September 21

How to Do the Push-Up — Benefits, Variations, and More

By fitness

September 21, 2022

Push-ups may be one of many few workout routines that most individuals on the planet have carried out (or tried to carry out). Whether it’s as a part of bodily training in class, in a health take a look at, or as a fast and easy approach to get into higher form, many individuals are acquainted with hitting the deck and urgent away.

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The push-up is without doubt one of the most basic body weight workout routines, accessible to anybody, wherever. Its usefulness as a take a look at of higher physique energy and core stability make it a mainstay for bodily health assessments. Unfortunately, lifters typically regard the train as being “too basic” and never difficult sufficient.

Here’s a refresher on why the traditional push-up needs to be a part of your coaching plan, whether or not you’re new to health or a lifelong lifter.

How to Do the Push-Up

The purpose of a push-up is to decrease your self down in the direction of the ground, graze the bottom, after which push again up. Keep in thoughts the phrase “light as a feather, stiff as a board,” from the levitating recreation from traditional children’ sleepovers or traditional ’90s teenage witch motion pictures.

For an environment friendly push-up, your complete physique has to work collectively. It’s not simply “a chest exercise.” All of the muscle mass — out of your head to your toes — are going to work to maintain your physique in a strong and steady place. When your whole muscle mass are working collectively, you’ll be at your strongest and the motion can be at its best.

Step 1 — Begin in a Tall Plank Position

person in gym performing push-up plank
Credit: Morit Summers

Get on the bottom and assist your physique along with your fingers and the balls of your toes. Keep your legs and arms straight. Set your fingers instantly underneath your shoulders, nearly shoulder-width aside. You might have to be a little bit wider relying in your body and arm size.

Squeeze your glutes and tuck your hips towards your stomach button. This will assist maintain your core from sagging. Keep your ribs and hips in alignment. It’s okay in case your again finally ends up barely rounded, as a result of that’s extra steady than having a sagging core.

Form Tip: For elevated higher again stability and a stronger shoulder place, pull your shoulders towards your toes, away out of your ears. For so many workout routines, it’s vital to lock your shoulders into place. Drilling this behavior with the push-up is one efficient approach to study a robust urgent posture.

Step 2 — Pull Yourself to the Ground

person in gym doing push-up
Credit: Morit Summers

Don’t simply drop into the underside place. Think about pulling your self down towards the bottom. You wish to be in complete management of your motion. Squeeze your shoulder blades collectively as you decrease your self towards the ground. Maintain a “stiff as a board” plank place out of your torso by your legs.

As your physique descends, purpose your elbows at roughly 45-degrees between your toes and shoulders. Feel muscular stress growing in your chest, shoulders, and triceps as you method the underside place. Lower your self so far as your mobility permits, with the purpose of touching the ground.

Form Tip: Don’t enable your elbows to flare out as you decrease your self as a result of it could actually improve stress in your shoulder joints. You might must regulate your hand place to permit correct elbow monitoring. If your fingers are pointed in the direction of one another, your elbows can be extra more likely to aptitude. Position your fingers along with your fingers pointed straight forward or barely outward.

Step 3 — Press to Return to the Top Position

person in gym doing push-up on floor
Credit: Morit Summers

Once you graze the bottom along with your chest, or attain your lowest doable depth, push by your fingers and toes to deliver your physique away from the bottom. Keep your legs straight, however use the muscular stress saved head-to-toe to make your physique “light as a feather.”

Apply regular pressure till your arms are absolutely locked and also you’ve returned to the beginning place. Pause briefly within the tall plank place and re-engage your core earlier than starting the following repetition.

Form Tip: You can change the tempo (rep pace) to regulate the problem of the train. Moving at a slower tempo will improve the overall time underneath stress and improve muscle recruitment, which may improve the muscle-building stimulus. (1)(2)

Push-Up Mistakes to Avoid

There are many alternative errors that may occur in a push-up as a result of the motion includes coordinating your total physique from head to toe. However, the most typical errors normally happen at your arms and in your core. Here’s what to be careful for.

