How to do a push up properly (the ultimate guide).

How to do a push up properly (the ultimate guide).
  • PublishedMay 18, 2020

Push-ups have stood the test of time and perhaps one of the best ways to strengthen your upper body especially the core. But do you know how to do a push-up properly? In most activities such as running, walking, and cycling, the upper body mostly the upper body is worked. Therefore strengthening the upper body, especially the core, is very important.

Push-ups can strengthen the upper body (chest, arm, and shoulder muscles) to increase muscular endurance, and when you perform them properly, it can challenge the entire body hence improving your overall physical performance. 

With Push-ups, you don’t need any equipment. What you need is your body weight, arms, and space. Although push-ups are simple and can be done anywhere, it is an exercise that 95% of us surprisingly get wrong and perform it incorrectly. When you complete reading this guide, you will know how to do a push-up properly.

To perform a push-up, one has to get in a proper push-up position or form. Below is a proper push-up position you have to assume before you kick start push-ups.

What does a proper push-up look like? /standard push-up form/push-up position

To help you paint a picture of a proper push-up, I think you should look at a push-up as a moving plank.

  • The correct setup of a proper push-up is to position your hands shoulder-width apart, or slightly wider.
  • Your palm should be flat on the ground and middle finger pointing towards 12 o’clock. 
  • The elbows should make a 45-degree angle to the body as you lower towards the ground. This is the standard push up form

However, the angle of the elbows to the body and the width of the arms can be varied to a position you are most comfortable with depending on your shoulder mobility.

Keep your core engaged and the back flat such that your body is in a straight line from the head top to the heels. This makes the push-up easier to perform.

How to do a push up properly

Image by Keifit from Pixabay

After assuming a proper push-up position, here is how to do a push-up properly.

  1. In a high plank position with palms slightly wider than the shoulder-width apart, palms pressing into the floor and feet together. Engage quads and core as if holding a plank.
  2. Slowly bend the elbows backward at 45-degree to lower the entire body toward the floor. Pause with the chest just below the elbow height. 
  3. Exhale and press into palms to push the body away from the floor to return to starting position, moving hips and shoulders at the same time.
  4. Repeat the above steps for as many times as you can afford.

Here are the common mistakes you should avoid when performing the push-ups

  • Don’t let the hips or lower back to sag below the line or pike above the line. None of this is proper. Always keep the hips in line with the head and heels. 
  • Don’t allow the elbows to flare up. Many start in a proper position but as they reach the floor, they let the shoulders creep out. This is not right.
  • Don’t lift the head. Keep the neck neutral and extended a bit forward on the ground.

How far down the floor should one go? /the range of motion

In general, the range of motion will vary from one person to another depending on your goal as well as your shoulder stability and strength.

The point here is to maintain a pain-free range of motion so that you remain in full control of the push-up on each rep. that you make. This makes your muscles work harder and also protect your shoulders from external rotation.

While other people can lower up to the floor, other people’s shoulders may not accommodate this. It puts the shoulders in an unstable position leading to injuries.

What muscles do push-ups target?

For the case of standard push-ups, the muscles targeted include;

  • Chest muscles
  • Shoulder muscles
  • Triceps
  • Abs
  • Serratus anterior

How do I start push-ups from scratch?

If you’re a beginner, you may not straight away jump to the standard push-ups. Start from simpler push-up movements and when you have mastered them, you can gradually upgrade to the standard push-up moves.

Some of the easier push moves you can begin with include; wall push-ups, knee push-ups, elevated push-ups, and regular push-ups.

How to do a wall push-up

Stand straight in front of the wall.

Set the hands on the wall but shoulder-width apart

Walk backward with your feet until your weight is supported by hands against the wall

Keeping the body in a straight line, slowly lower yourself towards the wall until the nose touches the wall.

Press through the wall and push back to the original position. Pause and repeat.

Elevated push-ups

These are push-ups but on an elevated surface just like the name suggests. 

Place the hands on to an elevated block a few inches from the ground shoulder-width apart.

With the rest of your body straight, slowly lower your body until the nose touches the elevated surface

Press through the elevated surface and push the body back to the original position.

