Every once in awhile, some article goes viral on social media about the best way to do a push up. Oftentimes, it’s some dumb dumb argument that push ups should ONLY be done on your toes or else you’ll nEvEr GeT sTrOnGeR. If you can’t tell my by sarcasm font, I disagree.
You can definitely get stronger by practicing push-ups on your knees and depending on the equipment you have available to you, they might even be the best option, so let’s discuss!
How to pick the best push-up option for you + tips for getting a full push-up on your toes.
To pick the right push-up progression, you first need to consider the equipment that you have available. If you are in a group fitness class, you might only have 3 options – the floor (hardest), your knees (middle ground), the wall (easiest).
Perhaps a wall push-up is a cakewalk for you and in this class you want to train for strength, not stability. You can maintain good alignment in your shoulders and spine when you are at the wall and on your knees, but when you are on your toes your shoulders and back collapse. In this case, the knee push up will probably offer you the most benefit and challenge with a lesser chance of joint compression or pain.
Let’s say you have more equipment though – for example benches at different heights or a sturdy countertop in your house.
In this case, I would opt for the incline or elevated push-up (pictured below) where the incline is high enough that you can move at a full range of motion while being on your toes, but low enough that you feel some challenge and can’t do more than 10 repetitions without needing to stop.
The reason why I prefer the incline elevated push-up is that it has greater transference to being able to do one on the floor on your toes. This is because it most closely matches that version of the exercise.
As you get stronger, you want to pick a lower and lower incline, until you can do it on the ground.
However, this doesn’t make push-ups on your knees bad. They still will help you get stronger and can help you progress to the more challenging version.
My final thought is that a whole body strength training program will help you get to full push-ups faster than just practicing push-ups alone. This is because push-ups are a full body exercise, so the stronger than you are in all directions, the easier body weight movements like push-ups become and the less likely you are to have pain.
If you are looking for a strength training program to help you master push-ups without pain or injury, then check out my beginner dumbbell flexibility and strength program Push It Real Good.