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Push-Up Form: Maximize Results and Prevent Injury

Proper push-up form is key!

While push-ups are one of the most impactful and beneficial exercise you can do to improve your exercise ROI (great results for most efficient effort), bad form can quickly compromise your results and make you more prone to injury. Proper form is key! For a quick video demonstration, check out Stacy’s Fitness Channel or read on in this post for important things to keep in mind when you’re doing your push-ups!


Updated July 11, 2013

Because the Push-up Challenge has been such a success for so many people, we will repeat it every month! To sign up, check out the 30 Day Challenge Series here and look at our most recent events. To get access to all the trackers to do on your own or with the group, join the community here! Read on for more information and support on the Challenge Series.

Be Smart. Be Safe. Get Fit. Have Fun!

We Can Do It!


Incorrect push-up form will mess you up in 2 ways:

  1. You won’t see the results you are looking for = demotivating
  2. You could hurt yourself = you’re out of the game

So here are the things to think about when doing push-ups:

  • Your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and in-line with your shoulders (i.e. not ahead or behind your shoulder line).
  • Your feet should be set up in a way that feels right for you. The wider apart they are, the more stable you will be.  If you are a beginner, start on your knees versus your toes. You will still get the same benefits from the exercise and as you gain strength, moving to your toes will continue to challenge you.
  • Your body should be one STRAIGHT line. From the top of your head to your heals (or knees). If a ball rolled down your back, it would roll smoothly to the ground. This means no butt in the air or arched back (the ball would roll back over your head) or dip in your back (the ball would get stuck in the middle).
  • Flex your core – this will keep you in a straight line and also maximize your push-ups exercise.
  • Your head should be looking slightly ahead of you, not straight down. This will keep your neck straight. Think of your chin hitting the ground first not your nose.
  • With your core engaged, lower yourself towards the ground until your elbows are at least a 90 degree angle.
  • At the bottom, hold for a second (again, to maximize your exercise) and push back up.
  • Repeat this many times as you can until you feel your form is compromised. Then rest. Doing less push-ups correctly will give you much larger return than doing more with sub par technique.

Here is what Knee Push-Ups Should Look Like:

Proper Knee Push-Up Form
Body in straight line, core engaged, wrists in line with shoulders, looking forward not down.
Proper Form for Knee Push-Up
Body in straight line, core engaged, elbows at 90 degrees, looking slightly forward, not down.

Here is what Knee Push-Ups Should NOT Look Like:

Knee Push-Ups Bad Form
Bad Form: Elbows are not at 90 degrees. Injury prone.

Here is what Full Push-Ups Should Look Like:

Proper Push Up Form
Body in straight line, core engaged, wrists in line with shoulders, looking forward not down.
Proper Push-up form
Body in straight line, core engaged, elbows at 90 degrees, looking slightly forward, not down.

Here is what Full Push-Ups Should NOT Look Like:

bad push-up form
Arched back, body not in straight line. Injury prone.
bad push-up form
But in air/arched back. Compromised form.

There’s my take on proper push-up format, but here is another nice pictorial from a dude’s perspective: Mark’s Daily Apple.

You Earned It – Now Share It!

With week one just about behind us, get ready for some serious bragging rights! Claim your Week 1 Badge on the Challenge Series Wall starting the morning of May 7th. Let your friend’s, family, co-workers know about the hard work you’ve been putting in. Who knows who you will inspire! We Can Do It!

Week 1 Push Up Challenge Badge


3 thoughts on “Push-Up Form: Maximize Results and Prevent Injury

  1. Just found out about this Challenge – my beginning date is Monday, Dec. 9, 2013. Thanks for the challenge – looking forward to seeing more positive changes in my physique. Since I began my fitness quest in 2012, I’ve lost a total of 70lbs while running 4-5 days/week; weight training (full body) two days/week, and Martial Arts training 3 days/week. Plus eating a nutrient-rich, plant-based diet. I plan to incorporate pushups into my daily routine, as I have Planks. Thanks again, and all the best to you in your endeavors. BTW, I’m 54 years young, so believe me, when we changes our thinking, we change our LIVES!! Lois Douglass-Alston

  2. Just found this Challenge and started yesterday. I recruited my two young daughters, my husband is thinking about it (thinking about is a big step for him) and trying to get some of the rest of my family to join in too. The rest of the challenges look good too when I am done with this one. Thank you!

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