How To Do A Full Push-Up!

by Jon Gustin

The Push Up

One of my pet peeves as a trainer is when a female client refers to the kneeling push up as the “girl push up.” There is no such thing as a girl vs. boy push up! There is however a kneeling push up and a full push up. I have seen both men and women complete full push ups. In my opinion, it’s the type of push up everyone should strive to achieve. Here’s the problem with the kneeling push up; it never progresses into anything else! I’ve asked clients, “How long have you’ve been doing kneeling push ups.” They almost always respond with, “Forever.” The reason behind the lack of progression is that it doesn’t resemble a full push up at all. Besides it working the chest and arm muscles, the core activation is almost non existent. A full push up done in the proper manner works almost every muscle in various contractions. Let’s go over 3 movements that I think will help you complete not only 1 full push up but multiple repetitions in a matter of months!



The first step is holding a high plank position. High Plank is another way of saying full push up position. Some key points to this are:

  1. Maintain a flat body. If I can’t put my glass of pinot noir on the middle of your back, it ain’t flat. Basically make sure your hips aren’t too far up or down. If they’re too far up, you’ll know because your hands will be too far out in front of your body. If they are too far down you’ll probably feel it in the low back.
  2. Hands beneath your shoulders. As stated above, if the hips are too high your hands won’t be beneath the shoulders. 
  3. Squeeze. Squeeze those cheeks! I’m not talking about when you see a cute baby. Im talking about those glutes! Tighten the glutes which will tighten the core and legs.

Try and get to where you can hold this position for at least 30 seconds. Once you do that, move on to step 2!



Same exact thing as the high plank but you are now on the elbows. The picture below shows a great flat body demonstrated by the one and only Sheree "plankasaurus" Burton. Again hold this for at least 30 seconds before moving on.




This is where movement comes in. As the name suggests, you are controlling your bodyweight on the negative or lowering phase of the pushup. Here are the key points of the negative pushup.

  1. Elbows in. That means they shouldn’t be flared out like a chicken. Very common mistake that’ll cost you healthy shoulders in the long run. Have your elbows at a 45 degree angle. I don’t even mind when people have their elbows touching their sides. When they are close to your body it may seem harder but this is actually the safest your shoulder joints can get.
  2. Hips up! Not at the starting position but once you start lowering yourself. Here’s how you know you aren’t keeping your hips up. They will be the first to hit the ground once you’ve lowered yourself. Have your hips be the last thing that hits the ground and your chest the first.
  3. Tighten. Keep the legs, glutes and stomach tight as you lower yourself. “Tight glutes equal big toots!” That actually isn’t a quote and it's unrelated to this. However I guess that could happen if you ate too close to the workout. Ok moving on.


Once you've lowered yourself to the ground just get back up to the high plank position. Don’t try and pushup, yet. Your goal is to lower yourself with a flat back the entire time until you hit the floor. If you fall to the floor quicker than Spring Break Mexico ’99, keep working! The longer it takes to hit the floor the better you’re getting.

Once you can lower yourself with good form for about a 3-5 second decent for 5 - 10 reps, you my friend are ready. Try to lower yourself until your elbows reach 90 degrees and push back up! This may take many tries my young jedi but with practice, the dark side doesn’t stand a chance. By dark side I mean that bad term, “girl push up.” Once you complete your first full push up I would like you to celebrate by spraying yourself with champagne. Not really but maybe? Seriously once you complete 1 rep, practice until you complete 10. Once you complete 10, work on doing it for 3-4 sets at the beginning of each workout. To add some motivation to complete this goal, I will say this is probably the most effective exercise to “tone” the arms. A lot of people complain about the back of there arms being a “trouble” area. Well, this could be the “magic” pill you’ve been waiting on! I believe every single person reading this can improve on their push ups whether you believe it or not. I’d like to request that when you complete your first full push up, TAG us on Instagram or Facebook so we can prove to the world it’s possible! We want to hear your testimonials!