Knee Push Ups - Is There A Better Way To Get Your First Push Up?

Knee push ups are a controversial exercise in the bodyweight training world.

Some say they don’t work, some say they do!

But, what’s the truth behind this controversy?

We’ll talk about:

  • The problem(s) with the knee push-up
  • How Knee Push-ups work – Why are they easier?
  • How to perform push ups on your knees – using perfect form
  • How to progress with knee push-ups
  • Incline Push Ups Vs. Knee Push Ups – Should you perform incline push ups instead of knee push ups?

Let’s find out!

The Problem With Knee Push-Ups

The main problem with knee push-ups is that it is claimed to be a beginner friendly exercise.

But, this is far from the truth.

The knee push-up cannot be performed by every beginner!

Some beginners will find it extremely hard to perform knee push ups because they lack the upper body and “core” strength to do so.

If you cannot perform knee push ups; make sure to read my push up guide on How To Progress With Your Push Ups instead.

Even if you can perform knee push ups,the guide will take you through each and every step of the push up progression system.

You will learn all you need to know about mastering push-ups from the novice to the advanced stages of the push up progression.

Regardless, if you can perform knee push ups, the second problem with this exercise is far more relevant to you!

It can be argued that the knee-push up isn’t the best way to learn push ups.

This is because knee push ups don’t facilitate proper push up mechanics, especially when we look at how this exercise is performed.

Most people perform knee push-ups the wrong way.

When performing regular push ups; it is important to not only squeeze the abs, but to also the glutes and the quads.

This maintains tightness throughout the entire body, making it easier to perform push-ups with proper form.

In fact, the push up from the toes is a moving plank!

In order to make the knee push-up easier, novices usually bring their knees too close to their palms.

Doing so, does not allow the abs, glutes and quads to be  properly engaged to simulate push-ups on the toes.

Using this incorrect knee push up from only builds your pushing strength . It does not build the “core” strength that is required to perform regular push-ups.

There is a better and faster way to build your pushing and “core” strength simultaneously while using knee push-ups! 

Using this specific technique mentioned below; makes it possible to use the knee push-up as a stepping stone to progress to the regular push-up.

So what is this specific knee push-up form?

Let’s find out.

How To Perform Pus-Ups On Your Knees - Using Perfect Form

The most optimal way to perform ANY push up variation is to create tension throughout the entire body.

Squeezing the abs and glutes while performing push-ups creates maximum tension throughout the body, thus making the movement easier to perform correctly.

In order to achieve this “core” activation during knee push ups make sure to follow these steps:

  1. Place your palms and knees on the floor, with your palms about shoulder width apart.
  2. Lean forward until your shoulders and elbows are stacked above your palms.
  3. Active your “core” muscles by squeezing the abs and the glutes.
  4. Lower your chest to the ground making sure to keep your elbows in by your sides. To perform full range of motion, your chest must make contact with the ground. DO NOT allow your hips to drop and touch the ground. If you have properly engaged the muscles of the “core”, your hips will not sag during this phase of the movement.
  5. After your chest makes contact with the ground, push yourself up to the starting position. Make sure to keep your elbows tucked in to your sides while squeezing your glutes and abs throughout this movement. Rinse and repeat the process, going back to step 1.

Performing knee push ups this way mitigates all the problems associated with the exercise thereby making a viable tool in your push-up tool box.

NOTE: Do NOT place your hips and chest on the floor simultaneously. Doing so, releases tension in the abs and defeats the purpose of this exercise.

We are not practicing  burpees, leave your hips off the floor!

How Knee Push-Ups Work

Knee push ups are an easier version of the regular push up; that requires performing the exercise on the knees.

Knee push ups, work due to the principle of leverages.

In the bodyweight calisthenics world, manipulating leverages  can make an exercise easier or harder to perform.

Performing push ups on the knees is far easier because the distance between the pivot point (at the knees) and the point of force generation (at the palms) is decreased/reduced.

Increasing this distance (as with push-ups on the toes) places more of your body weight on the palms, thus making the movement harder to perform.

How To Progress With Knee Push Ups

If you’re able to perform knee push ups with perfect form, it’s time to start repping them out.

Remember, only full range of motion (chest to floor) push ups are recommended and will build maximum muscle and strength.

Let’s say that you are able to perform 3 sets of 5 reps of knee push ups with the aforementioned form.

I order to progress, simply continue adding reps and sets until you are able to perform 5 sets of 10 reps of knee push ups with perfect form.

Once you are able to do this, it is time to move onto the next step in your push up progression. The negative push up.

Negative push ups are harder than knee push ups.

Getting to this step in your push ups progression means that you are now one step away from performing regular push ups, i.e. push ups on the toes.

For my complete guide on negative push ups, read my article on Negative Push Ups, Why You’re doing them wrong.

Once you’ve mastered negative push-ups, you’re ready to transition to performing full range of motion push up!

Incline Push Ups Vs. Knee Push Ups – Which Is Better?

When it comes to learning push ups there is debate about whether the incline push-up progression system is better than the knee push-up progression system.

I believe that the incline push-up progression system is far superior to the knee push up progression system, here’s why:

  1. The incline push-up progression system builds more core strength.
  2. The incline progression system mimics the regular push up better than the knee push up progression system.
  3. If you cannot perform knee push ups, then the incline push up is a far easier exercise to do.
  4. Incline push ups require more “core” involvement.

Incline push ups take a lot of weight off the palms and transfer it to your feet, making the exercise far easier to learn and perform!

Being able to take weight off the palms makes incline push ups like the Wall Push-Up a lot easier.

Although, if you can already perform knee push ups with the aforementioned form, then you can use the knee push up progression system instead.

Using the incline push-up progression system along with gymnastics rings also has a unique set of benefits.

This is because rings not only make your incline push up progression more systematic, they also allow for better push up mechanics, and demand more stabilization from the entire body.

Doing your incline push ups on rings is far more beginner friendly than any other push-up variation– wall and knee push ups included!

Rings also offer the added benefits of being able to perform hundreds of bodyweight calisthenics exercises using one single piece of equipment.

If you’re a bodyweight calisthenics beginner, get yourself a pair of gymnastics rings and perform your incline push ups on them, you will not regret it.

Check out my article on: How To Use The Incline Push Up Form Maximum Gains.


Knee push-ups are a controversial subject in the bodyweight calisthenics community.

While knee push-ups can be used to build up to your first regular push up, your form matters.

Not engaging the “core” properly will lead to you spinning your wheels in your push-up progression journey.

But if you’re looking for the most optimal way to learn to perform push ups, start on a pair of gymnastics rings.

Staring your push up progression on rings with the incline push up brings more benefits to your push up form that starting on the knees.

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