Girl Push-ups: Please Stop! There is a Better Option

I know what you’re thinking, “Another push-up article?” Well this one is important, and needs to be stated. STOP WITH THE “GIRL PUSH-UPS”!!!!!

Nothing makes my eyes bleed more than the “girl push-up”, or a push-up done from the knees. In fact, the name is offensive to women. I know plenty of women who can blast through regular proper push-ups. The name implies that women aren’t strong enough for push-ups. Hell I’ve seen some men who can’t do a push-up.

Why “Girl Push-ups” suck?

First of all, it is a terrible regression from the base push-up. Even if you can do 20 “girl push-ups”, often the next step to a proper push-up is too big of a leap to complete a good clean push-up.

The “girl push-up”, or the knee push-up, eliminates the benefits of the plank position push-up. Specifically the core stabilization and total body tension requirement is decreased or totally removed.

By placing your knees on the ground you shorten the lever arm of the whole body, lessening the need for the anterior core to work to maintain a neutral spine.

The push-up is not only a great strength builder but also a teaching tool to help performance in other exercises by teaching about total body tension. With the knees being placed on the ground you are not able to establish and reinforce total body tension. This is specifically seen in the quads because they are placed on a stretch and not able to contract efficiently.

A Better Option

The hands elevated push-up is a much better option for those who have not mastered the push-up. This variation allows for greater possibilities for progression and regression based on your ability and strength.

Basically the closer your hands are to the ground, the more difficult the exercise becomes. The reverse is also true if you want to make the exercise easier. This may be the only other acceptable use of the Smith Machine besides the horizontal body row.

Hands Elevated Push-up w/ Bench
Hand Elevated Push-up in Power Rack. Note: This is an easier variation than the following picture.
Hands Elevated Push-up. Note: as your hands get closer to the ground and the angle between your body and the floor decreases, the difficulty increases.

Unlike the hands elevated push-up, the knee push-up only has one possible progression. This leaves a lot of people in no man’s (or woman) land.

The hands elevated push-up also allows for you to reinforce the total body tension as you focus on trying to create a straight line through your body.


Not everybody has the strength to complete a push-up with their hands on the floor but there are better regressions than the “girl push-up”, or the push-up from the knees. By increasing the angle between your body and the ground you can decrease the difficulty and allow yourself to eventually progress to the floor. Once you have become a monster on the floor push-up, then you can work through some advanced variations to keep things interesting. Check out this post for more push-up variations.