Elbows Flaring Out

One frequent mistake is permitting your elbows to flare out in the course of the train. For higher outcomes with much less joint stress, you should definitely maintain your elbows at about 45-degrees. Don’t enable them to level sideways towards the partitions.

person doing push-ups on grass
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Your elbow place can fluctuate barely relying in your particular person arm size and leverages, however letting your elbows unfold out towards your shoulders shifts extra pressure to your shoulder and elbow joints.

Avoid It: When you set as much as start the train, lock your shoulders into place by “un-shrugging” and pulling them away out of your ears. When your elbows flare, it could actually drive your shoulders up towards your ears. By securing sturdy shoulders, your shoulders assist to maintain your elbows in place. Also pay attention to sustaining this sturdy shoulder place as you start pushing from the underside of the motion.

Sagging Core

Another main mistake is your core sagging down towards the ground. Instead of falling out of core alignment, maintain your rib cage and hips stacked evenly. This is similar absolutely engaged place you want throughout many standing workout routines, just like the overhead press.

person doing push-ups at home using handles
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When your core sags down and breaks the steady plank place, it’s an indicator that you’re not holding stress in your core. With this unstable place, the remainder of the motion can be out of alignment. It additionally places undesirable strain in your backbone, which may probably result in damage.

Avoid it: Many folks have been advised too many occasions that their butts are “too high in the air” whereas doing planks, so that they attempt to compensate and the alternative happens — they find yourself sagging to the bottom.

It could be simpler to have your butt “too high” while you're gaining energy with the motion, reasonably than have your core sag down and compromise spinal stability. Tuck your pelvis and rib cage towards your stomach button, as if doing a primary crunch. Hold this sturdy core place as you deal with decreasing your physique as one unit. 

Benefits of the Push-Up

Push-ups have a number of advantages together with basic muscular energy, muscular endurance, core stability, and longevity. Here’s a better take a look at why it is best to work on this easy and efficient body weight motion. 

Upper Body Strength

Push-ups are one of the crucial full higher physique, body weight workout routines you are able to do. Without needing any coaching tools in anyway, you may problem your chest, shoulder, and triceps muscle mass, in addition to your core and hips.

person at home doing push-ups on mat
Credit: antoniodiaz / Shutterstock

Your legs, and even your again muscle mass, are additionally recruited as stabilizers to manage your physique’s motion in the course of the train.


Push-ups can construct muscular measurement, endurance, or basic energy. Each purpose might contain completely different volumes (units and reps) or depth methods, however the push-up is a fast and efficient possibility to coach for almost any purpose with none coaching tools.

Relative Strength

The push-up is an environment friendly approach to construct, keep, or monitor relative energy — being “strong for your size” or having a excessive diploma of purposeful energy. Because it requires you to raise your body weight, the push-up may help to make sure or monitor relative energy features as you construct muscle. This might also be one cause why push-up capability has been related to basic cardiovascular well being. (3)

Muscles Worked by the Push-Up

Push-ups are mostly identified for working the pectoralis muscle mass (your chest), however push-ups work a number of different muscle mass all through the physique.

Pectoralis Major and Pec Minor

The pec main is the first “chest muscle” and it's accountable for pulling the arms towards the physique’s centerline. The consists of two separate heads — the sternocostal and the clavicular — which work collectively throughout most actions.

shirtless person performing push-ups outdoors
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The pectoralis minor is a supportive, stabilizing muscle positioned beneath the pec main. It performs a job in joint stability and is closely recruited because the shoulder blades transfer in the course of the train. The pec muscle mass are stretched as you descend towards the bottom they usually strongly contract as you push up from the ground.


The serratus are discovered alongside your ribs, typically thought-about “armpit muscles” as a result of they run close to your underarm. This stabilizer muscle aids in preserving your shoulders and scapula in a robust, locked-in place as your arms press and lengthen throughout push-ups. They are considerably recruited as your method lockout on the prime of every repetition.

Triceps Brachii

Your triceps are manufactured from three separate heads — the lateral, the lengthy, and the medial. Because the triceps are accountable for straightening your arms on the elbow joint, they're recruited throughout all urgent workout routines, together with the push-up.

