain and injury.
However, repetitive stress injuries (aka pain from repetitively practicing something questionable alignment/biomechanics) are real and maintaining alignment + moving with control sets you up for better muscle engagement, more strength, good posture, and less pain.
In short, you don’t need to stress about being biomechanically “perfect,” but form matters and can help you move better and strengthen ALL your muscles more effectively.
You might be thinking, “Well, of course I WANT to do push-ups with good form, but I can’t! The poser push-up IS my best attempt.”
I get that, so let’s talk about why this happens and how you can dump the poser push-up and upgrade it for the real deal.
When you practice a poser push-up, it means that the push-up level that you’ve chosen is too advanced for your current level of strength. As a result, your form suffers and you intuitively go faster, because momentum makes the exercise feel easier and lets you knock out more reps.
Enter that situation where your elbows barely bend and straighten, your wrists/shoulders/elbows hurt, and you feel tired from moving fast, but you never get any stronger. #lame
Sooooo…what can you do instead?
1. Check your ego at the door and pick a version of the push-up where you can lower your whole body (not just your head) towards the ground and push back up with control.
This might mean doing your push-up with your hands on a bench instead of the floor or even with your hands on a wall.
I get that wall push-ups = the dowdy sister wearing a potato sack in the movie, when we’d all rather be the “hot girl next door” but once you master wall push-ups WITH FULL RANGE OF MOTION, you can progress to the incline, and overtime you’ll progress to the floor, except in this scenario, you’ll be able to do the advanced version well and nothing will hurt.
2. Work on upper body strength and mobility outside of push-ups.
Push-ups are a great upper body exercise BUT they’re not the only exercise AND if you have a stiff spine/wrists/shoulders from too much sitting/texting/driving, push-ups might feel icky, even if you have the upper body strength to push yourself up and down from the ground.
With this is mind, working on joint mobility and strength training beyond push-ups can make them feel easier + make you stronger, fitter, and a better mover.
But if you’re not comfortable in the weight room or haven’t spent decades studying joint mobility, you might not be sure of how to get started or are worried about hurting yourself.
Good news! You don’t need to be some sort of movement expert to figure this out. This is why I created the Push It Real Good FREE Challenge: A 5 day challenge to help you build the strength and mobility to practice planks and push-ups with less shoulder and wrist tension. 😉
To MORE strength with LESS hurt.