How to Do Push-Ups properly and Make Them More Effective

Jeff Baldelli
Written by
Last update:

How to do push-ups

One of the best exercises you can do, and can easily make a part of your workout routine, is the push-up.

There are two main types of push-ups. There are diamond push-ups, where you place your hands close together, and there are wide-grip push-ups, which are where you push with your hands apart and away from your body.

If you're a beginner, you'll definitely want to start out with wide-grip push-ups because they provide more stability and reduce the impact they have on your joints.

Keep your body flat on the ground.

Keep your hands at a comfortable distance (this is dependent on your own body shape).

Keep a curve in your back to reduce the stress on your spine.

Keep your body tight.

Try to look straight ahead at a wall when doing so, but don't tense your neck muscles.

If you just started working out and do not have much strength, you can do the push-ups in an easier position that is similar to being in a plank position.

If you're feeling stronger, you can try doing them on your knees.

The trick is to do many repetitions to help increase your overall strength. You'll only get stronger as you build your stamina.

Step 1

The military style push-ups also known as a standard or traditional push-up is performed by placing one’s hands on the ground directly beneath the shoulders mounted in a straight-arm position in which the back is completely straight and core is not contracted. The feet are planted on the ground about shoulder width apart with the toes tucked so that the entirety of each foot is firmly planted on the ground. The focus in this exercise should be on tightening the abdominal muscles, however, stabilizing muscles such as the glutes and legs should also be engaged. For optimal results, do not allow the hips to drop below the line of the shoulders. Leaning back will take the pressure off of the core and place it on the lower back, which is incorrect. This is especially important to note when taking part in modified push-ups with an elevated surface or knee push-ups which can sometimes place unnecessary pressure on the spine.

Step 2

Inhale while lowering your body slowly pressing your chest to the ground under control until your arms are straight.

During this lowering phase, contract your abdominal muscles to ensure that you are creating a strong core and maintain the straight-line structure of your upper body while the lower body is free to move slightly.

Step 3

Exhale while pushing against the ground until your arms are straight and you are in the starting position once again.

Step 2

Construct a Plan

Now that you have your objective, it’s time to put a plan in place.

It’s possible that you don’t even know exactly what you’d like to achieve. Thus, the first step is to take stock of your current health. This includes dietary habits, as well as your weight.

The reason that you want to inventory your current situation is so that you can have a realistic goal in mind and ensure that you remain on track. It could be that a simple case of overeating or lack exercise is the main culprit for your recent health problems, in which case a modest goal like just focusing on making healthier food choices would be enough.

On the other hand, it could be that you’ve come to a point where you need to make some serious changes if you’re going to reach your big health-related goals, because you’ve gained some serious weight or because your overall health has declined.

When you weigh yourself, do so very regularly to ensure that you’re making just small gains. Remember, you don’t want to lose a ton of weight all at once, because you’ll break your chain and end up gaining it all back.

Step 3

Breathing

Sit up with your back straight. Bend your knees until your shins touch the floor. Place your hands directly below your shoulders on the floor. Your feet should be on the floor in a line with your hands. Your fingers should be slightly apart, your thumbs touched and your fingers wrapped around each other.

This is the starting position. Inhale as you lower yourself as far as possible by bending your elbows. Exhale as you push yourself back up by straightening your elbows. Complete one push-up.

To modify, keep your knees and hips on the floor as you move through the exercise.

To add more challenge, move to a position where your feet are elevated six to 12 inches above the ground while you perform the exercise. For an even greater challenge, move your feet into the air. If you have a balance issue, place a stable surface beneath those feet.

This can help strengthen your arms, chest, back and shoulders. Anyone who wants a leaner appearance and better results in sports, weight lifting and everyday life can benefit from push-ups.

Push-ups are simple and convenient, and they can be part of an effective exercise plan for anyone interested in improving their fitness level. For a standard push-up, push your body up and down while your arms are straight and your feet are on the floor. Try to avoid sagging or dropping your hips.

How NOT to do push-ups

There are many variations on how you can perform this simple bodyweight exercise. Watch the video below to make sure you are doing them correctly or test yourself with this online push-up test.

How to Do Push-Ups Correctly

Place your hands slightly beyond shoulder width. When you place your hands beyond shoulder width, you are more likely to build your tricep muscles.

Keep your shoulders back. You should slightly arch your back in order to do this.

Get your butt down low. This will ensure your shoulders are actively involved with the movement, thereby more effectively working your chest. Always keep your legs together and locked.

Breathe out forcefully as you lower your body down. When you breathe out, it will not only keep you from holding your breath, but it will also make the exercise more effective as you engage the core.

Keep your elbows close to your body.

Keep Your Head in a Neutral Position

Look down. In fact, you can even place a book on your upper chest and look down at it to make sure your neck is in a neutral position.

Breathe out forcefully as you push up. The more you breathe, the better it is for your body.

Use your core and keep your spine straight throughout the movement.

Piking

What is piking? Piking is another word for body dragging, and it’s one of the easiest ways you can take your push-up training to the next level.

Instead of pushing yourself upward with your arms, you push yourself up with your hips, so your hands stay close to the floor. This is a great way to ensure that your chest and triceps are doing the majority of the work!

Here’s how it works.

Once you’re in push-up position, raise one of your knees and place your foot on the ground. The more stable you are, the easier this will be.

From here, lower yourself down into the push-up position. Once you’re there, raise yourself back up with your arms.

Now, lower yourself back down, and keep lowering yourself until your hands are off the ground. Keep your arms straight. This is the pike position.

Now, return back into the push-up position. Make sure to keep your arms straight.

That’s 1 rep! Take a look at the video below if you want to see it in action.

