The Push-Up has been one of the core movements in the fitness industry.
It is often used as a marker of fitness and of upper body strength. What makes the push-up so great is that there are many push-up variations, making it one of the most scalable exercises possible.
Unfortunately, many people perform this exercise incorrectly.
This post is going to change that.
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Okay, let’s get started.
PUSHUP FORM VIDEO
- It strengthens the shoulders, triceps, chest and core muscles
- It teaches how to maintain a stable neutral shoulder position when done correctly
- Requires no equipment, yet can easily be scaled to challenge any person or any level
MUSCLES WORKED DURING THE PUSH-UPS
- Anterior Deltoids
- Upper Back
THE CORRECT PUSH-UP TECHNIQUE
- Squat down and place your knees on the floor
- Place your outstretched arms on the floor in front of you, setting your hands at your shoulder width
- Brace your core and straighten your legs out behind you, so that your lower body is being supported on your toes
- From this position, squeeze your glutes and maintain your core tight
- Before you begin the movement, squeeze your scapula together and maintain this position
- Start the descent by tucking your elbows to a 45-degree angle to your body
- Lower yourself until your chest touches the floor
- Press back up until your elbows are locked out
- Do not change your spinal position
You can find Pushup Progressions and Regressions appropriate to your level in the video below
PUSH-UP PROGRESSION AND PUSH-UP VARIATIONS
COMMON PUSH-UP MISTAKES
LETTING YOUR SPINE SAG
Keep your glutes and your core tight throughout the movement. Keep your spine neutral and do not allow any change from this position.
FLARING YOUR ELBOWS
You should tuck your elbows to approximately a 45-degree angle. Flaring out your elbows (about 90-degrees) is inefficient and can cause shoulder strain
LETTING YOUR SHOULDERS INTERNALLY ROTATE
It is important to retract your scapula and lock your shoulder into an externally rotated position. Allowing your shoulder to rotate internally under load can cause wear and tear of your shoulder joint.
FREQUENTLY ASKED PUSH-UP QUESTIONS
Are Push-Ups Good For You?
Yes! This is one of the best exercises you can perform to develop great upper body strength. It does not matter if you are a novice, an advanced athlete, a male, a female, whatever. This exercise can benefit you tremendously.
Is It Ok To Do Push-Ups Every Day?
I do not recommend that you perform push-ups every day. As with all exercises, you want to take at least a 48 hour break before training the same exercise again. Training them 2-4 times a week is sufficient.
Can Push-Ups Build Muscle?
Yes. Building muscle requires progressive overload, recovery, and adaptation. The push-up is one of the easiest exercises to progressively overload.
You can simply do more repetitions, you can perform a harder variation or you can add external resistance to yourself to make it harder. One of the easiest ways is to add a resistance band around your back like shown in the video above.
I Can’t Do Push-Ups, What Should I Do?
Watch the video above. In it, I show 3 different push-up regressions you can do to achieve your first push-up.
I Have Shoulder Pain When I Do Push-Ups
This is because you are letting your shoulder internally rotate at the bottom of the movement. At the bottom of the exercise, retract your scapula and screw your shoulders back into their sockets. Do your best to maintain this position throughout the exercise.
If you are still experiencing pain, then work on your shoulder and chest mobility.
I Have Wrist Pain When I Do Push-Ups
This is likely due to poor wrist flexibility. Focus on stretching your wrists and forearms and in the meantime, use two dumbbells on the floor when performing push-ups to maintain your wrist in a natural position.
You can also invest in a good pair of wrist wraps.
What Is The Best Push-Up Variation For Chest?
The best push-up for the chest is wide grip push-ups. In this variation, you set your hands wider than shoulder-width and let your elbows flare out closer to 90 degrees.
This variation places the chest on a much greater stretch. However, you can easily strain your tendons with this exercise so it is important to exercise caution. Because of that, I prefer the standard push-up with your elbows tucked at 45 degrees from your body.
What Is The Best Push-Up For Upper Chest?
The decline push-up (with your feet elevated) is the best push-up for the upper chest. This exercise increases the weight you have to lift and changes the angle in which you are pressing to an acute angle. As such, the shoulders and the upper chest do a lot more of the work.
What Is The Best Push-Up For Triceps?
The best push-up for triceps is the close grip push-up. This exercise requires you to tuck your arms completely at your sides to about a 15 degree angle from your body. As such, it emphasizes the arms much more than the chest. See the video above for a demonstration.
When Should I Do Push-Ups With Weight?
If you can successfully do 25 clean repetitions of the standard push-up, then feel free to add some weight. However, you can also perform any of the more difficult variations listed above and continue to use just your body weight.
I Have Seen People Do Push-Ups With A Clap. Is This Necessary?
The clapping push-up is a form of a dynamic push-up that trains your explosive ability. It is an advanced variation and you should first ensure that your standard push-up form is on point. Clapping push-ups aren’t necessary however, they are pretty cool.
Push-Ups Vs Dips: Which Is Better?
Both the push-up and the dip are great exercises to develop upper body strength. Neither one is better, and I recommend that you use both in your training. Keep in mind that they do train similar muscles however, the dip emphasizes the triceps much more than the push-up. As a result, the dip is much harder.
Push-Up Vs Bench: Which is Better?
The push-up is a calisthenic exercise. The bench press is a weight exercise. Calisthenics has its advantages over weights, and weights have their advantages over calisthenics.
- You will engage your core muscles a lot more when you do push-ups
- You will be able to do more repetitions with push-ups
- You can do more variations with push-ups
- You can help rehabilitate upper body injuries with push-ups
- Push-ups don’t require any equipment whatsoever
Now contrast that with the bench press.
Bench Press Advantages:
- You will be able to lift more weight with the bench press
- You will be able to build more muscle mass with the bench press
Because each have their own unique benefits, I recommend that you use both in your training. However, it is important to keep in mind that they both train the same muscle groups, which can affect recovery.
How Can I Do A Push-Up With One Hand?
By getting really strong in a lot of push-up variations. First master the basic push-up. Then get good at close grip push-up. Then get good at decline push-ups. Finally, get good at uneven push-ups, and then lever push-ups.
Once you have mastered all of those exercises, then should you practice 1 handed push-ups.
How Else Can I Make The Push-Up More Difficult?
Aside from all of the variations shown above, you can also perform weighted push-ups. This can be accomplished by wrapping a resistance band around your back, placing a weight plate on your back, or wearing a weight vest.
How Can I Integrate This Exercise Into My Training?
Check out our workout template for busy individuals to learn how to incorporate the push-up and every other functional exercise into your training routine.
Here’s a quick challenge you should strive to achieve. Or, you can check out our push-up standards along with a few others we have created.
Men: Perform 50 repetitions in 1 set
Women: Perform 30 repetitions in 1 set
Alex Robles, MD, CPT / Brittany Robles, MD, MPH, CPT
Alex & Brittany Robles are physicians, NASM Certified Personal Trainers, and founders of The White Coat Trainer: a resource dedicated to improving the health and fitness of busy professionals using time-efficient strategies. Their advice has been featured in My Fitness Pal, Prevention, Livestrong, Reader’s Digest, Bustle, The Active Times, and more. Learn more about them here.