“Does it matter where my elbows point during push-ups?”
You have three options for where they should be during a standard push-up: wide, about 45 degrees back, or tight to your ribs.
“Bowing your arms out wide may cause you to hike your shoulders, which fires up the trapezoid muscles that span the upper back, and can limit your shoulder mobility,” says Kelvin Gary, the owner and head trainer at Body Space Fitness in New York City.
This is a lot of stress on the shoulders and neck, and this puts you at risk for injury. So it’s probably best to nix that option, Kelvin says. When you bend your arms straight back, so your elbows are tight to your sides, your triceps and anterior shoulders take on almost all the work. And while you think this may be fine, you’re asking some of your smallest muscles to move your entire body down and up. “You’ll lose stamina, your form will go out the window, and, ultimately, you’ll likely shortchange results,” Kelvin says.
Simply direct your elbows about halfway between the shoulders and torso to let the chest muscles kick in. “This locks everything into place. The more muscles that contribute to your push-up, the more reps you’ll be able to do with better form, making you stronger,” he adds.