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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How not to do push ups

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Engage your core in order to keep your body straight from head to toe

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Glutes should be engaged all the way through, don't push your bottom up high and flare your elbows out.

How to do push ups correctly

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Keep the core engaged and the spine in neutral position

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Keep the elbows are in a 45-degree angle and don't let them flare out

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

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Keep your upper back straight as you go down into a squat position and only lean forward to touch the ground when the knees are fully bent.

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Don't kick the legs up as you kick them back and engage your core as you land those feet so your hips won't sag.

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Just like on the way down, keep your back straight as you come up from the squat position. Arms shoot up vertically towards the ceiling, not wave around on the side.

How to do burpees correctly

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

Back straight all the way through, kick your legs back and hold the high-plank position without your hips sagging

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(Image credit: Devan Kline)

On the way up, glutes are engaged and ready to explode, jump high and balance yourself with your limbs and core

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