What is the best pushup depth?

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somanaut

Level 5 Valued Member
Now, now. There is a view that touching a ball on the floor with the chest instead of the floor itself would be the better depth for a push-up. I'm wondering what's the reasoning for that.
Fair point. I didn't understand that as: "maximum depth". I understood both the ball and perhaps better the elbow higher than scapula as: "minimum depth".
 

WhatWouldHulkDo

Level 6 Valued Member
Now, now. There is a view that touching a ball on the floor with the chest instead of the floor itself would be the better depth for a push-up. I'm wondering what's the reasoning for that.
I'm not saying it's "wrong", but I think @guardian7 captured it - there can be a tendency to leak tension if you actually come in contact with the floor. In the extreme case, I've seen people drop to the floor, and then sort of "peel" themselves off it with a lot of back bend.

That said, I'd imagine that if you know what you're doing and can execute a proper touch-and-go, nothing wrong with it.
 

mprevost

Level 6 Valued Member
What's wrong with touching the ground with the chest? That's the way the push-ups have always been done around here and how the school and military tests were done etc. Before getting on this forum and reading a certain book on calisthenics, no other option ever crossed my mind.
I agree. When you allow people a shorter range of motion, they will cheat, in many cases unintentionally. People have a poor sense of their pushup depth, unless they touch their chest to the ground. I have supervised thousands of people taking the Pushups 2 minute test, thousands. I can tell you from experience, any standard that is not chest to the deck, and full lock out at the top is going to be problematic.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
The depth standard for the OAPU in my SF Bodyweight course manual is to lower the torso under control on one arm "until the tip of the elbow of the working arm is above the top of the shoulder" and press back up.

You're right, it's not in that article, and I don't see it on the Bodyweight cert requirements page nor in the video.
Thank you Anna for checking. It seems to be an omission in most tutorials, even good ones.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
IMO, you want a nice rhythm of retraction at the bottom and protraction at the top. Eric Cressey had a recent instagram post where he includes this as one of his pushup form points. His only point on depth is "elbows don't wind up too far behind the body," but doesn't specify what constitutes "too far."

Also IMO, MOST people don't have to worry about going too deep in a pushup, assuming they can maintain other aspects of good form. The floor does a pretty good job limiting your range of motion to a safe range.

Also IMO, a lot of harm is done by people trying to keep their scapulas locked down during various exercises instead of maintaining or establishing healthy scapular movement (bench press being somewhat of an exception because the bench interferes with scapular movement).
I may be misusing the term scapular. I really mean total plank stability and shoulder stability. Elbows not flared etc, I try to think of doing a plank with my arms moving rather than a pushup.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
Now, now. There is a view that touching a ball on the floor with the chest instead of the floor itself would be the better depth for a push-up. I'm wondering what's the reasoning for that.
Exactly, I want to know the reasoning/science related to maintaining tension behind going to the floor or stopping at tennis ball height. I actually judge it by my nose because this seems to entail a neutral neck position. I would guess that I stop at around golf ball height.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
I'm not saying it's "wrong", but I think @guardian7 captured it - there can be a tendency to leak tension if you actually come in contact with the floor. In the extreme case, I've seen people drop to the floor, and then sort of "peel" themselves off it with a lot of back bend.

That said, I'd imagine that if you know what you're doing and can execute a proper touch-and-go, nothing wrong with it.
Yeah this. I feel like when I go to the floor I let myself relax and leak tension and kind of roll up a bit like you said.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
I agree. When you allow people a shorter range of motion, they will cheat, in many cases unintentionally. People have a poor sense of their pushup depth, unless they touch their chest to the ground. I have supervised thousands of people taking the Pushups 2 minute test, thousands. I can tell you from experience, any standard that is not chest to the deck, and full lock out at the top is going to be problematic.
Excellent point. However, the needs of the organization to come up with an objective standard to apply in a high stakes test may not be the optimal performance. As a case in point, the clean and press was dropped from the olympics because it was too hard to judge, not because anyone thought it was not a good lift.

By the way, I have seen footage from the Korean military where they have a very low bar that is padded and the recruit must touch their chest to the bar. It makes it easier to perform but also easier to score.
 

ShawnM

Level 8 Valued Member
Next time you do push ups take a balled up pair of socks with you and position it under your chest. Once you make contact go up to full lockout. While preparing for Navy SAR school a million years ago I did this to ensure I was going low enough without slamming the deck and no issues getting my numbers I needed, keeping my shoulders healthy and developing explosive strength.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
Next time you do push ups take a balled up pair of socks with you and position it under your chest. Once you make contact go up to full lockout. While preparing for Navy SAR school a million years ago I did this to ensure I was going low enough without slamming the deck and no issues getting my numbers I needed, keeping my shoulders healthy and developing explosive strength.
Well I think I got my solution. Great thread. That would be smaller than a tennis ball but not touching the floor which I think suits me. It would also give tactile feedback to grease the groove and benchmark even when not in use later, and not being a ball would not roll away! It also being soft unlike a baseball would not impede fast concentrics. I like the two second down recommended in Convict Conditioning but want the fast up. Simple but effective. Thanks.
 

guardian7

Level 6 Valued Member
Update. I tried using the sock suggested by ShawnM and it worked well. It forced me to think of touching my chest rather than worrying about hitting my nose, which I think I did unconsciously before, meaning that my neck was not as neutral as I thought. Paradoxically, my pushup is deeper now (think of a chest to bar pullup vs a tactical pullup) but still not quite on the floor releasing tension, which was my initial concern. I keep a sock discretely in my desk drawer now in my office. I will switch to GTG to lock in the new form and then go back to sets.
 
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