Q&A: Push-ups & “Engaging”

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I am working on my push-up technique and I have a hard time with “isolating muscles”. When I am told, “engage your core” or “engage your chest” I never know what specifically to do. 


Team #FitThick Response:

Engaging Your Core

When you engage your core — most of the time this is referring to activating the abdominal muscles.  Think sucking “in” and “up” at the same time, almost like your vacuuming your stomach up through your chest.  It’s contracting your core muscles — almost like you are preparing to get punched in the stomach.

Just as an aside, you can actually practice engaging your core all day as practice for good posture.  If you have a desk job, or sit a lot — that plays a major roll in weakening the core due to poor posture.

Daily Posture Check-In: 

How NOT to sit:

  • shoulders rounded
  • spine curved
  • head jutting forward

= core is loose and slumped.

How TO Sit:

  • shoulder blades pressed together
  • your spine straight
  • head back into place as well (straightening the top of the spine – the neck) — this should happen automatically after steps 1 and 2

= Now your core is intact! From this position you can practice engaging your abs during the day and continue help strengthen your core.

Engaging Your Chest

In push-ups specifically — it is noted to “Engage your Chest”.  When doing push up The further away from your body you have your hands, the more you involve your chest. The trade-off is more stress on the shoulders and pectoral tendons. To further activate your chest, concentrate on tensing the pectoral muscles while you are at the top for a second each rep.

You want to make sure that you keep your elbows remain close to the body. This will not only help you engage more of your triceps and chest but will also work your lats, traps and biceps, and dramatically reduce the risk of injury.  Coupling this with an engaged core, and keeping your body in a straight line — you will begin to feel your chest “engage”.

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