Pushups: The Overlooked Way to the Slender, Toned Arms of Your Dreams (Plus how to do them *right*)

Do you like pushups?

Even if you said yes, the truth is nobody rreeaallllllllyyy likes pushups.

Have you ever heard anyone rejoice when a trainer says, “drop down and give me pushups”?

I highly doubt it.

Whether we like them or not, pushups are one of the most effective movements out there. There’s this false impression that pushups are just for the upper body but they work more than that. That’s why it’s also one of the most popular movements ever in health and fitness classes.

So what if we can’t do them?

I came across an article that stated push-ups should never be done on the knees. But thinking back to my days as a kickboxing instructor, pushups on the knees were like building blocks for people who had never done a pushup in their lives. I saw people who struggled just to get down to their knees be able to do a full set of pushups a few months later.

How? Because they started doing pushups on their knees first.shutterstock_166817486 copy

Off the bat, I did not agree with the article. I read it a few times to make sure I wasn’t misunderstanding what the author of the article was trying to say. The author did say some people do need modifications but they also said that people who do knee pushups knees would never be good at doing full pushups and that they would never get stronger.

This was the red flag that brought me to write this.

I myself hate pushups. When I started, I could go down very easily but I wanted to cry every time I tried to push myself back up. I continued to do them on my toes expecting that if I never quit I would get better. I also did not want to go down to my knees because I felt that was like that was taking the easy route. It wasn’t until my group fitness instructor called me out and said, “Don’t let your ego get in the way. Get down on your knees and when you could do those easily go back up to your toes.”

She had a point.

For a few months I did knee pushups and low and behold I for sure could do pushups on my toes pretty damn well. I still hate doing pushups but at least now I know that if I have to do them I can.

So which side is right?

I brought in manager and one of the head trainers at iLoveKickboxing Chelsea Amanda Kajen. Amanda has been teaching group fitness classes for over 10 years. Not only that, she also is a ACSM Certified Personal Trainer as well as AFAA Certified for Group Fitness. This year marks her 4th year anniversary teaching at iLoveKickboxing.


So Amanda, should you do pushups on your knees?

Push ups on your knees should be done for beginners. It is important to maintain proper form: keep shoulders over wrists, chin in front of fingertips, and elbows tight to the body. The most important thing for knee push-ups is to keep a full range of motion. Try to get your chest all the way to the floor.


Why is there such a big pushup debate in the fitness world?

Well people forget that teaching fitness to the general population means people are at different levels. Modifications need to be made. However, that doesn’t mean modifications are an excuse to not challenge yourself. Work towards progress. If you’re a beginner and you can only do it on your knees, that’s okay but after a while you have to push yourself to improve.

Why can’t people do standard pushups when they start working out?

Depends on the person. Some people can but don’t know they can because they never tried it before or they were doing it incorrectly. Also for the average person who has never worked out before their own body weight is too much for them to pushup and it doesn’t what the amount of weight is. Some people just have not built that upper body strength yet and they just have to work on it. I think everyone should try it on their toes first and see what they need to work on or adjust and go from there.

Can doing knee pushups help you to eventually do a standard pushup?

It helps people as long as they are doing them properly. Proper form means full range of motion (chest to ground), abs tight and elbows tight to the body.  You can also eventually work on speed. With this, people will still have to push their body weight. It’s less body weight yes but it’s still a workout that’s going to help them work the same muscles involved in the pushups on their toes. They do build strength.

Does it work your entire body? If so, what does it work? 

Well full pushups on your toes work your upper body, core, and (if done properly) legs. I recommend keeping your heels together to activate your glutes, hamstrings, and inner thighs. Keeping your body tight and stiff is important. Think about how heavy dead weight is. Do not let that happen to you on your pushups. If you are looking to try out standard pushups on your toes, perfect your plank first. Practice holding it for 30 sec-1 min. Again, form is key.




Shoulders over wrists, hips and shoulders in a straight line, abs tight and ankles glued together. From there, you can practice small pushups. Just bend your elbows as much as you can, and push your body up. Maintain your perfect plank. Keep elbows close to the side of your body, and chin in front of your fingertips. When you fatigue, drop to your knees, and practice FULL RANGE OF MOTION pushups, getting your chest all the way to the ground.

Is the pushup one of the greatest workouts in the world? If so, why? If not, then what is?

Yes, pushups are one of the greatest exercises you can do but they must be done properly.

 Any advice for people who can’t do a standard pushup?
I recommend starting off on the toes with small pushups and then dropping to the knees for full range of motion pushups. Once you feel good about your toe pushups, try to get your chest all the way to the ground.

I also want to add that it’s important to know where you are and where you want to go with your fitness goals. For example, if you can’t do pushups, setting a goal like to engage your core or to get your wrists inline with your shoulders become like your stepping ladder. It will help you track your progress and give you something to work for and towards. Listen to your bodies and your trainer. Also do not get frustrated. Building strength for a pushup takes time and consistency.


Thanks Amanda for giving us the lowdown on the pushup debate.

Now it’s your turn.

What do you think about the pushup? Do you have a love/hate relationship with them? Do you refuse to do them entirely? Or has doing them on your knees helped you to become a pushup expert?

Tell us what you think below.

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