Push Ups 101: How to Begin

Make sure you use proper form to avoid this conversation

I ran track in high school and my coach always made us perform pushups as part of our warm up… and I did so terribly.

I learned later in life my anterior pelvic tilt greatly attributes to my pushup woes. Though my pushups aren’t perfect (still have the weird high butt thing going on), they have greatly improved since I learned to do them the right way.

So, rather than spending your life avoiding this insanely powerful exercise, why not learn how to do them the right way?

I want to go over a good protocol to help you improve upon your push up, and build up to a perfect one.

First, let’s talk about what you shouldn’t do:

Do not do push ups from your knees. Yes, that’s right. Even if you can’t do a standard push up from your toes, do not start from your knees. You always want to work with a neutral spine alignment, so start from the wall and work your way down slowly. I will go over that in a bit.  Don’t be this guy!


Do not place your hands higher or farther than your shoulders. Don’t be this girl!


Do not push up in a snake-like movement. Don’t perform pushups like a 3-year old, no matter how good she is for her age.



Do not stop before your chest hits the floor. And don’t look like you are humping the floor. Believe me, this happens more often than you care to admit.



Starting Out

If you cannot perform a standard push up with good form, then you need to regress. I know it feels weird, but do it.

Start from a waist high position and work your way down until you are perfect. If you train at a gym, use the Smith machine. If you train at home, use a shelf or cabinet as shown below. Slowly work your way down until you can do them from the floor. If you train at the gym, the Smith machine lowers to different levels. However, at home you have to get creative and find different objects like coffee tables, benches, ect. A step bench is good for this.

Weird angle, but an example nonetheless.

When you are performing a push up, your spine should be neutral, your glutes locked, and your abdomen tight. You should be solid all the way through.

It’s better to do 1 perfect push up than 25 lousy ones. So if you make any of the mistakes discussed above, regress your push ups until your form improves then slowly work your way back up to a full standard push up. Believe me, your strength will thank you.


To learn more, check out NerdFitness’ post on pushup form. I actually started writing this article several weeks back… I just got lazy and never put it up. Thanks, Steve, for offering even more insight into the ever-illusive pushup.



PS- Don’t forget to follow my own fitness journal where I am currently following Chad Waterbury’s Huge in a Hurry Program. http://motherfitness.wordpress.com.

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