The triceps are extra considerably activated in case you carry out a comparatively close-grip push-up, versus utilizing a shoulder-width or higher hand place, which recruits extra pec muscle. (4)

Anterior Deltoid

These muscle mass are discovered on the entrance of your shoulders. The anterior deltoids assist to manage arm motion in entrance of your physique. During push-ups, the muscle mass lengthen as they assist in controlling your descent. They contract once you apply pressure to the highest of the motion. 


Your abdominals, working alongside the entrance of your torso, act as a brace and supply higher physique energy and assist at the side of your hips and decrease again. The abs are recruited to take care of a steady and environment friendly total-body urgent place. They usually are not put by any vital vary of movement throughout push-ups. They work statically, holding one place from begin to end.

Who Should Do the Push-Up

Push-ups are for everybody — from bodybuilders and energy athletes to the final inhabitants who simply need to have the ability to raise their children. The simplicity and flexibility of the push-up make it an helpful train for almost all of individuals within the health club.

Bodybuilders and Physique-Focused Lifters

While the push-up might not supply comparatively heavy hundreds, except you add a weighted vest or different exterior resistance, its comfort and practicality make it an efficient selection for supersets throughout a chest exercise — instantly performing a set of push-ups after a set of dumbbell flyes, for instance.

This is an easy approach to improve complete coaching quantity and depth throughout a exercise, which may result in improved muscle progress.

Strength Athletes

Lifters who constantly transfer heavy hundreds with barbell or dumbbell workout routines can obtain comparable strength-building advantages from push-ups carried out with added resistance. (5)(6) This permits load-focused lifters to extend their energy whereas lowering put on and tear on their shoulders and elbows from repetitive workout routines.

General Trainees

Because push-ups are a basic body weight train, they're a superb approach to construct purposeful, real-world energy with fast, environment friendly coaching. (7) The skill to carry out push-ups wherever there’s room on the bottom (any room of the home, for instance) makes it a really perfect train for individuals who discover it troublesome to schedule constant health club time.

How to Program the Push-Up

The fantastic thing about body weight actions is that the vary of quantity (units and reps) and depth may be very broad. The quantity and depth is dependent upon your objectives and skill.  If you might be extra superior, you may both do extra quantity or you can also make the push-up tougher. If you’re nonetheless studying the motion, deal with racking up high quality repetitions as an alternative of pushing your limits.

Unweighted, Low Repetition

When you’re first studying the push-up and establishing primary energy within the motion, you don’t must do a ton of repetitions as a result of your kind will begin to break down from fatigue. Three to 4 units of 4 to 6 reps is an efficient place to begin.

You’ll profit from performing a couple of strong repetitions with excellent method to create good motion patterns, and slowly growing the quantity.

Unweighted, High Repetition

High-repetition coaching may be an efficient approach to construct muscle with out placing your joints underneath any vital load. (8) Once you’ve mastered push-up method, aiming to succeed in muscular fatigue for two to a few units of 25 or extra repetitions generally is a distinctive muscle-building stimulus for the chest, shoulders, and triceps.

In this high-rep vary, your abdominals are additionally considerably challenged from holding the static assist place during every set.

Weighted, Moderate Repetition

Advanced lifters, particularly, can profit from including resistance with a weighted vest, loaded backpack, or different different, and performing three to 4 units of 10 to fifteen repetitions. This is a time-tested method, much like conventional weight coaching, which challenges the muscle mass with vital time underneath stress to advertise muscle progress.

Push-Up Variations

The fantastic thing about push-ups is the extremely lengthy listing of variations, which make push-ups appropriate for nearly everybody. Understanding the flexibility to regress, progress, or simply produce other choices accessible will enable you have the ability to study push-ups or incorporate them into your present program.

