Let’s hear it for push-ups — they’re an amazing tool for sculpting triceps, they don’t require a single piece of equipment, and after a few sets, you will definitely feel that glorious burn.
But throw lower-back pain into the mix, and push-ups are just plain brutal.
If you’re healthy and experiencing lower-back pain during push-ups, it might be time to check in on your form.
According to Rebecca Fox, an ACE-certified personal trainer on Find Your Trainer, poor core engagement during the movement could be to blame for your discomfort. It’s actually one of the most common pain-causing mistakes made while performing push-ups.
“Poor core engagement results in the arching of your lower back during the push-up movement,” Fox explained. “This puts an enormous amount of pressure on your lower back and can cause pain.”
Your core and glute muscles are meant to protect your lower back during the movement. When those muscles are weak or not activated, your lower back then takes on the work.
“I like to envision your core and glutes as the guards outside Buckingham Palace protecting the queen,” Fox said. “The guards need to be strong and engaged in order for the queen to be protected!”
To prevent lower-back pain during push-ups, Fox suggests completing an intensive warmup to ensure your core and glute muscles are activated.
“Doing three sets of 10 of exercises that specifically target the glutes and core prior to a push-up will help warm up the proper muscles,” she said. “It’s also important to work on maintaining the muscle activation during the push-up, and if necessary, take breaks after each push-up to reactivate your muscles.”
And if you don’t have your push-up form down 100 percent, consider making modifications — go to your knees or practice push-ups while standing with your hands placed against a wall.
“This is a great way to practice proper elbow placement and core engagement before doing a full push-up,” Fox said.
Image Source: POPSUGAR Photography / Matthew Kelly