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Pushups: The Perfect Form & A Better Way to Modify


Pushups - one of the best known exercises. I know that you know how to do the exercise, but what if you could make a small change that would make it more effective?

If you have shoulder pain with pushups, making this little change can help you significantly. Taking it a step further, if you have shoulder pain with bench press, making this change during pushups will help fix your bench press.

Common movement faults of the pushup.

The two most common movement faults during pushups are flared elbows and protraction of the shoulder. These movements, although seemingly very small, cause excessive strain on the front of the shoulder. It probably isn't going to cause pain and injury after a couple reps, but typically we do pushups for more than a couple reps. As the reps continue, form starts to degrade even more. As we begin to push through the shoulder, those small movement faults begin to get bigger and more widespread. Soon enough we have bad trunk stability, sagging hips, and bent knees. These tips in the video can revolutionize how you do pushups.

Elbow flare and shoulder protraction have a common underlying problem. This problem is limitation of shoulder external rotation in the press position of the shoulder - as the shoulder moves into extension (elbow backward) the shoulder runs out of room and internally rotates (elbow flares). 

But, because we are smart, we correct the elbow flare. Or so we think. In all reality, that correction typically causes the shoulder to roll forward, or "dump" forward, and strain the structures in the anterior shoulder - think of the Biceps and Pectoralis Major. Repetitively straining will cause irritation, pain, and injury.

Correction of shoulder dumping.

The underlying problem is limited shoulder external rotation in an extended position. So the fix is to encourage external rotation through the full range of motion. Before starting your descent, lock in the shoulders and give an external rotation force by "screwing in" the hands into the ground (watch the video for specifics!). Keep that tension as you lower and as you raise back up. This should help maintain a neutral shoulder position as you move into shoulder extension.

Just a forewarning- although this is a great way to fix the pushup form, don't expect it to magically give you 20 extra reps. Just the opposite! Expect it to be harder to complete the same number of reps. But give it time and you'll see a huge improvement.

But I can't do pushups!

If you cannot complete any pushups with the correct form, here's your answer.

No, it is not to start on your knees. We want to make sure you keep good form, and kneeling pushups are kinda bad at that.

This modification in this video is where I start. It's really pushup negatives. So all we focus on is attaining the correct position at the top of the pushup and maintaining that position as we lower down. Make sure to attain that correct position each time you start. 

Same as before, don't expect to blast through 30 reps without any problem. Changing form and increasing muscle control is hard work! So don't be frustrated if you only get 5 or 10 reps done.

Consistency is the key!

Go try this and let us know how you do!

Need some help?

Have shoulder pain with pushups or bench press that you just can't shake? Don't want to try this correction before you have your shoulder assessed? Say no more. Fill out the form below or schedule a Physio Eval and we will get you fixed up.

Get started now with one of the following options:

1. Schedule a Physio Eval with us now on our booking page.

2. Fill out the form below and we will contact you. It's that simple.

We are excited to get the chance to work with you! One of our owners, Jessica, will reach out directly to you to assist.


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