Push-ups are a well-known exercise, excellent for strengthening the muscles of the chest, shoulder and back of arms (triceps).

No equipment is necessary, so they can literally be done anywhere and modifications can help make them an accessible exercise for almost anyone!

However, unless you’re Chuck Norris, you’ll probably need to adjust a few common mistakes in order to get the most out of this movement.

Here are three frequent problems we see when performing push-ups, followed by recommendations on how to fix ’em:

1. Problem: SAGGING BACK

Cause: Loss of tension in abs

Solution: Brace your core by pointing your belly button toward your face (posterior pelvic tilt). Now, make a “Tssssh” sound via tension breath to tighten your whole body. This will help cue the core to straighten and assist in the movement. When done correctly, push-ups are a great ab exercise!


Cause: Weak mobility in the thoracic spine (mid-upper back), weak triceps (back of arms), tightness in chest, and elbow-out arms.

Solution: Work on some thoracic stretching using this exercise to create mobility in the T-spine so the shoulder blades can corkscrew into their sockets as you lower yourself into the push-up. At the same time, the chest is lengthening to control the descent down.

Programming gentle chest opening / stretching exercises into your workout can help the body relax and open up more to allow this proper descent.

Elevating the position of the hands allows the exercise to become more doable for those whose arm strength is not quite ready for hard-style floor push-ups. You do you!

Lastly, to prevent elbowed-out chicken-wing arms from causing neck and shoulder issues during the push-up, keep arms tucked in closer to body (hands should be shoulder-width or a bit narrower apart).

3. Problem: HEAD HANGING

Cause: Push-up too progressed, eyes focused down instead of gazed ahead.

Solution: Neck should not be arched up or hanging down, but rather in line with spine. To assist with this, keep gaze about 2 or 3 feet in front of your fingertips the whole time.

If needed, move to your knees or, more functionally, move your hands to a higher position to perform an elevated push-up until form is mastered and you can push from all fours on the ground.

Enjoy these tips the next time you’re rockin’ your push-up power!

~ Jess + Team Valeo

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