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From the CFI Vault: The Perfect Pushup

By Marcus | In Uncategorized | on July 25, 2011

This was originally posted after we ran Cindy back in February 2010 and observed some sloppy pushups. Again last Monday we saw some questionable form, which is why we had people practice proper plank holds during the week. Take a look at the guidelines below and make sure your pushups are up to par!

“Wait a second… is Marcus pimping out some infomercial gadget? I thought CrossFit Intrepid only used real equipment!”

No, I haven’t sold out for a quick buck and we recently got pullup bars installed, not a totally sweet Chuck Norris Total Gym (although we were offered one). Instead I’m talking about a common bodyweight exercise that you do so often you probably never give a thought to it. Whether you do your pushups on your knees or in a plank, there are only a couple criteria to make them legit.

  1. Full range of motion — chest to ground at the bottom and arms fully extended with elbows locked out at the top. Think of pushing your body as far away from the floor as possible.
  2. Body held in plank position — this means your back is ramrod straight, and your hips and shoulders rise at the same time (even when on your knees)

Easy, right? As some of you noticed on Saturday, a workout like Cindy will make your form go to hell in a handbasket quickly.

I debated on posting pictures of our athletes from Saturday, but felt that may be a little too embarrassing for those involved. Instead I’ve found photos of common faults that we trainers see during the heat of a WOD.

Body in pike position:

This fault is typically seen when someone is doing pushups on their knees. If their body isn’t in a straight line and their butt is raised high in the air, it’s a form violation. Focus on getting those abs tight and the body lined up.

Hips sagging at the top:

Granted, this picture is an extreme representation but there are some of you that reach lockout of the elbows while your hips are far behind. These pushups do not count since only half of your body is going along for the ride. Tighten those abs and keep your plank position. This is less commonly seen during knee pushups.

Lack of full range of motion:

Don’t be like this tool. We joke about “Air Force Pushups” but we’re quite serious when we expect you to touch your chest to the ground on each rep. Unless you have a belly that prevents you from doing so, your pectorals should touch down every time. Some of you just touch your lowest ribs, and that ain’t good enough.

We’ll have a pushup clinic (or two) to hammer out form issues. Also, don’t be surprised if we partner you guys up to judge whether reps count or not. You now know the criteria, so get working on them!

WOD 7.25.10

Snatch 3-3-3

Then, for time:


  • 21-15-9
  • Overhead Squats
  • Burpees

(Compare to 5.6.11 or 12.20.10)

One Comment to "From the CFI Vault: The Perfect Pushup"

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