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Push Ups: Knees to Toes

Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA

Dear Fun and Fit: I am working on building some bulk, yes, I said bulk in my arms and shoulders. As I get older, my skin is sagging a bit and I think building some muscle will fill it out a bit! So, I am doing pushups as one of my exercises.  But I can only do up to 10 REAL pushups and they are not very deep.

Am I better to do more deeper push ups from my knees or keep doing them from my toes and just trying to get my chest lower to the ground. Or does it matter? Thanks for your help. I love your vids. Elle, Canada

Kymberly: Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Ears and eyes and mouth and nose. Heads, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes. Is that song stuck in your brain yet?

Now to get to bid-ness!

Thanks for the zippy question about push-ups, as we LOVE them! Start with full body (toe) push ups with as full a range of motion (ROM) as you can muster up with good form. In other words, get the chest as close to the ground as possible with your hands fairly wide. Even if you do just one or two full range push ups, start there. As soon as you have to sacrifice form or range of motion, switch to incline or knee push ups so you can achieve full ROM.


K: Take this approach for a week or two or five until you are up to a full set of full body push ups. At that time, still switch to the knee or incline ones once form goes, but take twice as long to push up as you did to drop down. For instance, count down for 2 counts, up for 4. This rhythm change will tax the arm muscles you are wanting to target while still working the back, chest, core. You will soon look MAHVAHLUSS!

Alexandra: My sis did a good job explaining what to do right, so I’ll comment on some of the “unique” things I see my students do that we are sure you won’t! Use a mirror to be sure.

* Butts up like they’re advertising for the weekend

* Hands above the head, which strains the shoulder area

* Butts down like a worm, which compresses the lumbar area

* Hinging from the hip and touching the forehead to the floor (quick anatomy tip: your chest is not in your forehead)

* Calling them boy and girl push ups, which makes us irritable

Remember,  knee push ups are REAL push ups fair and square! For even more exciting (beyond belief) push up ideas, take a look at our Patriot Push Ups post.

Readers: How did you work up to full body push ups?

Saaay, while you’re here, why not subscribe to our YouTube channel?

About Fun and Fit

Get practical exercise advice, your fitness questions answered, and cutting edge health edu-tainment that is accessible and doable from long time fitness experts, Kymberly Williams-Evans, MA and Alexandra Williams, MA. We have taught on land, sea, and airwaves for 3 decades on 4 continents. From writing to speaking, emceeing to hosting a radio show, reviewing products to teaching classes, we believe that little steps turn into big paths. Move a little more than the day before. FitFluential Ambassadors and award-winners both online and off.

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13 Responses to Push Ups: Knees to Toes

  1. Tara Burner April 26, 2012 at 3:57 am #

    great info!
    love the cameo by Max and the dog always barking!
    but seriously, love your property! rocks, pool, view! jealous…

    • AlexandraFunFit April 26, 2012 at 6:50 am #

      Yes, Chloe is a barking dachshund. All day every day. She is very sweet, yet highly annoying. Our property is pretty, but of course, we don’t film the ugly bits! That pool is unheated, if that cheers you up.

  2. Calla Gold April 26, 2012 at 12:25 pm #

    Great tips! Basically, do it right regardless of if it’s (head, shoulders) knees, toes or incline. Form is important! Loved the video.

  3. Tamara April 26, 2012 at 2:35 pm #

    Great instruction! And I too, hate the girl vs boy pushups; full pushups ARE girl pushups!
    It’s been so long since I had to do them on my knees I can barely remember how I progressed them.

    With clients, I often have them do one or two negatives once they’ve done as many, good form toe pushups as they can. Similar to your change in cadence suggestion.

    Pushups are one of my favourite exercises; just ask my class participants (who do them a lot!)

  4. Julie (@ROJRunning) April 26, 2012 at 3:47 pm #

    Interesting. I just did a fitness assessment today and they had me doing knee pushups. As many as I could in 1 minute. I did 20. This was about 19 more than I thought I could do, but probably still not impressive.

    • Fun and Fit April 26, 2012 at 4:57 pm #

      Different goal = different recommendation. For your assessment, doing the knee push ups was appropriate. And impressive!

  5. Jody - Fit at 54 April 26, 2012 at 7:24 pm #

    I LOVE PUSH-UPS of all kinds! :-) Love the video!

  6. Cheryl April 27, 2012 at 7:39 am #

    Hands closer together make them more challenging!

    • AlexandraFunFit April 27, 2012 at 7:51 am #

      Hey Cheryl, the reason for that is that closer together means the shoulders are more a part of the push-up, and the chest a bit less. So the smaller muscle groups have to work harder. We love the wide as it engages the chest in a fuller ROM. Great point. Thanks!

  7. Elle April 27, 2012 at 8:09 pm #

    Oh I will have to be careful when I ask questions now as I may become a blog post… but I am thrilled to have been your inspiration for this wonderful and helpful post, and I do love your videos, as I have already told you.

    I am working on these push ups and making a BIT of progress, but it is so nice to have this for reference. Thank You Both!


  8. Matt April 28, 2012 at 5:57 pm #

    Pushups are the bomb!
    They are almost all I do for my upper body (next to pullups). My secret though is to use many different types. That way I range from easy to crazy hard.

  9. Alison April 29, 2012 at 8:57 am #

    I must admit-I DON’T do toe push ups, but I do the incline sometimes. I play water volleyball 6 hours a week and I get lots of shoulder and chest exercise. I have to keep it in my my mind to do more push ups-not my favorite exercise. Thanks-loved the video and the kitty kat!


  1. Push-Ups: Wrong and Right Way | Fun and Fit: Laugh, Learn, Exercise, Live! - August 6, 2012

    […] So, are you a push-up hater or lover? For more on short  vs long lever (knee vs toe)  push-ups, take a look at our post with a dedicated video, Push-Ups: Knees to Toes […]

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