The Undeniable, Stone Cold #1 Mistake People Make When Performing Pushups

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I get it.

On a scale of 1 to NASCAR they’re not very exciting. They’re not exciting to perform, much less write about. You think I want to sit here and write about push-ups?

I can think of a litany of things I’d rather write about:

  • Standing in line at the Post Office.
  • Rugs.
  • Buying socks.
  • Attending another kid’s clarinet recital.

Alas, given the pickle we’re all in at the moment (everyone’s training at home with access to minimal equipment) and the tsunami of push-up tutorials and variations making my eyes bleed on social media I felt it prudent to add my quick two-cents on the topic.

Seriously, Stop Making This Mistake

As much as I may bellyache on the push-up I’m actually a huge fan.

There’s a bevy of benefits.

They’re one of the more user-friendly exercises out there, require no equipment other than your body, can be easily progressed or regressed depending on the needs and ability level of the person performing them, are gluten free, and, maybe most important of all, have a superb carry-over to both everyday and athletic pursuits.

I’ve been coaching people for 18+ years and I have yet to come across a client/athlete who’s improved their efficacy in performing a push-up and not seeing a noticeable improvement in their ability to execute sexier lifts like squats, deadlifts, you pick.

A push-up done well improves lumbo-pelvic control (canister position or stacked joints) which then helps with force transference which then helps with…E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G.

It’s magical.


In short:

Do This…

Solid Torso Position: Posterior pelvic tilt (sad dog), moving plank.

Do NOT Do This…

Poor Torso Position: Lower back arching, anterior pelvic tilt (porn star). Thanks to the folks at Mark Fisher Fitness for the porn star analogy.

But this isn’t even the main mistake I want to point out.

Everyone points this one out and I am wowing no one here.

Here’s the One I Wanted to Point Out

Performing them with pants on.


What’s the benefit of wearing pants?

Tell me.


Okay, the REAL Thing I Wanted to Point Out

Another bonafide benefit of the push-up is it’s proclivity to bolster one’s overall shoulder health.

Sometimes (but really almost always) whenever someone comes to CORE to work with me in person due to a shoulder that hates them, I’ll watch him or her perform a push-up and I’ll inevitably see this:

Other than the obligatory game of connect the dots you could play with the “beauty” marks on my back, what do you see?

SPOILER: Two shoulder blades that are glued together.

THIS is the mistake I see most people make. The (in)ability of the shoulder blades to upwardly rotate and move around the ribcage.

The shoulder blades are meant to move. This cementing effect can spell trouble:

  • Overactive rhomboids, which feeds into scapular downward rotation syndrome.
  • Ligaments of anterior shoulder capsule become lax and are more prone to injury.
  • A part of my soul dies.

Instead, what I prefer to see is something like this:


(Kudos to my wife for the Stanley Kubrick’esq camera work).

The subtle “plus,” or protraction (pushing fully away) at the top of the push-up is MONEY for Serratus Anterior activation which then helps nudge the scapula into upward rotation (as well as abduction).

The result is a proper push-up and most likely a pair of shoulders that will feel infinitely better.

No diggidy, no doubt.

The Ultimate Push-Up Program

My good friend Meghan Callaway released her latest resource this week which, not coincidentally enough, centers around the push-up.

It’s an awesome program and gels nicely with everyone’s quarantine woes.

It’s on sale currently at $50 off the regular price (and you can pair with her Ultimate Pull-Up Program too).

Check it out HERE.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

I don’t share email information. Ever. Because I’m not a jerk.

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