Stop doing press ups wrong! How NOT to do push ups, burpees and planks

Want to do push ups, burpees and planks so nobody laughs at you? Burn Boot Camp co-founder Devan Kline shows you how

home workout: 3 common exercises you're doing wrong
(Image credit: Burn Boot Camp)

Gyms might be reopening soon but for many, the best home workouts will remain an attractive and cost-saving alternative to gym workouts. And why shouldn't they? You can train every muscle in your home gym just as efficiently as you can in the gym, with only a few exceptions. However, should you perform these bodyweight exercises wrong, you can end up injuring yourself so you'd better listen up.

Bodyweight training – also called calisthenics – is as cost effective as it gets when it comes to resistance training: all you need is your body, some space and you can full body calisthenics workout at home with ease. Add a pull up bar, an ab roller, a suspension training system and a kettlebell to the mix and you have home gym setup that will be more than enough to build muscle at home for years to come.

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Having said that, to perform bodyweight exercises efficiently at home, you must do so by using the correct form or you'll end up not building muscle or worse, injuring yourself. We asked Devan Kline, co-founder and CEO of Burn Boot Camp, to shed some light and educate us about the correct form on three of the most popular bodyweight exercises: push ups, burpees and planks.

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Before you start exercising

As accessible as bodyweight training is, you must make sure you practice it on the correct difficulty level. If you are unfit, overweight or recovering from any injuries, you should consult your GP or a medical professional before you start doing 200 push ups a day. Remember, it might take longer for some to build strength than to others so don't measure your performance to others or you'll get demotivated very soon.

Also, in order to build muscle effectively, you must supply your body with protein to help recovery and aid muscle growth. Ideally, you would like to source protein from fresh produce, lean meat, nuts etc but additionally, you can compliment your protein intake by having a protein powder shake or protein bar a day.

Finally, give your body enough time to recover and rest in between workouts. The time needed to recover varies from person to person but it will most likely shorten as you get stronger. Don't rush progress and let your body adjust to the workout load before you increase intensity.

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If these shoes are good enough for the Body Coach to do his HIIT workouts, they are good enough for your hoe workouts too. The excellent Vivobarefoot Primus Lite shoes sport a signature 3mm 'barefoot' sole for maximum sensory feedback and minimum interference. The upper is made of recycled PET plastic bottles woven into a durable yarn to create a vegan and – most importantly – breathable movement shoe.

How not to do push ups

How to do push ups correctly

In depth: how to do push ups

As Devan explains, "you will draw a line extended from your middle finger tips and aim your nose over that line. But what you really need to focus on is having your elbows at 45 degrees, engaging your core, and having your chest actually touch the ground." He also adds that "much like a plank, you also want to keep a neutral spine as people tend to keep their butt up in the air and not actually reach the ground when doing the push movement."

How not to do burpees

How to do burpees correctly

In depth: how to do burpees

"When doing a burpee you will want to jump your feet wider than your hands and flat on the ground while simultaneously leaving the ground and jumping up with arms over head" as Devan puts it. "Really power yourself up in that jump but pay attention to how you are landing. You will want to carefully absorb that jump so that you can put your pals flat on the ground again to perform the movement multiple times. A burpee should be one fluid movement" – he concludes.

How not to do planks

(Image credit: Devan Kline)

How to plank correctly

(Image credit: Devan Kline)

In depth: best core workout

"With a plank, it is very important to keep the shoulders over middle of forearm, have an anterior pelvic tilt, and a neutral scapula" – one can tell Devan didn't slack off during his anatomy classes. "Too often people want to either slump down into a plank position or but their butt up in the air. In order to really target the shoulders and core, you need to be in proper form, exhale, and squeeze those muscles together for how ever long your plank hold is"

T3's how-to exercise guides

  • How to squat right: the barbell back squat is the best exercise for a toned butt and strong legs
  • How to deadlift correctly: a full body workout in one move for stronger arms, back and legs
  • Overhead press: how to perform this classic exercise for big arms and quick shoulder gains
  • How to do barbell rows the right way: why bent over rows are great to build big back and strong arms
  • How to do thrusters: this squat variant is a leg day staple AND a one-move full body exercise
  • How to do a push up plus all the best variations on this classic exercise for bigger arms
  • How to use an ab roller: get a six pack FAST with this cheap home gym staple
  • Chin up vs pull up: what's the difference, muscles worked and WHAT IS THE BEST ONE?
  • How to do ab crunches for beginners: the best stomach exercises to tone up
  • How to bench press effectively and safely: this classic exercise will build a massive chest and big arms and shoulders too
Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for and its magazine counterpart as an Active Editor. His areas of expertise include wearables, drones, fitness equipment, nutrition and outdoor gear. He joined T3 in 2019. His byline appears in several publications, including Techradar and Fit&Well, and more. Matt also collaborated with other content creators (e.g. Garage Gym Reviews) and judged many awards, such as the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance's ESSNawards. When he isn't working out, running or cycling, you'll find him roaming the countryside and trying out new podcasting and content creation equipment.