A push-up is a simple bodyweight exercise you can do to work your upper body. You perform a proper pushup by raising and lowering your body up and down using your arms.
In fact, a study reported that you lift 66% of your body weight when you do a standard push-up (1).
The pushup is a great strength-building exercise for the pectoral muscles, triceps, and anterior deltoids. Other surrounding muscles also benefit from doing a proper pushup. If you’re working out, the pushup is one strength exercise you want to include in your workout routine.
In this article, we’ll show you how to do a pushup with proper form step by step. In the end, you’ll able to perform a perfect pushup.
Muscle Groups Worked During a Pushup
- Chest muscles or pectorals
- Anterior deltoids
- Serratus anterior
Pushup With Proper Form and Positioning
Before you start, make sure to have some clear space where you can extend your full body.
If you are performing a standard pushup on a rough or hard surface, spread a mat underneath you for added cushion. This will helps your hands, elbows, and forearms to stay comfortable throughout the movements.
- Get down on Your Fours into a Plank
Get down into a high plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and firmly on the ground facing forwards. Be sure to keep your palms directly under your shoulders. Your hips and torso should feel firm and sturdy as they would in a plank. From the top of your head to the upper body and lower body, your body should form a straight line.
Keep your spine neutral and don’t curve your back.
Pressing your toes into the floor to stabilize your lower body. Tighten your abdominal muscles as if you are preparing to take a punch.
Squeeze your glutes and flex the quads (thighs). Keep your back flat so your entire body and spine are neutral and in a straight line.
- Lower Your Body
To perform a full pushup, begin by lowering your body into a full range of motion until your chest muscles nearly touch the floor. Don’t let your glutes dip or stick out at any point during the move.
Your body should remain in a straight line from head to toe during the movements.
Draw your shoulder blades back and down, keeping elbows tucked close to your body. Your elbow should be at a 90-degree angle when you reach the bottom position.
- Push Your Body Back-Up
Keeping your abs and core engaged, exhale as you push back to the starting position. That’s one rep! Perform 10-15 repetitions using the proper push-up form.
Remember it is more important to do it the right way with proper form than focusing on repetitions alone. Only then, you’ll develop your chest muscles, triceps, core stability, and upper body strength.
Tips For Good Push-up Form
If you’re a beginner and can’t perform a normal push-up yet, a good way to start the push-up exercise is to make modifications and perform easier push-up variations.
The regular push-up can be challenging since it requires an ample amount of strength, joint stability, healthy shoulder joints, and a range of motion.
These beginner-friendly pushups help you gradually develop your fitness and strength for a full pushup exercise and more.
Try these variations if you need less difficulty:
If a standard pushup is too difficult, you can start by doing a pushup workout against a bench. This beginner-friendly exercise helps you learn the proper push-up form with less demand on the shoulders, arms, and chest.
How to Perform the Incline Push-Ups
- Stand several feet away from the bench, facing the object. Place your hands on the edge of a bench, shoulder-width apart. Make sure your body is in a straight line at an inclined angle with your toes on the ground.
- Use the same push-up form as the regular push-up to lower yourself until the elbows are at a 90-degree angle.
- Raise your body back up without breaking the proper push-up form. Repeat 10-12 times for 2-3 sets.
This is a modified version of the regular push-up where you perform the exercise on your knees rather than on the toes. This allows you to still exercise a full range of motion without having to support the weight of your full-body.
How to Perform the Kneeling Pushups
- Kneel down on a mat and get into the push-up position with your knees on the mat. Position your palms straight under the shoulders and tuck in your elbows.
- Keep the knees, hips, and shoulders all in a straight line. Do not allow yourself to bend at the hips. Slowly lower your body down by bending your arms.
- Return to the starting position by extending the elbows.
More Advanced Pushup variations
Diamond push-up is very similar to the normal push-up as both your palms and feet are on the even ground level.
With the diamond pushup, instead of keeping your hands shoulder-width apart, you keep them together directly below the center of your chest, making a diamond shape.
