Exercise 101 - The Push Up - The Active Lifestyle

Exercise 101 - The Push Up

Push-ups are a basic strength training movement, though there are 3 common mistakes which are made.  Perfecting your technique when you do push-ups will improve your strength, flexibility and reduce the risk of you injuring yourself. 

Push-ups are an important upper body exercise, working to build strength across the chest (pectorials), upper arm (triceps), while requiring strong core strength and engaged legs.   If you are unable to do a full push-up on the floor, start with your hands on a table or bench and work to a lower height as your strength improves, ensuring your technique stays perfect!



Correct push-up technique

Stand in front of a table or bench with hands placed just wider than shoulder width apart. The index (first ) finger should point straight ahead to minimise the impact on your wrists. Walk the feet back to a comfortable position, stand on your toes, lift the heels off the ground.  Ensure there is a straight line from the top of your head down through your hips to your toes on the floor. Keeping your abs and butt engaged, bend your elbows lowering your chest to the table, then straighten your arms back up.  Ensure that your body stays in the tight, flat plank position at all times.

The first common mistake – letting the hips drop

It is common for people to not engage their abs and to let their hips drop forward as they lower themselves down in the push-up.  This puts stress on the lower back.  To minimise the risk of drooping in the hips, tense your butt and suck in your abs as tight as you can.  Imagine that you are in a perfect plank position from the top of your head down to your toes and you are maintaining this position throughout the movement.

The second mistake people make – lifting their hips too high

By hinging at the hips and allowing the chest to drop forward and the butt to push up into the air, the ‘push-up’ is a lot easier.  This makes the push-up ineffective.  Make sure you are keeping the tight plank position at all times to ensure you are strengthening up your arms (and eliminating those bingo wings!!)

Thirdly, crane the neck forward

In a bid to get as close as possible to the table or the floor at the bottom of the movement, people will commonly poke their head forward.  Try to imagine it is your chest looking to touch the table in front of you.  Your head should remain in a neutral position, in line with your spine throughout the push-up. It is easier to maintain this position by looking up across the table, about 40cms in front of you.


Push-ups are a fantastic strength building exercise which everyone should be doing regularly.  Ensure that your body maintains a tight, controlled position with the head, shoulders, and hips in a plank position (in line) throughout the whole movement.  As with any strength exercise, don’t rush your push-ups! Take your time, use your breath and strength to get you through.  If you need any more help, please comment below or send us an email at hello@theactivelifestyle.net

Every Wednesday The Active Lifestyle posts our Exercise 101 feature on our Facebook page - Facebook.com/TheActiveLifestyleNZwhere we highlight some common errors people make in the exercises they do often in their efforts to get fit and healthy. These can often easily be avoided! Like the page to see these come up every week or you can check out all the videos on The Active Lifestyle Youtube Channel.

We look forward to helping you build your strength and achieve your goals! 

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