Knee push-ups

This is like a regular push-up but instead, the body is supported by the hands and the knees not your feet 

What are other types of push-ups?

There are dozens of variations in push-ups that make the task more challenging. The more the challenge the more endurance you develop.  The types of push-ups include;

1. One-legged push-ups

This is a push-up where one leg is removed and the rest of the body is supported or balanced by the two arms and one leg.

2. Side-to-side push-ups

To perform this, get into a push-up position with the hands farther apart

Lower your body down towards one arm only. While in this position, you should feel that you are supporting most of your weight. 

Slide horizontally to the other arm, and then push-up. 

3. Decline push-ups

This is a variation in the normal push-up whereby the feet are elevated a few inches above the ground. Decline push-ups work your shoulders and the triceps.

4. Diamond push-ups

To perform this push-up, bring your arms together and rotate the hands outwards. 

Keep your elbows tight and lower your body 

Push through your palms and raise your body back to the start position

This push-up works more on your triceps.

5. Handstand push-ups

Kick up against a wall, and support your entire body on your arms

Slowly lower yourself down until your head touches the ground softly.

Then raise yourself back up.

How to get better at push-ups

Having looked at how to do a push-up properly, we now move on to perfection. We want to know how we can get better at various types of push-ups.  Below are tips that can help you along your journey to better push-ups

  1. Get a healthy weight. This will make your push-ups easier since you now have to deal with a lighter weight than before. Do you have trouble losing weight; here is our article about exercises for weight loss. This article brings you a series of exercises that help you lose weight safely and successfully. Take a quick read here. Take a quick read here.
  2. Do not overdo push-ups. It is not advisable to do a push-up on consecutive days. Your muscles need time to recover before the next session of push-ups. You can take off at least 48 hours between the push-ups.    
  3. Rebuild your muscles with plenty of proteins.  The same muscles will be stronger than before. Here is our article about high protein foods for building muscles.
  4. If you can do a good number of push-up reps, it’s high time you went for more challenging variations.
  5. Exercise your core using planks. This will strengthen your core and with time, you will find push-ups the easiest and least challenging

What are the benefits of doing push-ups?

1. Upper body strength

when you learn how to do a push-up properly, you will work most of the upper body muscles such as the triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders. This improves upper body strength.

2.  Versatile

They are versatile in the sense that they can be done anywhere and they have various types. You can choose what is manageable for yourself. They also need no equipment to be performed. 

3. Push-ups aid weight loss

Since push-up targets most body muscles, this implies that more calories are burnt on a particular push-up. This is essential for weight loss since the more calories you burn, the closer you get to your weight loss goals.

4. Help lower back injuries

The back supports every movement of your body. Push-ups involve the entire torso to stabilize its movements. This strengthens the back and reduces the risks of injuries.

5. Push-ups cost less

While you pay entry fees at most world-class gyms, push-ups don’t require money or any piece of equipment. All you need is your body weight and open flat ground.

6. Push-ups save time

The most common excuse people give for not exercising is lack of time. With push-ups, you can do any number of reps you can afford at any given time at a given place of convenience. This saves time running around looking for the gym.

7. Improve your posture

Improper posture can destroy your health and comfort as you grow up. You properly execute push-ups; the muscles responsible for supporting your posture are strengthened and fine-tuned making you lean toward a proper posture.

8. Enhance the cardiovascular system

Since push-ups involve large groups of muscles, the heart works harder to provide enough oxygenated blood to muscle tissues. This results in effective cardiovascular systems

Are there any risks of doing push-ups every day?

1. Plateauing

When you do push-ups every day, at some point, your body and muscles will get used and soon the push-ups will be less challenging and useless. This is what we call a plateau where you no longer benefit from your workouts.

2. Injuries

To avoid injuries during push-ups, you have to know how to do a push-up properly. A common example is the external rotations of the shoulders.

Bottom line

Push-ups are one of the most effective ways to strengthen your core and upper body muscles; though it appears challenging to most people. 

In case you find it hard to work with this exercise regimen, try another exercise like resistance band exercises that can work your core and upper body muscles.


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