Push-ups: Should you be doing them?

Lisa Austin Exercise and Form Leave a Comment

Push-ups are one of the best exercises for the person just learning right through to the advanced person who has been training for years. There are so many variations that use different muscles that you will never get bored or run out of ways to progress them to keep you challenged.

Push-ups are one of the greatest whole body exercises that should definitely be your go-to exercise for any workout. With that being said, for push-ups to be your friend you need to make sure you have proper form. Incorrect form will make them your foe and cause yourself injury, and so you will want to get the most from the exercise to avoid wasting your time.

Set yourself up to do a push up correctly right from the start:

  • Lie on the floor with your hands even with your shoulders. Make sure to not place your hands too high or too low, which will weaken your push-ups tremendously. To prevent any shoulder issues, keep your elbows close to your sides, no more than 45 degrees from your body.  Set your hands so that they face forward. You can do your push-ups on your knuckles (as long as you’re on a semi-soft surface like grass or carpet if you have weak wrists). [/ut_two_thirds] [ut_one_third_last]start-of-pushup [/ut_one_third_last]
  • Your feet should be set in a way that feels right and comfortable to you. For some, that might be shoulder-width apart. For others, it might be that the feet are touching.  Generally speaking, the wider apart your feet, the more stable you’ll be for your push-ups.
  • Think of your body as a long plank – from the top of your head straight down to your heels. Keep your bottom from sagging or from sticking up in the air by firing your glutes and tightening your abdominals, and locking your shoulder blades. If you’ve been doing push-ups incorrectly, this might make all the difference for you.


  • Your head should be looking slightly ahead of you, not straight down to prevent your head tucking down and therefore keeping your body in a neutral position.
  • Push yourself up straightening your arms and lower yourself back down to the starting position. That’s one repetition. When you can complete 20 repetitions 3 times then you are able to try a different variation [/ut_two_thirds]  [ut_one_third_last]top-of-pushup [/ut_one_third_last]



Unable to do a full push up?

You’re not alone. Here’s a plan to get you there.

Starting with an easier push movement will strengthen the right muscles so that you can work your way up to progressively more difficult types of moves that will eventually result in you doing true push-ups.

Start with Wall Push-ups: Just like with a regular push up, clench your butt, brace your abs, and set your hands on a wall at a width that’s wider than shoulder-width apart. Walk backwards with your feet until your arms are fully extended and supporting your weight (generally one decent sized step back with both feet will suffice). Keeping the rest of your body in a straight line, raise yourself up on your toes as a pivot point, steadily lower yourself towards the wall until your nose almost touches the wall, and then push back up to the starting position.

  • Progress to a lower base of support. When wall push-ups are no longer a challenge then move your point of contact for your hands to something lower e.g. back of a chair, side of a table, arm of a couch, edge of stairs. Keep progressing until you are able to do a complete push up from the floor. [/ut_one_third] [ut_one_third]elevated-easy-pushups [/ut_one_third] [ut_one_third_last] Medium-instensity-push-up [/ut_one_third_last]



How to get better at push-ups

So now that you’ve learned how to do a push up, instead of doing a few of them, do a lot of them. You want to get better.

  • Get healthy! The more weight you lose, the easier it will be as you will have to move less weight around than before, which will make your push-ups easier to manage.
  • Don’t cheat on the last few. When you’re tired, it’s easy to slack on proper form for your last few reps. Don’t. As soon as you do one bad form push up, you’re done for the set. Track your results, and try to beat those numbers next time.
  • Don’t do push-ups two days in a row. You need to give your muscles time to rebuild and recover. Take a break of at least 48 hours in between doing push-ups in your workouts.
  • Make sure you are getting enough protein.  Your body is in need of carbohydrates and protein after a workout to replenish what the body has used during the workout and to help it recover faster.
  • Build up your core by doing planks. This will build your core as well as making sure it’s not the weakest link in your proper form push-ups.


Once you are able to do a perfect push up you may want to try a few variations on for size.

  • One foot push-ups – the easiest variation, your body needs to stay in balance throughout the whole movement.
  • Walking push-ups – adds a degree of difficulty by forcing you to move your arms around in between reps while keeping your balance
  • Decline push-ups – raise your feet on a stool, chair or bench. This will work your shoulders and triceps more than normal push-ups.
  • Tricep push-ups – keep your arms tight at your side, rotate your hands outward to 11 and 1 o’clock, and keep your elbows tight as you lower your body. This really focuses on the triceps.
  • Diamond Push-ups – put your hands together so your fingers form a diamond. These are brutal and will wear you out after only a few repetitions. These really focus on the upper arm and shoulder strength.


Once you are strong enough to do a full push-up you will wonder how you weren’t able to do it before. Push-ups done properly will work your arms, back, glutes, legs, and abdominals. They are one of the most versatile exercises that can be done anywhere without equipment.

How many variations can you do?

Use the form below to contact me to book your session to make sure you are performing them correctly and not potentially causing rotator cuff injuries.

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