Want to do a Pushup? Here’s where to start


Pushups aren’t the easiest movement. And as women, we tend to skip them altogether.

They work every muscle in the body, and require a lot of upper body strength.

Women tend to have a weaker upper body, which is why we struggle with pushups. And also why the modification on the knees is known as a “girl pushup”.

Pushups are a great all around workout, and has many modifications that can be done to build strength up to a solid hand/toe version.

In this blog we are going to break down the form for a pushup, as well as several modification options.

Let’s get started!

Proper Pushup Form

In the world of exercise and strength training, we tend to push ourselves to harder movements before we nail the basics.

The pushup is a foundational movement, one that works the chest, shoulders, core, triceps and legs.

A true test of strength is being able to do pushups in their proper form.

Part of the problem women have with pushups is never knowing the proper form.

There are a lot of videos/posts out there that show the wrong form, which starts the process of women just being confused and unsure about exercise in general.

The proper form for a pushup is:

1. Wrists stacked under shoulders, long/straight spine, neutral head, straight legs, on toes.

2. Glutes are squeezed, quads are squeezed, core is engaged.

3. As you lower down, elbows come back to a 45 degree angle and chest hits the floor. Hips stay off the floor.

4. As you drive up, remain in a straight/plank position rising all the way up to starting position.

The head needs to remain neutral. As soon as the chin drops, people (men included) tend to then just head bob rather than moving their whole body.

The pushup requires full body strength, not just arm strength.

A strong core allows you to keep the straight line without the chest coming up first.

Tight glutes allows you to remain in plank at the bottom and now let the hips touch the floor.

The shoulders, triceps and chest allow you to keep control during the decent and the push up.

I think everyone should be doing pushups, and if you can’t do them YET, there’s a modification for that.

4 Beginner Pushup Modifications

If you cannot do pushups on your toes, there are modifications to get you there.

Remember, modifications are building blocks to the programmed movement. They allow you to still work on the movement pattern, even if you aren’t to the level of a full pushup.

How freaking great is that?!

You don’t have to be left out or glossed over, you get to work your way towards it doing a movement that is very similar.

1. Pushup on Knees and Elevated Hands

Not everyone is strong enough to do a pushup on their toes. So by dropping to the knees and elevated hands, we are transferring the weight and making the movement easier.

How to: Start on knees with hands elevated on a bench or chair. Make sure you are far enough away that you are in a straight line from your knees to the top of your head. Lower yourself towards the chair/bench until the chest hits and then push back up. You should be able to perform all reps with chest hitting the bench/chair. When this feels too easy and all reps are being completed with ease, move onto the next modification.

2. Pushup on Knees

The most well-known modification for pushups.  Dropping to your knees is the same exercise and form as a regular pushup, it just decreases the length of the lever which makes it easier.

How to: Start on knees and hands, with wrists stacked under the shoulders. Make sure you are in a straight line from the top of your head to your knees. Keep glutes tight and core tight as you drop chest to the floor and press all the way up. Hips again stay off the floor just like with a pushup on the toes. Once this gets too easy, move to the next modification.

3. Incline Pushups

The next modification before a full blown pushup, is elevating the hands while still pushing up from the toes. The elevation is again to help take some of the bodyweight load off of the hands and putting it more in the feet. You can also slowly decrease the incline to get closer and closer to the floor.

How to: Start with hands elevated on a chair/couch/bench. Make sure your wrists are under the shoulders, and you are in a straight line from your toes to the top of your head. In a straight line with a tight core, glutes and thighs, lower chest to the bench/chair/couch and press back up. When this gets to easy, start trying a few pushups on the floor and then the rest of your set inclined. A great way to progress to floor pushups without breaking form.

4. Pushups and Elevated Chest

Peforming a pushup on your toes is hard work, we know this, so by adding in a elevated chest we are starting to make that mind muscle connection with the toe pushup without needing full range of motion.

How to: Start with 1-2 pillows/blankets under the chest with wrists stacked under the shoulders. Come up on toes making sure you are in a straight line with a flat back, neutral neck, squeezed glutes/core/quads. Slowly lower yourself down to the pillow allowing your chest to touch and then pushing up. Make sure elbows drive back to 45 degrees and that you are keeping a nice straight line. Once you get strong enough you can start removing pillows/blankets until you are ready to perform a toe pushup with no assistance.

Pushups are a very fundamental and foundational exercise. An exercise that should be mastered during any strength training program.

Just make sure you aren’t doing a modification forever as a place of comfort.

Make sure you challenge yourself to try the net modification, if even for a few of your reps.

Every rep counts, which means you are creating strength with every rep you do.

Push the limits, keep solid form, and don’t move up to a harder modification before you master the first.


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Haley Rowe August 9, 2021