Your Guide to Proper Push-Up Form

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The push-up is a fantastic compound exercise worth every praise—the movement works a ton of muscles and is pretty easy to master. Learning how to do push-ups should be among the top goals many fitness enthusiasts should have on their lists.

If you’re new to the world of fitness, push-ups can be an intimidating exercise, especially if your upper-body is not as strong as your lower-body. Plus, many people have undesirable flashbacks to P.E. classes where you were forced to do push-ups with your noodle arms. If you struggled with the push-up as a kid, you might continue to perceive the exercise as daunting, even as your fitness has improved.

Learning how to master the push-up can be a turning point for your fitness journey, first because of the confidence it grants and the solid foundation it provides you. Here’s what you need to know about nailing the proper push-up form.

What Is a Push-Up?

What Is a Push-Up?

The push-up is one of the best upper-body exercises that you can do practically anywhere using only your bodyweight. The push-up is considered a compound movement, meaning it works for multiple muscle groups at once.

Benefits of Push-Ups

Push-ups are the most convenient exercise when it comes to working your pec muscles—both your pectoralis major and your pectoralis minor.

Increasing chest muscle strength is essential for many different reasons. For starters, it will help you get better at chest-targeted exercises, like the famous bench press. It also makes everyday functions, like pushing heavy stuff, easier to do.

Furthermore, by working your “pushing” muscles with push-ups, you are growing other muscles, such as the adjacent triceps muscles (the backs of your upper arms) and your shoulders. All of these muscle groups come in to help your pecs perform the move, which means you’re challenging most of your upper body muscles. The best part? When you hold the top position of the push-up, you also increase shoulder stability.

What Are the Different Types of Push-Ups?

The cool thing about push-ups is that there are many versions you can try, each focusing on specific muscle groups. That said, whatever fitness level you’re at, chances are you’ll find a push-up exercise that works for you.

For instance, raising your hands or feet while performing the movement can intensify the push-up. Furthermore, halting at the bottom of a push-up, which disrupts the movement’s momentum, can also crank up the difficulty. Here are some push-up variations and how to do them.

1. Hands-Elevated Push-Up

  • This is the starting position. Set your hands shoulder-width apart on a chair (low box if you have one) or a low table and get in a high plank position keeping your feet, hips, knees, and shoulders in a straight line. Squeeze your core and keep your elbows parallel to the sides of your body. 
  • Lower your body slowly, bending your elbows and pulling your shoulder blades together.
  • Push through your palms to straighten your arms back to the original position. That’s 1 rep.

2. Push-Up

  • Begin in a high plank with your palms flat on the ground, hands shoulder-width apart, wrists stacked directly above your shoulders, legs fully extended, and your core and glutes squeezed.
  • Bend your elbows to lower yourself to the floor.
  • Push through your palms to straighten your arms back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep. (To challenge yourself, pause for 2-3 seconds when your chest is near the floor.)

3. Dead-Stop Push-Up

  • This move is similar to the regular push-up. Begin in a high plank with your palms flat on the ground, hands shoulder-width apart, wrists stacked directly above your shoulders, legs fully extended, and your core and glutes squeezed.
  • Bend your elbows to lower yourself to the floor.
  • When your chest meets the floor, slightly raise both hands up, so your chest rests on the floor—no need to linger in this position. Put your hands back down, and push up to straighten your arms. That’s 1 rep.

4. Decline Push-Up

  • Place your feet up on a bench or step, then position yourself into a high plank with your palms flat on the floor, hands shoulder-width apart and shoulders stacked above your wrists. Always keep your core and glutes squeezed and engaged.
  • Bend your elbows and lower yourself to the floor (chest doesn’t need to touch the floor).
  • Push up to straighten your arms back to the starting position. That’s 1 rep.

Takeaway

There you go! A few push-up variations to help you master the move. Before you switch gears and get ready to drop down and give them a try, keep in mind that it’s essential to pay attention to the movement’s subtleties. Performing push-ups is not to bounce up and down to the ground and pump yourself until your arms give out. There are essential aspects of the position that you need to keep in mind every time you perform the move.

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