Incline Push-Up

Incline push-ups permit you to do a full vary of movement push-up utilizing a “decreased” physique weight since you shift the leverage.

person doing push-ups with hands on bench
Credit: Morit Summers

While incline push-ups are a regression (simpler model) of the usual push-up, it could actually nonetheless be progressed by regularly decreasing the peak you employ. You can begin by leaning on a wall at a really excessive, almost upright, angle and slowly progress your approach to the ground.

person doing push-up in gym with hands on bench
Credit: Morit Summers

At dwelling, you should use sturdy counter tops, couches, or stairs to regulate your incline over time. At the health club, utilizing a flat bench is an easy answer. A Smith machine can also be a superb approach to make the train incrementally tougher as you slowly transfer the bar down the rack towards the ground.

Negative Push-Up

Negative push-ups are one other efficient favourite as a result of, not solely are they nice for novices, however they will additionally present a improbable problem for extra superior lifters.

person doing push-up on gym floor
Credit: Morit Summers

A “negative push-up,” merely implies that you solely deal with performing a sluggish, managed descent (eccentric, or unfavorable, part) with out making an attempt to press your self as much as the beginning place. You can “cheat” your self again to the highest by kneeling and resetting between every rep.

Person in gym doing push-up on knees
Credit: Morit Summers

Advanced lifters, nonetheless, can add a regular-speed press to the highest place or carry out a press utilizing the identical sluggish tempo for an elevated problem.

Negative push-ups assist to study management of the motion, they assist to work on core stability and energy. Take no less than 5 seconds to finish the unfavorable part of the repetition. The longer it takes, the tougher it is going to be, which in flip helps to construct higher physique energy. When utilizing a slower sluggish pace, merely deal with utilizing correct kind with full core engagement and stability.

Single-Leg Push-Up

If you wish to make push-ups tougher with out throwing weights in your again, simply take away a limb out of your base of assist. By preserving one leg raised within the air all through the train, you’re focusing your core to interact much more drastically to stabilize your total physique by your hips and dealing leg. Alternate the raised leg with every set to make sure balanced energy growth.

Once you’ve mastered single-leg push-ups, maintain each legs on the bottom and work on single-arm push-ups — arguably one of the crucial superior body weight workout routines. If/when the time comes that single-arm push-ups aren’t powerful, it’s time for single-arm/single-leg push-ups. Really. Lift your proper arm and left foot off the bottom, carry out reps, then swap sides.

Push-Up Alternatives

Some lifters nonetheless won't be prepared for push-ups. Maybe they dwell the place there’s no floor to press from. Who is aware of? Let’s discuss different workout routines that work muscle mass equally to a push-up.


Dips are proper on the prime of the listing with push-ups, so far as body weight chest workout routines go. In comparability to push-ups, dips are sometimes tougher as a result of you may’t push by the ground along with your legs. It’s additionally a barely extra “vertical” physique place, making you raise a better proportion of your body weight. To make dips extra accessible to a broader vary of the inhabitants, the train usually must be modified. 

person in gym doing dip on flat bench
Credit: Morit Summers

Bench dips, utilizing a flat bench or sturdy chair, allow you to brace your legs much like performing incline push-ups. It will assist to lower the quantity of your physique weight getting used, however the altered physique angle will emphasize your triceps greater than your chest.

person in gym doing dips on bench
Credit: Morit Summers

Performing dips with resistance bands is a really efficient approach to scale back the share of physique weight you raise in the course of the motion, permitting you to progress regularly. Dips do require a better diploma of higher again mobility and shoulder joint stability, so take your time progressing the motion and all the time work inside a managed vary of movement.

Dumbbell Chest Press

The dumbbell chest press is a free weight different to the push-up. This primary train challenges the entire similar muscle mass — chest, shoulders, and triceps — with the easy development of added weight.

person in gym performing dumbbell bench press
Credit: Morit Summers

The train is adaptable and may be carried out on a flat, incline, or decline bench. Dumbbells additionally enable the wrists to rotate freely, which may regulate hand place for altered muscle recruitment or elevated consolation on the wrists and elbows.

person doing flat dumbbell bench press
Credit: Morit Summers

You may even do dumbbell presses whereas mendacity on the ground to restrict the vary of movement, scale back shoulder pressure, and improve triceps recruitment.

