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How To Do A Perfect Pushup...Explained By A Physical Therapist

Ok, so the title of this blog is a tad clickbaity. But it's really more about how to do the SAFEST push-up. Now that doesn't mean you shouldn't keep reading, because doing pushups this way will actually progress you into a perfect pushup. Very few people, even those who are extremely physically fit, struggle with doing a perfect pushup because they haven't established the safest foundation.

When done safely, the purest pushup is actually functional and has multiple benefits and purposes in life and health.

When done incorrectly, some serious issues can develop. There have been multiple accounts of injuries from my patients here at Rehab and Revive who needed to fix their form in order to recover. So if you've found yourself in pain or injured post-workout, it may be the way you perform your pushup that's the problem. This actually applies to all exercises! It is always better to do less with better form than more with worse form.

Typical poor form is when the elbows are out too wide and jet out toward the wall when lowering your body down. The neck and chin jut forward and the lower back droops. Sometimes the push-up even rocks forward instead of going straight down toward the floor. Then when pushing back up, all of these poor posture areas look even worse as you strain to return to neutral. When it's really bad, the forearms and elbows waver and the neck arches up toward the ceiling. All physical trainers and physical therapists are cringing at this mental image. It's actually painful to watch people work out this way.

The neck and shoulder tend to be the most abused when there is poor form. However, the elbows can be damaged as well as those droopy lower backs that are now set up for a spine injury.

So he's a more anatomically correct list of what can go wrong as a result of what was listed above:


  • Nerve impingement

  • Forward shoulder/neck/head

  • Headaches


  • Overused pectoral muscles

  • Shoulder impingements

  • Rotator cuff tears


  • Elbow and forearm strain

  • Nerve impingement in the ulnar nerve ("funny bone" area)

Lower Back

  • Overused lower back muscles (paraspinal muscles)

  • Possible progression to a spinal disc injury or herniated disc

So please SAVE YOURSELVES and do your pushups SAFELY!

The setup is actually pretty easy:

  1. Keep your elbows relatively close to the sides of your trunk without actually touching. Rotate your elbows so that the windows face forward your nose.

  2. Intentionally wake up small muscles in your hands by pressing your thumb and pinky into the surface.

  3. Before you move, focus on expanding your shoulder blades out.

  4. Only go down as far as you can while REMAINING IN FORM

  5. The furthest you should ever go is when your upper arms are parallel to the side of your body.

  6. Slow count is always best.

  7. The KEY indicator you are doing it correctly is you actually feel your stomach/core muscles tighten up

*** AND REMEMBER, if you're struggling to do this safely, move from the floor to the wall. There is no shame in it. Wall pushups are great for your body and form training. It's the easiest to perfect on the wall and then move to the floor.

You can watch our video and enjoy performing the perfect SAFE pushup!

Remember, we heal smarter,

Dr. Justin C. Lin


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