Achieving the Perfect Push-up

When performing strength training exercises, unless you are a qualified PT, the best of us can catch ourselves asking if we are getting our form right. Push-ups are among the top strength training exercises that most people aren’t able to execute correctly – whether we are aware of it or not. Your standard push-up is hugely beneficial for an upper strength workout and if done correctly, gives you a reasonably good core and lower back exercise too by engaging the abdominal muscles.  The beauty of being able to execute a traditional push-up is that you can do it anywhere as there is no equipment needed.  Push-ups work the triceps, pectoral muscles and shoulders and are one of the most effective ways to build upper body gains if done regularly and right. To achieve the perfect push-up, we need to identify what not to do first.


There are a few different ways a push-up is poorly performed:

  • Neck Ducking

When neck ducking, the neck moves up and down with the assumption that the torso is moving with it too. Really, by neck ducking, you are causing more harm than building strength.

  • Back Snaking

This is when the natural curve in your back starts to over-arch and your hips dip down towards the ground. Not only is this technique bad for the spine but it is more strenuous too. By dipping your hips in, your abdominal muscles are not being effectively used and all the weight and pressure resides to your arms, making it harder to push back up once down.

  • Chicken arms

Chicken arms are probably the most common mistake people make when doing a push-up. Keep your focus on your elbows here. Are your elbows facing outwards like a chicken? If so, tuck them in closer to your body and line them up with the outside of your hips.

All of the above may feel like you are working out, but it will cause more bad than good in terms of creating the correct movement pattern gaining the most from your workout!


Now let’s look at ways to better our push-up techniques:

  • Be firm in your plank position

By this, I mean high plank. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders or slightly more full (not out super wide). A strong plank position means your hips, heels and shoulders are all in line with each other, and your core is turned on to tuck your pelvis under. Once you have mastered the high plank position, your push-ups will not only be a bit easier, but you will be activating more muscles in your body.

  • Only Your Shoulders and Elbows move!

The only thing that should change in your strong plank position is the shoulder and elbow movement. Imagine your chest is dropping to the floor under control. Your spine, hips and legs stay strong in the plank. Lockout the elbows at the top of your push up and imagine you are pulling your shoulder blades apart at the top. When you drop your chest, let your shoulder blades come together, and your elbows go at a 45-degree angle.

  • Know which muscles you are using

Squeeze your whole body like you would in a plank. A push up is a complex moment. Drive through your toes to squeeze your legs, glutes and core, and understand the targeted muscles are mainly your chest, triceps and shoulders.

The perfect Push-up is underestimated and under-utilised in exercise routines.

By getting your push-up form right it will take your strength, fitness and endurance to the next level. You will also create a great looking upper body physique. If you’re nervous about getting started with push-ups, I have designed a great 30-day fitness challenge just for you! If you feel the challenge is too strenuous, split-up the reps throughout the day.

Please find my push up video on the Strong Body app and don’t forget to get your 30-day pushup challenge on now!

Happy Training.

Betsy Burnett,

The Disco Ninja

The Disco Ninja is one half of the dynamic duo behind Strong Body’s Become a Ninja program. She is one of Australia’s most popular Ninja Warrior Australia competitors. She is also famous for being the shortest competitor in the world to scale the formidable Warped Wall. The Warped Wall is three times taller than her!