Nailing a full, perfect push up is no mean feat. As one of the kings of upper body exercises, being able to do a good push up on your toes is a marker of strength and a great way to build muscle in your arms, chest and back. We spoke to personal trainer, Nick Cheadle (who casually does clapping push ups on the regular) about his top tips for going from knees to toes with your push ups.

Setting your hands too close

“When you set your hands too close together for a push up, you’re putting more stress on your triceps and making it harder for your chest to do the work,” says Cheadle. When setting up for a push up, ensure your hands are just outside of shoulder width. “With wider hands you can ensure you’re using the full power of the pectoral muscles while also engaging your lats (those big, strong back muscles)”, Cheadle explains.

Only doing push ups on your knees

Doing push ups on your knees is a good modification if you’re not quite up to a full push up yet but if you want to progress to the real deal, there could be a better way. “An incline push up far more closely resembles a regular push up than the version performed on your knees,” Cheadle says. “Place your hands on a bench and perform the push up on your toes. This allows you to engage your core, get a full range of motion and allow for better shoulder blade retraction, making for better practice for a full push up.”

Forgetting about your core

“The push up is an awesome upper body exercise but what many forget is a good push up uses the core too,” Cheadle says. In order to keep a neutral spine (that means no dipping through the lower back) your core needs to be turned on. “When you’re just starting out at push ups, a good way to make sure your core is on is to reset every couple of reps,” Cheadle explains. By resetting you can ensure you’re in the proper position before going for more reps.

Using your shoulders instead of your chest

“A lot of people struggling to get a full range on a push up complain of feeling it through their shoulders rather than their chest, this is a simple setup issue,” Cheadle says. When you put your hands on the ground, ensure that they are in line with your mid chest, not your shoulders. “Your elbows and wrists should track on top of each other and both be in line with your mid-chest, meaning your shoulders should be ahead of your hands, not in line with them,” Cheadle says. By setting up like this, you will ensure the right muscles are doing the work.