6 Ways to Get More out of a Push-Up

07/06/2015 at 11:24 AM ET

Push Up
Dougal Waters/Getty

The push-up is one of the most overlooked exercises in the metaphorical exercise book. Sure, it looks pretty easy and most of us know the basics: heels together, wrists underneath shoulders, bend and press your elbows, and voilà, a move that works your entire body pretty much.

But there are certain tweaks you can make to take your push-up technique to the next level. Here are 6 key ways to perfect this exercise — and get the most out of it. All you have to do is follow these tips.

Press your hands into the floor.
When performing a push-up, you want to press the palms of your hands firmly into the floor as if to push away from your wrists. Simultaneously, rotate the arms externally so that the elbows and biceps face forward. This pressure provides a natural tension in your arms, shoulders and upper back, which will help you maintain stability in the upper body throughout the exercise, which helps keep you working hard in proper form.

Squeeze your lats.
Another way to stabilize the upper body is to engage your lats. These muscles are found underneath your armpits and run along the sides of your body. By pressing your palms firmly into the floor you can start to activate them. Then, in addition, think of squeezing your armpits as tightly as possible, like you are holding something in between them. This will keep your upper body completely stable.

Draw your shoulder blades down and back.
Keeping your shoulders shrugged up to your ears puts excess strain on the neck and makes it harder to work the muscles you’re trying to tone: your arms, shoulders and core. The body needs to move as one solid unit. Before you bend your elbows, check to make sure your shoulder blades are pulled down and back away from the ears, engaging your back muscles. To do this, act as if you are trying to squeeze your shoulder blades together.

Keep your neck in line with your spine.
Dropping your head too far down or tilting it too far upward can put too much pressure on the spine and put you at greater risk for injury — the opposite of getting stronger. Find a neutral spine: Instead of tucking your chin completely or looking straight out in front, gaze about 6 inches or so in front of your fingertips and keep your eyes focused there as you push up.

Keep your core engaged.
The core is made up of more than just your abdominal muscles. It’s the entire midsection of your body, basically everything but your extremities. Activating all of your core muscles, including your obliques, abs and glutes, takes stress off the lower back in addition to stabilizing your hips so your body stays in one long line, even as you lower down. By actively squeezing your navel toward your spine, the push-up becomes just as much of an abdominal workout as performing a plank.

Master the breath.
If we were listing these in level of importance, this would probably be No. 1. As with any exercise, breath is always going to help improve your form. It is what drives the movement. Remember to always exhale on the effort of the movement. In this case, that means inhale when you go down and exhale when you press up. As you exhale, you are essentially trying to empty the lungs of as much air as possible to help contract the core and give more power to your movement.

– Jennifer Cohen 

Health.com

Get healthy now with energizing moves, easy recipes, expert tips and tools, and advice on losing weight and feeling great. Find out how to manage conditions like diabetes and depression, stop allergies, prevent heart attacks, and more.

FILED UNDER: Expert Tips , Fitness , Health

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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms
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The Latest Craze in Disco Styles Is See-Through Jeans—but Beware of Foggy Bottoms

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On a clear day, you can see forever—or at least that’s the wicked thought behind L.A. designer Agi Berliner’s transparent idea: see-through jeans. Exhibitionists notwithstanding, most folks wear them over bathing suits or as attention-getting evening wear with halters, garter belts and body stockings. Created for the disco crowd, the $34 jeans are selling like, well, hot pants. In just six weeks, 25,000 pairs have already been sold in such major department store chains as Macy’s, Bonwit’s and Saks.

“What’s limiting American designers is that we’re afraid to do something different,” says Berliner, 32, a Hungarian émigré who fled with her family to the U.S. in 1956. Agi thought up the gimmick in London while marveling at the way plastics were being employed by designers of punk fashion. In her L.A. office, where she designs for La Parisienne junior sportswear, Agi spent five days on the phone and six weeks testing to come up with the right plastic.

Agi herself tried out the French-cut jeans with the zipper in front, and quickly found several problems: Some plastics tore away from stitching, others wouldn’t bend and all fogged with perspiration. The ideal material proved to be a vinyl supplied by a bookbinder. The steam was eliminated with a series of vents behind the knees and in the crotch. “They’re no hotter than polyester pants,” claims Agi, “and if you wear them with tights, they won’t stick to your legs.”

Whatever the discomfort and despite the problem of Saturday night feverishness, discomaniacs report one major advantage of the plastic pants: no laundry bills. To keep Berliner’s see-through jeans clear, all the wearer needs is a little Windex.

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