There are 10 pushup mistakes that many women make and don’t even realize it.

But they can be eliminated very easily.

Here they are, in no particular order.

Being too presumptive.

A big mistake is to automatically assume you’re “too weak” to do pushups. Well, this is partly true.

You WILL be too weak to do pushups — if your body is not well-trained in chest pressing motions and especially if you’re carrying extra weight.

Because this article is about the pushup mistakes that women make, I’m not going to go into detail about how to get strong enough to do a pushup.

But in a nutshell, getting stronger on free weights and chest press equipment will land you in pushup territory. Do not underestimate yourself if you want to nail a set of pushups one day.

Trying to learn pushups by doing only pushups.

This erroneous approach overlaps the previous mistake. For an untrained woman, pushups are just plain hard. Even untrained men can’t do them.

The best way to train for pushup ability is to do free weight and machine chest and shoulder presses.

I speak from experience. I don’t have to do pushups to maintain my ability to do them. The ability is a natural baseline function, courtesy of my other chest and shoulder routines.

Quantity over quality.

I’ve seen women doing many reps – of incomplete and/or poorly formed pushups. Three or four solid, perfect, full range motion pushups beat out 12 half-baked pushups any day.


Focus on pulling off one perfect pushup with full range of motion, even if your knees must be on the floor, or your hands on something elevated (which will also make the movement easier).

When you can complete one, then your next goal is two, and so on. Rather than look ahead thinking, “I gotta complete eight even if they suck,” think instead, “One pushup at a time; let’s make THIS one good!”

Incomplete range of motion.

This results from not being strong enough to complete the ROM. Fine. But complete ROM is important for progress.

So what to do? How about adjusting your body position to accommodate the lack of strength?


Either do the pushups off your knees or elevate your hands on a bar or edge of a bench.

Bowing to a statue.

Many women who do knee pushups use wrong form. They bow down with each repetition. Sometimes their butt is higher than their shoulders at the bottom of the movement.

The form for a standard (feet-only) pushup applies to a knee and hand elevation version.

Getting too fancy.

I’ve seen women struggling with various versions that are just way beyond their capabilities.

Do not assume that fighting through a set of wobbly one-hand-on-medicine-ball and one-leg-up-in-the-air pushups with incomplete ROM is a better workout than a set of simple, old-fashioned pushups with picture perfect form.

Keep it simple. The fancy stuff is not more effective at shaping the physique or burning fat.

Hands too far apart.

Oddly, I’ve seen this more among women than men. The further apart the hands, the more strain on the shoulder joint, namely the rotator cuff tendons.

Misaligned body segments.

The back of your head, upper back and butt should be aligned, so that all three sections would evenly touch against a giant ruler if a giant ruler were to be placed alongside the back of your body.

Hip sag and scapular jut.

When the body portions are not aligned, often the hips markedly sag and the scapular bones jut out.

Twenty reps of these are no match for the worthfulness of only three perfect “real” pushups.

Not warming up.

For more trained individuals, starting a workout with pushups may work just fine for them.

But if you’re struggling with this compound movement, you’ll want to consider warming up first with other chest routines.

For example, after completing your bench press routine, your shoulder joints will be plenty warmed up for pushups.

Don’t think you must do pushups first with the idea that if you do anything else before them, you’ll then be too fatigued to do any sort of pushups.

I find that I’m stronger with pushups after they are preceded by two different chest routines, say, dumbbell presses and Hammerstrength seated chest presses.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



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