Dropping your stomach

If you have ever seen a woman in an army uniform, you have seen a person whose body is physically fit for combat. In addition to having a smaller body mass, it is a well-known fact that women have stronger upper body and core strength than men.

The real question here is why do men feel embarrassed if they don’t look fit or they don’t lift heavy weights to test their strength? After all, there are certain things that women cannot do which men are naturally equipped to take care of.

What is the point of looking strong?

If you do not look fit, it does not mean that you are not strong.

To test the strength of a man who has never lifted anything before in his life, all you need to do is hand him a frame which has a certain weight and tell him to lift it off the floor. There is a good chance that it will be easier for him to lift it than you might think. This is because men with six or more pack abs are capable of lifting a heavy load provided they know how to utilise their core and obliques.

So, if you want to feel stronger during push-ups, you need to know how to engage your core. It is a mistake to think that you should only engage your core during a plank position.

Push-Up variations

Are the key to better training.

Push-up variations play a very important role in your training.

As you get stronger or more experienced in the technique, you will realize there is an unlimited number of exercises available that use this basic motion as a foundation.

This approach of using push-ups as a foundation for other exercises has other benefits as well.

Firstly, the most common cause of injury during push-ups is the loss of technique.

As you progress, you will need more variety to challenge and improve your technique.

Second, proper form is an area often neglected by most people.

As your programming evolves, you will find it easier to fix issues like improper wrist alignment, aesthetics, and even technique.

One of the best ways to do advanced push-ups is to mix them together. We’re talking about the X-band push-up and the push-up plus. Even though they both use the push-up as the foundation, they will give you a good chance at fixing some of the issues we mentioned.

Here Are the Best Push-up Variations

  • Wide-grip push-up
  • Diamond push-up
  • Push-up plus
  • X-band push-up

Wide-Arm Push-Up

Starting position: Get in the push-up position, hands facing forwards with your arms as wide as they can comfortably go, creating a wide “V” between your arms and your torso.

Movement: Lower yourself down until your chest is an inch or two above the ground, then push back up to the starting position as you exhale.

Wide-arm push-ups are pretty self-explanatorily. You simply start in the push-up position, but with your arms further apart than in a normal push-up, making a wider base of support. This allows you to work more muscles in your upper body.

This push-up is a lot more difficult than a normal one, so perform fewer repetitions and use a spotter if you’re going to be performing a lot of them.

How to Do Curls Properly and Make Them More Effective

Starting position: Stand with your feet hip-width apart with your arms straight.

Movement: Slowly bend your arms up at the elbow until your hands are shoulder height, then lower yourself back down.

Curls are performed using a dumbbell or a barbell, depending on whether you want to isolate arm muscles or work them with the rest of your body, respectively.

Diamond Push-Up

The diamond push-up is somewhat like a push-up plus. Instead of placing your hands on the ground next to each other, build a diamond shape with your hands, with the top of the hands about two inches apart and your thumbs on the line that divides them.

The diamond is to place your hands in about four inches away from your chest, and your whole body slopes up. This makes the pressure on your shoulders even better and builds even more muscle.

Armed with only a few minutes of your time each day, you can have the body of your dreams without doing an ounce of cardio.

Clapping Push-Up

One of the most common mistakes that people make when doing push-ups is lifting or bending their knees. While you don’t want to keep your knees completely straight and locked very hard, your body should be in a plank position for the most of the push-up.

Lifting or bending your knees during a push-up will also take you out of alignment, and your body will be able to move as a result more easily. In the image on the right, you’ll see that even the leg closest to us doesn’t have to be completely straight because he’s bending his knees to a point where it’s still engaged. Just be sure to keep this entire leg engaged and still so you can do more push-ups and achieve better results.

Modify if Needed

A few people who feel the standard push-up work outs intense or too challenging. If this describes you, try the chair mod.

To do this, you’ll need a chair that’s sturdy and not wobbly. Climb on top of the chair with your knees and hands resting on the seat. The key here is to get your whole body engaged and grounded.

Incline Push-Up

This push-up variation combines two of the benefits that we mentioned earlier. It adds a slight incline to the push-up, which tilts the chest and has the arms doing most of the work.

At the same time, your body needs to stay in a stable position in order to keep the muscles in the belly and the glutes engaged. The more stable you are in the position, the more control you will have over your entire body. That means that your push-up will become even more useful when you need to stabilize your body, such as when you are jogging, playing basketball, or boxing.

This push-up variation also increases the range of motion for the chest muscles, which are the driving force in this exercise.

Where the Push-up Training Comes into Play

With the combined use of the incline push-up and the standard push-up, most of the upper-body muscles are targeted in a safe, effective manner.

The push-up is an amazing exercise for developing strength and endurance in the upper body. It’s an effective way to improve a wide variety of skills you use throughout the day.

Squats

The most common lower-body exercise is the basic squat, which you are probably very familiar with.

Decline Push-Up

A decline push-up is the more advanced version of the traditional floor or wall push-up.

The greater the downward angle, the greater the challenge.

Make sure to keep your back straight and your core and glutes tight to protect your lower back.

Remember to tuck in your chin and keep your butt down on the bench the entire time, and squeeze your glutes at the top to get that v-shape.

Wall Push-up

My go-to way to add in a quick workout and hit some muscle groups I want to use a little extra attention to is to do a wall push-up.

Wall push-ups are a great way to work on the triceps, but they also work the shoulders, chest, and the core as well.

I like to put a towel under the area where my head touches the wall just to make the push-up a little more comfortable.

I also like to switch up my hand placement from time to time so that I can focus on a different area of the triceps.

The closer your hands are together, the harder the exercise is, so it really depends on where you’re at in your strength and conditioning program as to where you want to place your hands.

You can always do a few sets of regular push-ups and then end your workout with a few sets of wall push-ups.