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How NOT To Do a Pilates Push Up


Updated May 02, 2011

Where's the Length and Strength?
push up

Pilates exercises maximize the potential of every move. We don't sacrifice form just to get a move done as our model has done in the push up above. She is doing all the classic things one does to muscle through a push up when integrity and strength are missing. The funny thing is, if she got herself aligned properly, and engaged her core, she might find out she really can do a Pilates push up!

Pilates push up is a good exercise to examine because it is a challenging full-body exercise. It makes us work our alignment, core strength, shoulder stability, pelvic stability, and coordination. All of which are missing from the example above -- which is what makes it valuable to us.

I doubt that you are doing push up with as many outstanding issues as the sample above. But it can be helpful to see a bold example the incorrect way to do an exercise. A bad example can make it easier to find those tendencies in ourselves, even when they are more subtle in our own practice. Push up is also a good exercise to look at closely because it is based on the plank position which shows up in many Pilates exercises on the mat, and on equipment, as well as backwards as in back support.

If you are not familiar with Pilates push up, you might want to review the exercise instructions. But for now, let's take a look at how not to do a Pilates push up.

What's wrong with this picture?

  1. Our model is not using her powerhouse to stabilize her trunk. Her abs and back are weak so her mid-section is sagging.
    What we wish we saw: Ideally, Pilates push up is done with the body in a long, straight line from ankle to ear. If our model's abdominal muscles were pulled in and up, and she focused on a straight spine with her whole core was working for her -- including her back muscles -- her trunk would be well supported.

  2. The alignment of our model's hands, arms, and shoulders is disorganized so she does not get the benefit of shoulder integrity and arm/hand alignment to help her push up. Her shoulders are going up, but she isn't!

    What we wish we saw: The shoulders should be wide, rolled back and down, and balanced by a strong, open chest. Her hands should be flat, giving her a stable base. Her fingertips should be point forward with elbows pointing back along her sides.

  3. Our model has let her head drop. The head is very heavy. If you let it hang, it will make any move harder (unless you are trying to relax, of course).

    What we wish we saw: Her head and neck could be reaching through the collar bones as a long extension of her spine. This would make the move much easier.

  4. Though we can't see our model's legs, it looks like they might be straight and hugging the midline. So let's say there is one thing right.
Overall, you can see that our model has all kinds of swervey curvy lines of energy going on that are not working together to create an integrated whole.

Now, let's move on the the real thing:
Do Pilates Push Up
Do Pilates Push Up on the Ball

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