Tune-Up Your Push-Up

Proper form is essential for getting the most out of your Push-Ups. STACK Expert Matt Klingler lists four common mistakes and explains how to correct them.


If the word "push-up" makes you think of those delicious ice cream treats you enjoyed as a child, that's OK. This article is for everyone. Avid popsicle-eaters and gym-goers alike need an occasional Push-Up tune-up. A push-up workout is excellent for building strong, athletic chests, and it can be done anywhere!

Despite its simple name and high frequency of use, Push-Ups can be butchered, like any other exercise movement. Poor push-up form can minimize strength gains, lead to back or joint injury and make you the target of an LOL or two at the gym. Here are four mistakes you need to avoid:

1. Saggy butt

Leading with the hips puts excessive strain on the back and limits the Push-Up's range of motion. This can heighten the risk of a lower-back injury and hinder muscle growth where you want it—in your arms and chest.

2. No hip left behind

I call this the "mountain-top" Push-Up. When you lead with your shoulders and head, it shifts the load from your chest to your shoulders. If you can't do a proper Push-Up from your feet, start on your knees.

3. All elbows and pits

When your elbows are too high, your armpits may enjoy the ventilation, but your fellow gym-goers may not. More importantly, this position impinges your shoulder joint. Tuck your elbows in slightly toward your sides. A 45-degree angle is good.

4. No looky-loo

People-watching can be fun, but don't do it when you're doing Push-Ups. When you lift your head, it increases the likelihood of your hips sagging. Keep your chin tucked throughout the movement as if an apple were pinned under your chin.

So what does a proper Push-Up look like?

You want your whole body in a straight line from head to toe. Squeeze your butt and extend your fingers in the same direction as your body. Keep your head neutral. As you start the Push-Up, think of your body as a lever. There should be zero movement in your hips. Slightly draw your elbows in toward your sides and make sure your nose, chest and hips approach the ground (but do not touch) at the same time.

Enjoy the results, but don't undermine your training efforts by eating too many of those frozen "push-ups."

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock