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I work with lots of youths, and there a number of them that don't adhere to the proper push-up position. Rather than keeping their bodies straight, they will stick their butts up in the air. When they do "push-ups" they tend to just move their hips up and down while keeping their arms static.

Understandably, some children lack the strength to hold themselves up, but I want to encourage the strength build-up over time rather than have a bad habit develop. I get the impression that the youth who can't do a proper push-up will just go on auto-pilot without consciously telling their bodies what to execute in terms of movement and control.

What are ways to move towards the right position and maintain it (without the use of any extra props)? Saying "keep your body straight/flat" or "don't stick your butt up in the air" does not click for some younger ones. Are there better ways to describe what to do and "trick" their minds to get their bodies to listen?

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I know this doesn't help answer your question but, why have them do push-ups in the first place. When I was a kid we got our exercise from playing on the jungle gym at school or the park which is probably a better for them anyway since they love to climb on stuff like little monkeys (and climbing is damn good exercise). Why make them do such mundane grown-up exercises like push-ups? –  Evan Plaice Mar 26 '11 at 23:05
    
Push-ups are part of our basic exercises in my martial arts school. Children are very capable if you give them the chance. –  Matt Chan Mar 26 '11 at 23:22
    
I will also say that some kids will just bounce up and down rapidly and claim they've done something like 60 push-ups. I want to break these habits too. –  Matt Chan Mar 26 '11 at 23:29
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@Matt Alternatively, if you have the space/resources you can try to have them do reverse pushups. You'll need a couple of supports (like two chairs) and a short stick (like Jō) for each kid to train them. There's the obvious resource constraints but they're definitely harder to fake (gripping the stick also improves wrist strength which should help improve grappling). –  Evan Plaice Mar 27 '11 at 13:18
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@Matt I didn't really want to make those suggestions into an answer because I'm not really sure if they will solve your problem. IE, I don't have any spare kids available to try them out on :). To see the movement's I was talking about take a look here fitness.stackexchange.com/q/1125/501. –  Evan Plaice Mar 28 '11 at 22:07
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You might want to start them off with incline push-ups (like on a bench) which are easier than horizontal push-ups. It doesn't totally eliminate the butt rising but maybe because it's an easier work-out, it will allow them to focus on the proper arm motion. This change also serves as a leveling field for those who do not yet have the strength.

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