Bench Press

The large, primary, barbell bench press may be the most well-liked higher physique train round. It’s a really efficient different to the push-up and permits using probably heavy weights.

person in gym doing flat bench press
Credit: Morit Summers

This staple train may be tailored, just like the dumbbell variation, with a number of angles and adjusted ranges of movement (like mendacity on the ground as an alternative of a bench).

person in gym doing barbell bench press
Credit: Morit Summers

Many folks soar to the barbell bench press as one of many first workout routines they carry out within the health club. But in the event that they’ve ever practices push-ups at dwelling, they’ve ready themselves for the bench press with out even realizing it.


Why are push-ups so onerous?

Push-ups problem the entire physique and require coordination and energy from head to toe — out of your higher again and neck throughout your torso by your legs and into the bottom.

Push-ups are onerous for many individuals as a result of it requires lifting your physique weight off of the ground utilizing the direct energy of your chest and arms, which are sometimes undertrained, particularly in novices. With time, apply, and inevitable energy features, the train can begin to really feel simpler, extra managed, and far more pure.

Can I do push-ups on daily basis?

The easy reply is: Yes. The extra sophisticated reply is: Yes, however… don’t neglect to hearken to your physique and relaxation your muscle mass as wanted. When you’re simply beginning to discover ways to do push-ups, performing 5 to 10 reps a day may help to construct good patterns.

You may even do very low-rep units a number of occasions all through the day to profit from “greasing the groove,” or constructing energy and method with excessive frequency coaching.

However you have to just be sure you don’t practice on daily basis with excessive depth and also you don’t practice to muscular failure. You must relaxation the muscle mass and permit them to recuperate so that you just don’t overtrain.

Get Pushin’ with the Push-Up

Everyone can do push-ups, wherever, anytime. From younger lifters to aggressive athletes to aged adults, push-ups may help to maintain your coaching plan handy and accessible so your physique stays sturdy. You’re by no means too sturdy, too skilled, or too new to hit the deck and gimme 20. Or 10. Or even 5 excellent reps.


  1. Burd, N. A., Andrews, R. J., West, D. W., Little, J. P., Cochran, A. J., Hector, A. J., Cashaback, J. G., Gibala, M. J., Potvin, J. R., Baker, S. Ok., & Phillips, S. M. (2012). Muscle time underneath stress throughout resistance train stimulates differential muscle protein sub-fractional artificial responses in males. The Journal of physiology, 590(2), 351–362.
  2. Hsu, Hsiu-Hao & Chou, You-Li & Huang, Yen-Po & Huang, Ming-Jer & Lou, Shu-Zon & Pei, Paul & Chou, Hsi. (2011). Effect of Push-up Speed on Upper Extremity Training till Fatigue. Journal of Medical and Biological Engineering. 31. 10.5405/jmbe.844. 
  3. Yang J, Christophi CA, Farioli A, et al. Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. JAMA Netw Open. 2019;2(2):e188341. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.8341
  4. Kim, Y. S., Kim, D. Y., & Ha, M. S. (2016). Effect of the push-up train at completely different palmar width on muscle actions. Journal of bodily remedy science, 28(2), 446–449.
  5. Calatayud, J., Borreani, S., Colado, J. C., Martin, F., Tella, V., & Andersen, L. L. (2015). Bench press and push-up at comparable ranges of muscle exercise ends in related energy features. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 29(1), 246–253.
  6. Kotarsky, C. J., Christensen, B. Ok., Miller, J. S., & Hackney, Ok. J. (2018). Effect of Progressive Calisthenic Push-up Training on Muscle Strength and Thickness. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 32(3), 651–659.
  7. Harrison, Jeffrey. (2010). Bodyweight Training: A Return To Basics. Strength & Conditioning Journal. 32. 52-55. 10.1519/SSC.0b013e3181d5575c. 
  8. Schoenfeld, B. J., Peterson, M. D., Ogborn, D., Contreras, B., & Sonmez, G. T. (2015). Effects of Low- vs. High-Load Resistance Training on Muscle Strength and Hypertrophy in Well-Trained Men. Journal of energy and conditioning analysis, 29(10), 2954–2963.

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