How NOT to do a push-up

Uncategorized Jun 22, 2020


Friend, if you've been strength training with us live these past few months, you know by now that we are sticklers for proper form. The lifelong personal trainer in me can't unsee even the slightest variation in posture and muscle engagement that could be hindering progress or perpetuating an injury. In a world of competitive reps for time and pushing people to their all out max day in and day out, training with intention is a breath of fresh air for many of our members. There is a better way to chisel the body and build the strength you want without running yourself into the ground and potentially backfiring against your broader health goals.


While it is extremely important for injury prevention because it prioritizes joint and muscle safety before adding load, proper form is also crucial for maximizing your muscle contraction and gains while training. When form is off, at best, you may not be targeting the appropriate muscle group; at worst, you could be setting the foundation of an unstable movement pattern that can lead to injury down the road. Improper form is like washing the dishes with water only. You can still achieve a certain level of clean, but it's not as effective or efficient as including soap and a scrubbing brush. 


On that note, let's take a closer look at one of the most common exercises that we observe with the most room for form improvement: the push-up.

Primary Muscles:


Pectoralis Major


Anterior Deltoids


Accessory Muscles:


Rectus Abdominus

Upper Trapezius


When performing any movement, we like to review a check list of muscle engagement cues to ensure proper form. For push-ups, get into your plank position and read aloud each cue before descending towards the floor: 


  • Keep head aligned with spine
  • Lock shoulders
  • Engage core
  • Tuck pelvis under
  • Keep legs straight
  • Squeeze feet together

Sometimes it's helpful to see what not to do when first assessing form, so let's start with your shoulders. Aligning and engaging your shoulders properly is the foundation of a proper push-up because this is where the muscles performing the exercise all intersect. 


  1. DO NOT round your shoulders forward
  2. DO screw your shoulders back into their sockets like you are pinching a newspaper under your armpit to hold it there

Here's a side view. In the correct form image, notice how the hands are aligned with the chest and elbows draw down towards the rib cage.

Next up: core and pelvis


  1. DO NOT do what we see on IG or FB (i.e. push your butt up towards the sky); this is usually done to accentuate the booty but we promise it's going to hurt your back more than anything in the long run
  2. DO engage your core and glutes by tucking your pelvis under. Imagine tucking your tailbone under. Your abs have to contract when you do this, right?! That's the point!

The final cues will happen naturally once your pelvis is tucked: keep your legs straight and squeeze your heels and feet together. It helps to think of your entire body as a wooden board in that you want to be as flat and solid as possible. 


  1. DO keep your head in alignment with your spine
  2. DO keep your elbows in line with your chest at the bottom of the movement

Now that we've covered what not to do, let's review how to do a correct push-up from start to finish in images.


If nerding out on exercise form and the why behind types of training is your cup of tea, our Awaken Your Movement course is for you. In 8 weeks, you'll have the tools and knowledge to understand how to move your body safely and effectively while working toward your goals. 


Hit reply to this email with your push-up pictures attached if you'd like us to review your form!

P.S. Looking for more nutrition and training support? Here are 3 ways we can help you: 


(1) LOSE 10 POUNDS → If you’re new to The Green Door Life and ready to permanently lose at least 10 pounds in as little as 8 weeks, then book a call with us.


(2) WORKOUT AT HOME → no gym, limited equipment, no problem! The full-body workouts in our training app are designed to help you burn body fat all over, increase your metabolism, and build lean muscle mass.


(3) DE-STRESS → enjoy a 7-day FREE trial to our meditation and breath work group to start your mornings off on the right and set the tone for the day!


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