Why You Can’t Do Pushups

“Why can’t I do pushups?” I must hear that twice a week at State of Fitness. Don’t get me wrong, I actually like hearing this because it tells me that my client(s) are really in the gym to improve their level of fitness.

If you are ever in any of the group conditioning or semi private classes you most likely have been through quite a few push up exercises. Especially if you are ever caught yawning in my class!! While I do see a lot of good quality pushups being done, I often see clients revert to dropping their head and performing a poor quality push up especially at the end of the workouts.

The push up exercise has been around for a long, long time. It is a staple workout for upper body strength, endurance and even power. While most people view the push up as just another exercise, I view it as much more than that. I actually view it as one of the best exercises a person can do! The push up is mainly viewed as a chest and triceps workout, but it actually is working more than that.

Pushups are a great way to improve upper back strength and proprioception in the shoulder joint. To add to the list, pushups also improve scapular stability, activate the serratus anterior and help with core stability. What I love the most about pushups is that they can be done anywhere! You do not need any special equipment to do a standard push up, just a healthy body and some mental toughness! Oh and a coach yelling in your face wouldn’t hurt either (see me).

Even though you can do pushups anywhere you want, you first need to know the proper way of doing a push up. In this blog I will lead you through the proper form of a push up and also provide some mental tips that hopefully will help people in their journey to conquering the pushup.

The proper form

Hands too far in front of shoulders

Hand PositionYour hands should be about shoulder width apart and close to the chest withyour elbows bent back at a 45 degree angle. Do not let your elbows flare out and do not have your hands go too far above your chest.

Elbows flared

Head Position- This is where I see most people go wrong. You want to keep your head in a perfect straight line with your back and keep it in that line throughout the entire movement! You want your chest to be the first part of your body to hit the ground during a push up, not your head!

Shoulder Position- If you have been in any of my classes lately you will know what I am talking about when I say that you want to have your scapulas (shoulder blades) in a locked retracted and depressed position. You do not want to let your scapulas pinch together. This will cause the anterior part of your shoulder to carry most of the load and not the pectoralis major like it should.

Shoulders in good retracted position

Hip Position- Your hips should be lined up in straight line with your shoulders. Your pelvis should be in a neutral position and stay away from having a giant anterior pelvic tilt (don’t let your hips sag down).

Hips too low
Hips too low
Hips up too high
Hips too high


Feet Position- This is dependent on the level of where you are at with pushups. The standard push up calls for your legs to be straight and your feet to be together with your toes on the floor. The foot position can be altered for regressions and progressions.

Now that you know the proper form, the next step is to come up with a game plan.

Step 1: Stop telling yourself that you suck at doing pushups! Instead of wasting your mental energy on negative thoughts, use that energy for motivation focus on the things you do well while doing a pushup.

Step 2: Start doing more pushups! It takes thousands of hours to be able to master a skill so doing 2 sets/week of pushups is not going to seal the deal. Try to implement a weekly program where you do pushups 3 days/week. For example:

Monday: Loaded pushups Wednesday: Body weight pushups Friday: Variations of pushups

Step 3: Track your progressions. We cannot advance without setting some goals. Pick a day of the week that you will dedicate to seeing how many consecutive pushups you can do and keep a log. Use that log to motivate yourself to beat that score every week!

Hopefully this blog will help with being able knock out pushups at any given moment! Now go set your goals and come back next month when I talk about progressing the standard pushu

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