How To Do a Correct Push-up

Push-Ups with Scapula Control

Push-ups are a great catch all for a lot of the upper body muscles. You get chest, triceps, delts (shoulders) and scapula (shoulder blade) muscles if they are done correctly. You also need a great deal of core control since a push up is simply a front plank with arm movement. Since there are so many muscles working, doing a push up correctly can be difficult.


One of the biggest problems I see is weak scapula (shoulder blade) muscles. Key muscles in the scapula help to control the eccentric motion of this exercise (slowly lower you down). If your scapula muscles are weak (particularly your serratus anterior-more on that later), then you will collapse into your shoulders without the assistance of the back muscles. This can be very bad for your rotator cuff and biceps tendon.


Do you do zillions of push ups but still seem to have no chest muscle? This is probably why. Check out all my bad example pictures for comparison…

  • Top10-5 Hands up about a foot wider than shoulder width
  • Fingers spread out and connected to the floor, I want your hands to look strong.
  • Head up, chin tucked in line with your body. Do not let your head lead the way.
  • Keep your core tight, pretend there is a plank of wood on your back, or better yet that your spine is a plank of wood and it cannot bend, give or move.
  • Bend your elbows before lowering; this will keep you from collapsing through the core or scapula.
  • Top10-6 Think about lengthening in the shoulder or pulling out on the elbows to keep it out of your neck and upper traps.
  • Stop at 90 degrees of elbow bend. Do not touch your chest to the floor unless you want to put strain on the shoulder joint rather than your muscles.
  • And for Pete’s sake (that’s my granddad), do not look up. This hyperextends your neck.
  • Come all the way back up each time to make sure you work the serratus anterior.


If you miss one of these pieces, you are more likely to injury your rotator cuff or biceps tendon during push-ups. They are difficult to do correctly but produce amazing results when done right.


  • Strong hands create a strong foundation
  • Make sure you maintain the arch in your hand and connect your fingers to the floor.







  • Do not internally rotate your shoulders
  • Turning your hands in increases the strain on your shoulder and decreases the work done by your chest and triceps.






Top10-3 Correct and strong push-up.

Now for more pictures of fun things done wrong:


Get your butt out of the air!





  • Do not let your head lead the way! Tuck your chin and get your head up in line with your body.
  • Have someone take a picture of you at the bottom of the movement to see if your head is lower than your body.
  • Your ears should be up in line with your shoulders.



  • Do not let your belly sag.
  • Remember a push-up is a plank with arm motion.
  • Keep your core tight and your back straight as a board.




Lastly, I don't have a picture here, but do not look up! This hyperextends your neck. Keep your chin tucked and in-line with your body.

Good luck with your perfect push-up!

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