Ready to nail that perfect push-up? Learn simple tips to take your push-up from your knees to your toes, with beautiful form!
6 Tips for the Perfect Push-up
Today’s post was originally published on February 18, 2015!! I updated the graphics and some of the content to make it even better! Enjoy!
Push-ups. Earth downs. One of my favorite exercises to do AND coach!
When I first published this post, back in 2015, one exercise I would see performed incorrectly most often was the push-up. And now, over 3 years later, the same is true.
Not going to lie, it took me a while to be confident doing a push-up on my toes, with proper form. BUT, I made it happen! I’ve helped so many other women get their first push-up on their toes and more!
BASIC SET UP
Come onto knees. Bend your elbows and with WIDE fingers touch your thumbs to your shoulders. Press straight out. Then tip forward to place your hands on the ground. Suction cup your hands to the mat. Screw your arms into the ground, so your elbow pits are forward. Extend one leg behind you, coming onto the ball of your foot.
Extend the other leg, coming onto the ball of your feet. Tuck pelvis, squeeze glutes and press heels back. Inhale as you lower your body to the ground, chest first, elbows moving back at a 45 degree angle. CHEST DOES NOT NEED TO TOUCH THE GROUND. Lower until elbows are at 90 degrees. Exhale as you push your body away from the ground and come back into plank position.
BASIC SET UP ON ELEVATED SURFACE
Start your set up the same way. With an elevation, you might need to play around with your body placement. This doesn’t follow exactly the same idea that your shoulders, elbows and wrist should be stacked.
Take peek at the two photos above. On the left, I pushed my body back a bit, so I was able to hit the edge of the box at my chest (boobs).
On the right, you’ll notice the edge of the box was a little closer to my belly button.
COMMON FORM ISSUES
THE SAGGY NECK
Go into any fitness class at a gym or go into any box jump and it’s likely you’ll see saggy necks. I still have to watch myself with this sometimes. It’s super easy to have this form issue without even realizing it! Head migrating forward during a pushing (or pulling) exercise is characteristic of a overactive sternocleidomastoid, upper trapezius, and levator scapule, all muscles in your neck/shoulder musculature, and weak deep cervical flexors.
You can follow the RX Corrective Exercise Continuum HERE to fix muscle imbalances.
HOW TO MAKE IT PRETTIER: Look forward / straight ahead. Keep neck neutral by remembering to tuck your chin.
THE SAGGY BOOTY
Saggy butt. Booty in the air. Two things that are sure to make a push-up NOT pretty. Both are indications of weak glutes and core – and maybe lack on knowledge on what muscles need to be engaged in order to do a push-up.
You can follow the RX Corrective Exercise Continuum HERE to fix muscle imbalances.
HOW TO MAKE IT PRETTIER: Think Michael Jackson. SWIPE RIGHT! He was alllll about that hip thrust / pelvic tuck. I need you to channel your inner MJ. I like to have clients exaggerate a booty pike, then tuck and squeeze. Squeeze so hard you turn dolla bills to quarters. Check out a demo here (swipe right 2x)
THE SCALENE TRIANGLE
From the side, you should look like a right triangle. You should be stacked: shoulders, elbows, wrists, palms. Sometimes our arms like to move out so we look more like a scalene triangle. NOT PRETTY.
HOW TO MAKE IT PRETTIER: Take the time to set up properly. If you feel your arms moving forward, STOP, reset and go again. #FormFirst ALWAYS!
5 Tips for the Perfect Push-up
These are simple tips that can help you fix your push-up. If you are ready to start doing beautiful push-ups on your toes, it’s time to join The Pretty Push-up Challenge! Get all my best tips, tricks, strengthening exercises and more!
1. Don’t tell yourself that you can’t do a push-up on your toes.
We’ve been lead to believe that there is a move called ‘girl push-ups’ that women are supposed to do because they lack the upper body strength to perform a regular push-up. I call bullshit.
First, stop calling them ‘girl push-ups’. Are there girl squats or girl deadlifts?! Um, no. Change your language.
Then, get your mind right. If you believe that you will never get a push-up on your toes, girlfriend, you won’t get one! Yes, the move is hard, but you’ve done hard things before. Believe you can do it and then make it happen.
