How to Do a Pushup Without Hurting Your Neck?

close up of a masseur massaging a man's neck

Pushups are an ideal exercise to strengthen your upper body and core. Using your body weight as resistance, pushups offer a challenge for every fitness level. However, executing the move with improper form or misalignment can result in injuries, including hurting your neck. The tendency is often to put too much stress and momentum on your shoulders, which can directly impact the back of your neck resulting in pain. Slow down and focus on your form when performing the pushup.

Position your body on all fours at the floor. Place your hands directly under your shoulders with your fingers facing forward. Arrange your knees to be under your hips. Pull your stomach muscles in toward your back. Push your shoulder blades down toward your back. Maintain a straight, neutral spine throughout the exercise; proper alignment of the spine can help to prevent any pain from occurring in your neck.

Push through your hands to lift your knees; extend your legs one at a time so that they are straight behind you. Balance on the balls of your feet. Beginners may position their feet to be hip-width apart; advanced exercisers can keep their feet together. Push back toward the wall behind you.

Look slightly forward at the floor right in front of you while your head and neck are in line with your spine. There should be one straight line from your head to your heels. This helps to keep your head, neck and back in a neutral position. The tendency to look down can cause your back to curve and place stress on the spine.

Bend your elbows to lower yourself toward the floor. Stop lowering when your upper arms are parallel to the floor; your elbows should be pointing out.

Push through your hands to straighten your arms and return to a starting position. Maintain the posture in your back and neck to stay in proper alignment as you rise to the top of the pushup.


Ask a personal trainer to evaluate your form and ensure that your body is in one straight line from your head to your heels. You may also use the assistance of a mirror, with the side of your body parallel to the mirror. Slightly roll your head to the side to view your reflection. Do not lift your head up to look, since that will immediately compromise your neck and form. Once you become proficient at pushups, you will be able to feel when your body is in proper form without looking.

Decrease the number of repetitions rather than compromising your form. Improper form can cause your body to be out of alignment, which may result in pain in your neck.

If you are a beginner, perform the exercise with your knees on the floor until you are strong enough to maintain proper form.

If you are an advanced practitioner, intensify the pushup by removing one hand from the floor and resting it on your lower back. Maintain the same back, neck and head stance as in a traditional pushup.


Keep your shoulders pressing away from your ears. Allowing your shoulders to move up toward your ears can put strain on your shoulders, neck and upper back.

Lower only as far as you are able to maintain proper form, even if your upper arms are not near parallel to the floor.