Push-up Cues

Here are a few push-up cues to use. Push-ups are important for females because they can significantly enhance the strength of the related musculature (anterior shoulder — delts/pecs — and triceps) which will augment the press and bench. They have more of an effect on girls within their first year or so of training, on taller or long-limbed girls, or girls with a weak upper body. Push-ups, of course, would be used in conjunction with strength training movements like the press, bench, and push-press (dips too, but if the push-ups aren’t great, chances are the dips aren’t possible).

Primary passive/positional cues:
– First finger at 11 & 1
– Hands flat
– Chest up

Primary active cues:
– “Elbows over wrists”
– “Elbows to ribs”

20 thoughts on “Push-up Cues

  1. Justin,

    What would you suggest for women who can’t do full ROM push-ups? I have a lot of new clients who fall into that category. I usually start by shrinking ROM slightly by adding a plate or two under their chest that they go down to, or, in more deconditioned clients, having them do push-ups with their hands elevated on a box.

    Box or from knees would work. But you should have some lighter barbells (15 pounds or so) to press and bench with, and that (along with weight/fat loss) will eventually turn into a push-up. But you’re doing what you need to — finding out what they can do given their current situation.


  2. Yeah, I’ve heard that/used it a little. Seems like most of them don’t end up progressing from knee push-ups ever if I start them there.

    I can’t say what I would do, cause it would depend on the trainee, but whatever push-up or pressing movement they do, make sure it’s with external rotation.


  3. I’ve had success teaching proper ROM to a client who is new to push ups by starting them in the bottom of the push and using the chest up and vertical forearm cues so that they understand the depth desired and how the body should be positioned to be most efficient. I do this only for one or two sessions before transitioning to the tradition plank starting position. It seems to have worked pretty well so far.

  4. A few months ago I was practicing pushups frequently for a test, and was able to execute a good number in a row. Yesterday, after a long break from training pushups, I could only do about 60% as many in a row as previously, even though I am stronger in the bench and press than I was then. Strength is a persistent adaptation, but how persistant is the adaptation that makes one good at pushups (in the 30 to 60 rep range)? My experience seems to say ‘not very persistent’.

  5. @curt1s I had the same experience. The conditioning type adaptation required to do high rep sets extinguishes faster than strength, but you can earn back the conditioning adaptation faster than it took to achieve it in the frist place. For instance, I got up to doing 50-60 for three sets. When I quit doing them for a few months I could only do about 25 or 30, but when I started doing them again I got back up to 50 faster than it took me to get to 50 the first time.

  6. As a prebuscent (and ultimately late blooming) male, I was very tall and skinny fat. Sort of like girls are. I don’t doubt that I had a similar hormonal profile as a chick at age 14. Anyway, as a 10-14 year old I could not do a proper push up. At all. My, ahem, “core” was plenty strong – I could plank all day and do a bazillion situps – but any pushup that did not look like the worm was beyond me.

    Then I started benching. Benching made me stronger and eventually I was able to do a pushup. My recommendation to anyone looking to do be able to do a pushup is to strnegthen the bench.

  7. Pingback: » Q&A – 16

  8. Pingback: The Cell » Blog Archive » Tuesday 31 January 2012

  9. Pingback: Start your week the right way | CrossFit NYC

  10. Pingback: Wednesday 3.7.12 | Crossfit Murphy

  11. Pingback: We can always improve on our pushups. «

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.