3 mistakes everyone makes with push-ups

Avoid these push-up blunders and grow big pecs without getting injured

Fit young men doing push ups in a living room
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Push-ups are awesome. This compound exercise should be on top of the list of moves you do to build muscle and lose weight no wonder famously muscular people such as Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson loves doing them. However, when done incorrectly, this classic bodyweight exercise can put a lot of pressure on your joints and even get you injured.

Why should you do push-ups? According to RunRepeat, there are at least 50 science-backed benefits to doing push-ups, from developing upper body muscles to strengthening back as well as core muscles. The Harvard Medical School goes as far as calling push-ups the "perfect exercise".

And while we argue that pull-ups and squats could also be good candidates for that exact title, there is no question about push-ups being highly beneficial to upper body muscle development. Learn how to master push-ups, or at least which mistakes to avoid, right here, right now. The 

1. Let your elbows flare out

One of the most common mistakes with push-ups is letting your elbows flare out. To make matters worse, many stock photos depict people doing push-ups the wrong way, with arms pointing outwards at a 90-degree angle.

In reality, doing that is terrible for your shoulders. By letting them flare out, you rotate the shoulders into a position where they are compromised. Combined with other mistakes you can read below, doing push-ups this way will surely get you injured.

Instead, try tucking the arms slightly. You don't have to keep them right next to your body – that works the triceps the most – but you also shouldn't let the elbows go all the way out either. Somewhere in between is the sweet spot, around the 45-60-degree mark.

person doing push ups on a park bench

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Don't brace your core

You can have enormous pecs and the most robust arms; if you haven't got the core strength, you won't be able to do many push-ups.

You need a solid core to keep your body straight when in a high plank position which also happens to be the starting position for push-ups. And we all know that planks are hard! How long can you hold planks? Not for too long, I assume. 

To strengthen the core, you might want to include the best core exercises in your workout routine. As an added benefit, these will also improve posture and ease back pain, as well as enable you to do push-ups properly.

3. Ignore wrist mobility

People often complain they experience wrist pain during push-ups. There could be many reasons for this, from overdoing exercise to ignoring wrist flexibility. The latter is often overlooked yet super important, especially as we age. Doing push-ups can improve wrist resilience, but only if you warm them up before you start exercising.

It's best to incorporate wrist mobility exercises into your daily full-body stretching routine, or you can do them as a standalone session before push-ups. Just like when stretching in general, try not to force your wrists in an unnatural position by pulling them too hard; they will get more flexible over time.

Also, you should give your wrists a break now and then by using parallettes or hex dumbbells for push-ups. These allow for the wrist to be in a more neutral position.

Matt Kollat
Section Editor | Active

Matt Kollat is a journalist and content creator who works for T3.com 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.