Fitness Tips

The Corkscrew Push-Up Targets Your Arms and Obliques In a Single Move

Rebecca Norris

Photo: Getty/Inside Creative House
When you think of fundamental upper body movements, push-ups likely come to mind. After all, when performed correctly, push-ups not only target your pectoral muscles but your shoulders, triceps, and even your abs. Of course, as with most classic bodyweight movements, nowadays there are ways to alter your form to make the exercise as challenging as possible. Case in point? Corkscrew push-ups.

“A corkscrew push-up is a more challenging variation of the traditional push-up, involving rotation of the torso from side to side [bringing one shoulder to the ground at a time], which places more muscle recruitment on the obliques, chest, shoulders, and hips,” explains Orangetheory coach Michele Greeney, NASM.

But that’s not all. Since corkscrew push-ups require being in a bear crawl position, Chris Pabon, FlexIt virtual personal trainer, says that the movement benefits the legs and calves as well. In other words, corkscrew push-ups are one of the most effective full-body bodyweight exercises out there. But, in order to reap the rewards of the movement, you must know how to perform them correctly. Which leads us to...

How to properly perform a corkscrew push-up

To begin, Greeney says to get into plank position with your elbows, wrists, and shoulders stacked. From there, get into corkscrew formation by drawing your knees in toward your chest so that you’re now in a bear crawl position. Again, everything should remain stacked, with no sagging in the spine or overextension in the neck, shoulders, or arms.

Once you’re in the proper starting stance, ACE CPT and scientific education content manager, Chris Gagliardi, says to pivot on your toes while rotating the left and right shoulders to the ground, one at a time. “You will rotate to bring the left shoulder and the right shoulder before returning to the starting position,” he explains, noting that rotating each way will allow you to target both sides of the body per rep.

Errors to avoid

In order to fully feel (and benefit from) the effects of corkscrew push-ups, there are a few common mistakes you’ll want to avoid. For starters, Gagliardi says that it’s imperative that you begin in the proper starting position and maintain a neutral spine while pivoting on the toes. “The key is to rotate (like a corkscrew) while keeping your toes and hands on the ground,” he explains.

Greeney adds that your knee position plays a big role, as collapsing your bent knees can put pressure on the low back and take it off of the core. Additionally, she says that rotating too closely to the ground is never the goal. “It signifies a weakness in the obliques and rotational muscles,” she explains. That said, aim to rotate toward the ground without actually crushing into it.

Since so many factors are at play with corkscrew push-ups, Pabon says to slow it down. “Do a set with the knees down all the way before you jump right in,” he suggests. And from there, the sky's the limit.

And as a refresher, here's how to do a classic push-up the right way:

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