≡ Menu

Why Knee Push Ups Do More Harm Than Good

The Push Up. The ever despised full body exercise to improve upper body and core strength. You either love them or you hate them. And sometimes, people don’t have enough upper body strength to do a regular push up. So instead, they assume a position on their knees and crank them out like a scene from the movie ROCKY .

Well I am here to burst your bubble today. Even though you might think that doing push ups on your knees is advantageous, it actually ISN’T. Here is why knee push ups do more harm than good.

To sum it up before I go into detail, push ups on your knees do not train the proper movement, nor does it train many of the muscles involved in a regular push up.

When you perform a regular push up, feet are together, the glutes (butt) are squeezed, back is flat, and your abs are engaged.

The entire body should stay in a straight line as you descend towards the floor with no sag in your back. The forearms should be vertical to the ground at the bottom of the movement. With this technique, the entire body is working together in sync, and as ONE (sounds like I am teaching a dance lesson, Ha!).

Push Ups On The Knees

Now we will compare this to a push up on your knees. Straight and to the point: You are taking your legs out of the equation entirely in this position. You will notice that it becomes super difficult to squeeze your glutes ( You should actually try it). In addition, in this position you really don’t have to stabilize your lower back that much. You would stabilize your lower back using your hips to keep that nice flat back in a regular push up position, but since you are on your knees, your hips basically aren’t doing any work. Many times, the reason people can’t do a regular push up is not because they lack upper body strength, but because their core is weak and they lack the ability to contract multiple muscles at one time.

In addition, it’s super difficult to get those forearms vertical to the floor with this push up. This puts unnecessary stress on the elbows, wrists, and shoulders, leading to….that’s right…INJURIES. But the biggest drawback? If you can’t get your forearms vertical to the floor, you are working your chest muscles very little.

So let’s sum that up. Doing a knee push up:

•Works your Core very little.
•Works the arm muscles very little
•AND can lead to injuries in the elbows, wrists, and shoulders
SO- What do you do INSTEAD?

The Solution

Perform incline Push Ups on a bench, or any stable surface that is elevated (couch will work too). The higher the surface the easier the push up will be. Here is a demonstration video below of an incline push up. Click on the picture below to view the video.

This might be surprising to you, but your core is your power house. It is where every movement is powered by. So it doesn’t make any since to perform a movement that does not work any of the muscles that it is intended to.

TAKE ACTION: If you currently perform push ups on your knees, start performing them on an elevated surface. A bench, couch, table, etc, can be used. The higher the surface, the easier it will be. As you begin to perform the incline push up rather easily, transition to a slightly lower surfaces, until you can perform a regular one on the floor.

Know others who perform knee push ups! Spread the push up GOSPEL and click on the links below!

{ 5 comments… add one }
  • Leah July 2, 2015, 4:50 pm

    My oh my I had no idea! And yes, I’m a knee pushup girl. Thanks for setting me straight. Off to workout now and gonna try your modified instead 🙂

  • Erin E Flynn July 2, 2015, 5:00 pm

    Oh, great to know! I do regular pushups as much as possible, but have done knee push ups to complete hiit routines when I get worn out–wasn’t aware it wasn’t even working the same muscles (though now that you’ve said that, duh! I can totally notice). Will definitely switch to elevated push ups. Thanks!

    • Amanda July 16, 2015, 2:38 pm

      Yes- it seems like the right thing to do as a modification…but in this instance…it’s about choosing the RIGHT modification 🙂

  • Cherietta Swar March 24, 2017, 2:14 pm

    Thanks for a great article. I appreciate how you simplified it. I will be sharing it on my page. 🙂

    • Amanda March 27, 2017, 1:20 pm

      Thanks for the feedback! I am glad you found it helpful and thanks for the share 🙂

Leave a Comment