2. Speaking of knee push-ups, try elevated push-ups instead.
When you perform a push-up on your knees, you are cutting off part of your body from the movement – which is part of the reason they are so much easier. But, we get used to performing the movement without our legs and it can be more difficult to progress to push-ups on your toes.
Instead, start practicing push-ups on an elevation. My rule of thumb is: find a surface that allows you to perform a push-up with beautiful form for 8 – 10 reps. This might be a countertop or a step or bench. Once you’ve practiced and feel more comfortable with the move, lower your elevation. Work up to an 8 – 12 rep range. Continue lowering until you reach the ground.
Using aerobic steps works great because you just need to remove a step or two, as you progress.
3. Keep fingers spread wide and push the floor away on the way up.
Fingers spread wide gives you more surface area and grip. Push the floor (or surface you are using) away and exhale as you press up.
4. If looking at you overhead, you should look like an ARROW, not the letter T.
STOP performing push-ups with a super wide grip. You should NOT look like the letter T from overhead. This set up can put unnecessary strain on your shoulders! Aim for the ARROW.
HOW TO MAKE THE ARROW HAPPEN: Come onto your knees and put your hands on the ground, as if you are setting up. Shift weight over palms. Take a peek at your elbow pits. They should be facing forward – or as forward as your mobility allows. This requires you to ‘screw your arms’ into the ground. This places your shoulder blades on your back and sets you up in the proper position to execute that beautiful push-up.
5. Realize push-ups are a full body move – and squeeze your tush!
Yes, push-ups are often characterized as an upper body exercise. And they are. BUT, that doesn’t mean you only rely on your upper body to perform this move. In order to execute the push-up, you need to ensure your quads, glutes and core are ENGAGED and ready to go. This means you gotta tuck your pelvis and squeeze your tush** – like you are trying to turn dollar bills into quarters. If you’ve never done this for your push-up, try it now!
** This is a bit tougher to make happen when you do push-ups on your knees! This is why I suggest the elevation!
6. Practice, practice, and then practice some more.
Believe me, I wish I could tell you it’s possible to become a boss at push-ups overnight. Sadly, not the case. Like most things in life, if you want something, you gotta work for it. Even though they are tough, even though you sometimes think they will NEVER get easier, even though you want to be a boss right now – PRACTICE. And the practice some more. And guess what, more practice!
That’s honestly the easiest way to get better.
There are also a handful of strengthening exercises that can help you master and progress this move. You can grab them all AND practice with us during The Pretty Push-up Challenge! We start on the 22nd!
A note on Knee Push-ups
I realize that you will not always be in a place where you can do push-ups on an elevation. When I was coaching at the gym, it was tough to find the perfect elevated surface for every woman during a workout that required a specific number of reps or time to complete a push-up. Many ended up doing push-ups on their knees.
It’s not the end of the world and you’ll probably find other trainers who are #TeamKneePush-ups, but I say, if you must do push-ups on your knees, do them correctly!
KNEE PUSH-UP BASIC SET UP
The upper body set up is the same as a regular push-up. Rather than extending legs all the way, come onto your knees. Your body should still be at an angle from the side view. Tuck that pelvis, squeeze glute cheeks. Screw arms into the floor and lower into your push-up.
When looking from the side, you should NOT look like any of the photos below. #FormFirst ALWAYS!
The Pretty Push-up Challenge
I’ve LOVED writing this post because push-ups are legit, one of my favorite moves EVER to coach! This will be the 3rd round of The Pretty Push-up Challenge and it’s getting a little facelift!
For 10 days, I’ll be sharing my best tips & tricks. YOU will be doing 10 push-ups everyday, for 10 days. There are options for progressing, if you are already about to do 10 pushies on your toes. This challenge is FREEEEE and perfect for ladies that are ready to get off their knees and start doing beautiful push-ups on their toes!
What to expect:
- Learn proper push-up form
- Identify weak spots & areas for improvement
- Incorporate accessory exercises daily to increase strength
- Create a plan for progressing your push-ups starting with 10 push-ups a day
- Start your journey to become a Push-up BOSS
- Demonstration videos
- Accessory exercise videos
- 3 Exclusive Workouts
- Emails with my BEST tips
- Access to The Burpees for Breakfast Squad
How are your push-ups looking?
Are you signing up for the challenge?!