Are you doing these 5 push up mistakes?

Are you doing your push ups the right way? Read more to find out!

November 06, 2019
Are you doing these 5 push up mistakes?

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Highly effective, fun, simple but not easy and often demanding, the push up has become a standard of upper body strength. 

It’s hard to find another exercise that can give you the same feeling of satisfaction and accomplishment as the push up. It can be a valuable tool for building muscle, but is your technique giving you the results expected, or are you leaving a lot of possible progress on the table? Once you put your technique in the spotlight, you might find out that there is more to the push up than meets the eye. The best way to find out is to ask yourself are you doing these 5 push up mistakes?

1. Pushing the shoulders forward 

Ripped man in trainging shorts and sneakers, standing in a plank position (toes and palms touching the floor, body and arms straight, face facing the floor. He is facing the camera with his right side.

Sitting in the first place is a common mistake when first learning the exercise, and it needs to be corrected during the starting position. You want to keep your arms shoulder width and beneath the line of your shoulders. This way, you are preventing pushing the shoulders towards your neck and using the upper back muscles for assistance. Yes, the whole body should be active, but if you are using the strength of the back and shoulders mostly, some of the key ingredients of a proper movement get left out.

Keeping the shoulder joint and shoulder blades stable while lowering the body and coming back up prevents various instabilities and soft tissue tears linked with improper movement patterns. 

2. Arching the lower back

This is another common mistake made by beginners who are just learning the movement. Push up is a functional full-body movement, which means other than the larger muscle groups, smaller muscles need to be active to stabilize the body during movement. When the core muscles are not active, the hips drop down towards the floor, leaving the lower back vulnerable and the whole exercise ineffective. 

So remember to keep your abdominal muscles tight and activate your glutes. If this proves to be a challenge, it’s best to scale down to an easier variation of a push up first and build your core strength simultaneously. 

3. Partial range of motion

ripped man in training shorts and sneakers, facing the camera, in a push up hold position. Palms and toes toucing the floor, back straight, elbows bent in 90 degree angle and slightly away from torso.

As muscles get fatigued, it’s not uncommon to start shortening the movement. As in any other challenging exercise, this is particularly tempting during the push up. But like it or not, a full range of motion is required. Your muscles need tension to grow, and what better way to create tension than to activate as many muscle fibers as possible.

For a full range of motion, focus on dropping down towards the floor, making contact with the chest, and coming back up with elbows locked.

4. Not using push up variations for progress

A ripped man in training shorts and sneakers, faing the camera forwards, standing in a one-arm-push-up position. Left arm bent behind his back, palm of the straightened right arm and toes touching the floor, back straight.

Let’s say you’ve perfected the technique down to the smallest details, and the strength is no longer an issue as well. Progress is not made in the comfort zone, so it’s best not to linger in it for too long. If an exercise is too easy for you, it means it’s not as effective anymore

As soon as you are able to perform the push up effortlessly, start experimenting with various other versions of the push ups. The same applies to the scenario in which you are not able to perform the movement. This means you need to choose a less challenging version of the exercise to progress.

5. Uncontrolled Tempo

Ripped man in shorts and sneakers, facing camera with his right side, in a plank position. Toes and palms touching the floor, back and arms straight.

This one is probably the most overlooked mistake and can often happen in other exercises besides the push up. The solution is simple, highly effective, but more demanding on your muscles, as it should be. Having a slower and more controlled tempo during the upward and especially during the downward phase of the push up yields the best results when it comes to building muscle.  

By consciously controlling the movement, you are eliminating using any kind of momentum during the exercise and maximizing your chance of progress


When you put it all together, you get a slow movement with relaxed shoulders, straight lower back, full range of motion, and adequate intensity

The best way to perfect your technique is to put it all into practice. Test your technique and strength level with this complete push up test

A push up is a simple exercise. However, in order to master it, you need to put in a little extra effort. Take your time to use the advice given and stay open to the continuous process of upgrading your technique as there is always something new to learn.

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