Push-up is an amazing exercise – it’s easy, it works a ton of vital muscles, and it makes you feel pretty damn accomplished. That’s why learning how to do push-up properly is one of the top goals many exercisers have on their lists.
But let’s face it: learning how to do a Push up properly can be a daunting exercise, especially if your upper body is not as well developed as your lower body strength.
Also, if push-ups have given you a tough time as a kid during your gym classes in school, you may continue to see this exercise as something difficult to do even if your fitness has progressed.
Knowing how to do a push up properly can be a game changer for your exercise routine, both because of the it imparts and the solid strength foundation it gives you.
What is push up
Push-up is a staple upper-body exercise that you can do anywhere – you just need your weight. It is considered a compound movement, which means it involves multiple joints and stimulates larger muscle groups.
Consider the push-up version of a high plank: Starting with a high-plank position, you will place your hands shoulder width apart, or slightly wider. As you bend your elbows and lower toward the floor, your elbows should be about 45 degrees angle to your body.
While a 45-degree angle of your arms is considered standard push-up form, the angle you are most comfortable with may be slightly different, so it is best to adjust it – keep your arms around your neck or pull them slightly wider – depending on how your shoulders and arms feel. It all depends on a variety of factors such as shoulder mobility and how strong you are.
When your chest or chin hits the floor, that’s the bottom portion of your rep. After that, you will press your body upwards, your core tight – pushing your body away from the floor with your back in a high plank position and you— – and your elbows fully extended.
What are the benefits of push ups?
It is important to learn how to do a push up properly, push-ups are one of the best exercises for working your pec muscles – both your major pectoralis (large, fan-shaped chest muscles) and your minor pectoralis (smaller, triangular chest muscles).
Building strength of your chest muscles is important for many different reasons. For one thing, it will help you get stronger in chest-specific exercises, like as the bench press.
Also, when you work on your “pushing” muscles, as you do with a push up, you are working other muscles besides that in your chest. Accessory muscles such as your triceps (back of your upper arms) and your shoulders to help your pecs to complete their movement, which means you are challenging those muscles, too. And when you hold the top part of the push-up, you also improve the stability of your shoulder.
The basics of how to do a push up properly
Assume a face-down prone position on the floor. Keep your feet together.
- Place your hands palms down on the floor, about shoulder width apart. They should be close to your shoulders, and your elbows should be pointed toward your toes.
- If you are on a smooth surface, such as under a carpet, you can also support yourself on your fists between the first and second knuckles for a great challenge.
Raise yourself up using your arms.
Make a straight line from your head to your heels, and tighten your abdominals to keep your hips from sagging. This position is called “plank,” which is used for various other tests. This is the beginning and the end of a single push up.
There are actually three types of basic variations that use different muscles; you can pick the one that works best for you depending on the muscle you want to train. The difference is how you place your hands while on the plank position.
The close grip pushups:
where the hands are close together will engage the triceps more while the more your hands are wider apart will engage the chest.
Wide arm push up:
place your hands in a comfortable way from your shoulders. This version works best on the chest and requires less strength in the arms.
Learning how to do a standard Push Up properly
Lay with your toes on the floor and hold yourself up with your hands. Lower your hips until your elbows reach a 90-degree angle. Keep your head facing forward. Try to point the tip of your nose straight forward. Keep your body in a flat plank – do not drop your hips, and do not have your butt hanging in the air. Always keep your body as straight as possible. Remember to breathe as you lower yourself.
- When you do push-ups, your chest should come within inches of each ground as you go down again. Remember to keep your body low.
Lift yourself up by pushing the ground away from you. Breathe out as you push. The power of that push will come from your shoulders and chest working in unison. The triceps (the muscles on the back of your upper arm) also contract but are not the first muscle group used. Continue to exert force until your arms are almost straight and, be sure not to lock your arms.
Repeat lowering and raising at a steady pace. Each pair is counted as one push up. Do this until you complete your set or beat your max.
Making Push Ups Easy
Push up from your knees.
If you have not yet reached the point of doing full push-ups yet, try to start with your weight on your knees instead of the balls of your feet. Do the push up as normal, and when you can do this easily start trying regular push ups.
Do incline pushups.
You can make push-ups easier by doing them with your hands at a slightly higher level than your feet. Get on an incline like platform or use a piece of furniture to start your push up training until you’re ready for a level position.
Trying advanced Push Ups
Do clap push ups.
Push yourself off the ground with enough force for you to clap your hands in the air. You can use this variation of exercise as a plyometric exercise.
Try a diamond push up.
In a plank position, instead put your hands under you in the shape of a diamond. Now do a push up with your hands in this form. This requires a lot of energy in your hands. To put extra pressure on the chest try to press your hands together.
Do the scorpion push up.
Start doing regular push ups or basic push-up variations. When you have finished lowering, lift one leg down and kneel towards the back and side. Perform individual sets for each leg, or switch between legs.
Try the Spiderman push up.
Perform a regular push up or basic push up variation. When you have finished lowering, lift one leg down and pull your knee to the side of your shoulder. Perform individual sets for each leg, or switch between legs. If done properly, this should involve the core in addition to the upper body.
Try a push-up with one arm.
Spread your legs above normal (balance), place one of your arms on your back, and proceed with the push up using one arm.
Practice knuckle push up.
Instead of using the palms of your hands, place your weight on your fists, using the first two knuckles on each hand. This requires extra strength on the arms and wrist.
Perform fingertip push up.
If you are too strong, you can try to do push-ups using only your fingers, instead of the palms of your hands.
Try the elevated leg pushup to raise the legs high. You can increase the weight of your push-ups by placing your feet slightly higher. Put your feet on a bench or place your feet on a gym ball for an extra challenge.
It’s easy to start making mistakes with pushups when you’re tired or if you haven’t built up enough basic strength. Look at these and switch to a simple variation if you can keep the best form.
- Sagging in the Middle
The most common problem is sagging in the middle, caused by not properly bracing the core and keeping the torso stiff throughout the movement. This is not only a bad form, but can also cause back pain. You can practice a modified plank to test your basic strengths. Once you know that, try to do push up on your knees practicing keeping your torso stiff.
- Neck Alignment
Your neck should be aligned with the head in a straight line with the spine, eyes down, and the top of your head pointed. If you point your chin up or put your head down so you can see your toes, you are out of alignment.
- Locked elbows
Locking your elbows at the top of the movement is a mistake you can make as you can fatigue and want to relax a bit. But this puts a lot of pressure on the joints and can lead to stress or injury. Keep bending slightly at the elbows. If you’re tired, it’s time to relax before doing another set.
- Hands too far forward
If your hands are farther away from your body than your shoulders you putting a lot of pressure on your shoulders. While you can vary the proximity of your hands together to get different results, they should be under your shoulders.
- Limited range of motion
If you are only going down partially with most of your pushups, you do not get the full benefit. It’s best to switch to simple adjustments (such as knee or incline pushups) that you can do with the full range of motion.
How to do a push up properly – Safety and precautions
You should not do pushups if you have an injury to the shoulder, wrist, or elbow. Talk to your doctor or physiotherapist to see if this is an appropriate exercise. Stop immediately If you feel shoulder pain during the pushup or hear a clicking noise in your shoulder.