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6 Dumbest Push-Up Mistakes Sabotaging Your Chest Growth!


Posted by Scott_Herman - June 12th, 2017

The push-up should be an exercise that becomes a staple in your workout program from the very beginning. However, it’s not just an exercise for beginners. It can be used in advanced training programs as well because the push-up is more than simply going up and down. You can master that technique, and then used advanced versions of it to make your workouts at home more intense, or to make your workouts in the gym more intense by super-setting the push-up with other exercises. There’s lots of stuff you can do!

Mistake #1: Not Understanding Full Range Of Motion (ROM)

Most people don’t even know what full ROM on a push-up looks like. When I was a kid, I used to get so irritated because when I would do wrestling, part of our practice routine was doing push-ups and sit-ups. We’d have to do A LOT, and I was like the only guy going all the way down and all the way up, and I would see all these other kids doing half-assed push-ups.

The problem with this is that over time, people that do those kinds of push-ups don’t get a true sense of what real ROM is. If you want to build a big chest at home, and really activate your triceps, you have to know how far to go down, and how far to go up. Full ROM means keeping your back straight, head straight, hips down, and bringing your chest all the way to the floor. As soon as your chest touches the floor, you’re going to push yourself back up, but it doesn’t stop there.

When you get to the point where your head is about in-line with your shoulders, you’re going to push up and through to activate your serratus anterior. Some people call this a push-up plus, but in my opinion that’s how every single repetition should look. Always take advantage of full ROM to get the most out of the movement.

Mistake #2: Flaring Your Elbows Too Wide

A lot of people, especially beginners but even advanced trainers too, when they start to fatigue the first thing that usually goes is the elbows. People start to turn their hands in, making their elbows flare out rather than staying tight to their body.

What this does is it takes you away from being in the strongest position possible, but it can also transfer a lot of the load to your shoulders. You’ll feel a huge difference when you go up and down with your elbows flared, compared to tucked in. Your shoulders will burn a lot more when your elbows are flared, but when they are tucked, you’ll feel it all in your chest and triceps.

Mistake #3: Not Keeping Your Spine Straight

It should literally look like there is a metal rod going up your butt and out the top of your head as you perform push-up repetitions. Your body should be perfectly straight. The reason why people tend to not keep themselves perfectly straight is because as they’re performing the movement, they’re not controlling their core. As their core starts to deflate (or if they’re not taking in a breath to keep their core nice and tight), the body will start to do some weird and wonderful things.

The most common thing that happens is their hips and butt start to go up high to compensate for the weak core. This can start to place a bit more emphasis on your shoulders if you do push-ups in this position. The other thing you tend to see is a sag push-up, where someone’s hips sag toward the ground, and the push-up ends when their hips, rather than their chest, touches the ground. This also significantly limits ROM. Make sure you always keep your spine straight to utilise full ROM.

Mistake #4: Completing Your Reps Too Fast

You’ll see people trying to do as many push-ups as they can, as fast as they can, like their lives depend on it, and usually the first thing that happens here is that your form goes out the window. Instead of having your chest touch the floor, and then pushing through at the top, people will only go halfway down, and may not even go up to the point where their arms are fully locked out.

Just because you’re going faster and doing more ‘reps’ in a certain time frame doesn’t mean you’re working your chest as hard as you could. Full ROM is always going to give you the most amount of work for muscle breakdown and re-growth. Now you can still go fast when you do your push-ups, just make sure you go all the way down and all the way up on every single repetition.

Mistake #5: Improper Breathing

Even advanced versions of push-ups are nothing like doing heavy squats, deadlifts or bench pressing, where you have to take in a lot of air to keep your core as tight as possible to lift the most amount of weight. For the most part this is a bodyweight exercise, and when doing your repetitions it’s OK to take a breath on every single rep.

With that being said, you are trying to keep your core as tight as possible, so it does matter when you take the breath in, and when you let it out. For example, you’re going to take in a breath (in through your nose) as you go down, then once you get to the bottom, breath out in a nice steady stream as you push back up.

What I like about bodyweight exercises like the push-up, is that I can use my breathing to help keep a nice rhythm with my reps, to do as many as I possibly can, especially if I’m doing a timed workout. For any bodyweight exercise you do, apply this same breathing technique, where you’re breathing out as you exert force.

Mistake #6: Not Progressing With The Movement

Obviously as you start to get big and strong, and especially when you start going to the gym and using heavy dumbbells and barbells, bodyweight push-ups aren’t going to be tough anymore.

For those of you who can’t do bodyweight push-ups yet, I don’t want you going and trying to do 1 or 2 at a time, then stopping because you can’t do 10. The best thing for you is to start by doing push-ups on your knees. This is going to displace about half of your bodyweight, and allow you to do full ROM to get all of your repetitions in. However, you’ll notice from my video that when I do push-ups on my knees, I’m not bending at the waist. You still want to keep everything as straight as possible, so even when on your knees, DO NOT put your butt in the air.

Once you master knee push-ups, you’re going to move to regular push-ups, and once you get really good at regular push-ups, you can go to more advanced versions. One of those advancements is weighted push-ups, which you can do either with a weighted vest, or with weights on your back (if you have someone to place them there for you).

Once those start to get easy, you can move into plyo push-ups. These can start with you just thrusting your upper body off the ground, maybe even a clap in-between if you can, then once those are easy you can do push-ups by thrusting your whole body into the air. And if you want to get REALLY crazy with your push-ups, you can try single-arm push-ups, which are great for using at home to make things as hard as possible to overload your chest.


Push-ups seem like a pretty easy exercise, but these mistakes are surprisingly common, and most people will be making at least one, if not more of them. Hopefully none of you will make these mistakes again, and hopefully you learned something new to help you improve your push-ups!

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