This compromises the wider base of support you normally have with the normal push-ups, making the exercise more challenging.
Add this to your workout routine once you master the proper push-up techniques.
The decline pushup is an advanced push-up variation done with elevation on your feet. This sets your body at a decline angle that adds more demand on your front shoulders and pecs.
How to Perform the Decline Pushup
To perform this exercise, you’ll need a bench or stable object where you can place your toes. The higher the elevation, the harder the pushup will be to perform. If you are performing this exercise for the first time, be sure to start out with a lower surface about one foot or up to 2 feet at the most. Increase the height as you build yourself up.
- Face away from the bench and kneel down. Place your palms on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Place your toes on the bench and make sure your heels point directly towards the ceiling.
- Extend your quads, and engage your abs, core, glutes your core before you start. Keep your elbows tucked in and bend them with control to lower your body to the floor.
- Return to the starting position by pushing your hands into the ground and move your body up, away from the ground by elongating the elbows. Complete 10-20 reps for 2-4 sets.
Changing the elevation of your feet isn’t the only way to advance this full-body calisthenic move and engage your pectoral muscles even more.
The pike pushup is a floor exercise that looks more like a yoga pose than a strength trainer. But make no mistake, this modified variation is a major strength builder and core stabilizer.
It targets all your shoulders, serratus anterior, and triceps in addition to the abs and core to build the shredded upper body.
How to Perform the Pike Pushup
- Get into the yoga’s downward dog pose with your palms and feet on the floor. Keep both your legs and arms straight.
- Raise your heels slightly and shift your weight on the toes. Keep your head in line with the arms. With your legs straight, slowly bend your elbows to lower your body into a push-up. Be sure not to let your forearms poke out to the sides as you lower your upper body.
- Once you reach the bottom, extend your elbows to return to the starting position. Complete 10-15 repetitions for 2-3 sets.
The one-arm push-up is a real strength trainer that develops your strength, stability, and even mobility. It’s certainly an advanced move that requires incredible core strength, power, and control.
Not only having only one arm to carry your body weight is immensely challenging, but also to perform the vertical movement with proper push-up form is another challenge.
Also, your left and right arm strength are typically not equal. Performing the pushup on the weaker arm is a great way to add strength and restore the muscular imbalances that may not otherwise get addressed.
How to Perform the One-Arm Pushup
- Start in the same position as the normal push-up, fully extending the quads. Place one arm behind your back before you start.
- With control, lower your body by bending the elbow on the supporting arm.
- Once you reach the bottom, push yourself back up to the starting position. Repeat 10 reps for 2-3 sets.
How to Advance Your Push-ups
The best way to start is with incline push-ups or kneeling push-up till you develop your strength. No matter which one you do, just remember correct push-up form is a must.
Also if you’re having wrist pain, you can use a pushup bar or your knuckle and use a towel underneath your hands.
Traditional pushups are beneficial for building upper body strength. They work the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders.
When the pushup is done with proper form, they can also strengthen the lower back, build big pecs, and enhance core activation by engaging (pulling in) the abdominal muscles.
Pushups primarily work to develop your strength and muscle mass in the upper body. However, as with all exercises, they too lead to calorie burn, which is essential for weight loss.
The number of calories your burn performing pushups vary, depending on your weight, height, and even other variables. Generally speaking, every minute of performing push-ups help you burn 7 calories.
The bigger you are, the more calories you’ll burn per minute.
A push-up is a simple body-weight exercise you can do to develop your upper body strength and size.
The steps outlined above should help you with proper push-up form and ultimately help you master perfect form. If you training at a local gym you can ask a personal trainer for pointers and making sure you have a perfect push-up form.
How many push-ups were you able to do with good form in your workout. Leave me a comment below to me know.
- San Juan, Jun G, et al. “The Effects of Exercise Type and Elbow Angle on Vertical Ground Reaction Force and Muscle Activity during a Push-up plus Exercise.” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, BioMed Central, 10 Feb. 2015, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4327800/.