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Proper Push-Up Technique

by
author image Collette Stohler
Collette Stohler is the author of Passport to Fitness. She is also the creative director and co-founder of the travel blog, Roamaroo. She was an All-American Track and Field athlete & Olympic trials qualifier in Olympic Weightlifting. She attended the University of Pennsylvania and received a master's degree from the University of Miami.
Proper Push-Up Technique
Push-ups are one of the most effective upper body movements Photo Credit shironosov/iStock/Getty Images

The push-up is one of the most simple, yet effective upper-body and core exercises. It activates multiple muscles, including the deltoids, pectoral muscles, triceps, core muscles and glutes. With one compound movement, individuals are able to exercise multiple muscle groups. To gain the maximum results, it is imperative to perform this exercise with proper form.

How to Perform a Push-Up

Step 1

Start by placing your hands underneath your shoulders. Your legs should extend straight out behind you, so that the balls of your feet are on the ground.

Step 2

Keep your core tight and your butt squeezed as you lower your body down until your chest touches the ground.

Step 3

Keep your body in a straight line as you push away from the floor and bring your body back up to the starting position.

Read more: What are the Benefits of Push-Ups?

Common Mistakes

While the push-up is a fairly simple movement, there are a few common mistakes to avoid.

Piking

A common mistake in the push-up is raising your butt above your body into a pike position. While this takes some pressure out of your core, you’re not going to get the total benefit of your push-up. When you raise your butt up into the air, you place more pressure on your shoulders.

Dropping Your Stomach

An additional mistake when performing a push-up is dropping your stomach. Keep your stomach tight and your core engaged while performing a push-up in order to protect your lower back.

Not touching the ground

For maximum results, perform the push-up to its full range of motion by lowering yourself all the way to the ground and returning back up to the starting position.

Read More: 10 Push-Up Variations for a Stronger Body

The push-up is one of the best exercises for a full-body workout
The push-up is one of the best exercises for a full-body workout Photo Credit Ibrakovic/iStock/Getty Images

Push-Up Variations

Focus on different muscles by incorporating variations of the traditional push-up into your workout routine.

Incline Push-Up

This variation is just right for beginners. Start by placing your hands on an elevated surface such as a bench. Place your legs straight behind you and your body in a stiff, plank position. Slowly lower your chest to the bench and push back to the starting position. This limited range of motion makes the exercise easier.

Decline Push-Up

A decline push-up will make the traditional push-up more difficult, so it is recommended that only intermediate to advanced athletes perform this. Place your feet on an elevated surface such as a bench and your hands on the ground underneath your shoulders. While keeping your core locked in a tight, plank position, slowly lower your chest down to the ground. Once your chest touches, push the floor away from you as you return to the starting position.

Clapping Push-Up

The clapping push-up is an advanced variation on the traditional push-up. Start with your hands underneath your shoulders and your feet back behind you in a plank position. Lower your chest down to the ground. As soon as your chest touches the ground, explode out of the bottom position so that your hands lift off of the ground and clap in front of your chest. While your feet stay on the ground, your hands return to the ground underneath your shoulders.

Wide-Arm Push-Up

Place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart with your feet back behind you and your legs fully extended. With your body in a plank position, lower your body down until your chest touches the ground. As soon as your chest touches the ground, push your body away from the floor and return to the starting position. With your hands spread wider than shoulder-width, you’ll recruit more pectoral muscle vs. the traditional tricep recruitment.

Diamond Push-Up

The diamond push-up is an advanced move and heavily targets your tricep muscles. Start by placing your hands in a triangle position underneath your chest with your pointer fingers touching above and your thumbs touching. Place your feet behind you, spread wider than a normal push-up to balance your body. Keeping your body in a stiff plank position, lower your body down until your chest touches your hands. As soon as your chest touches your hands, push your body away from the ground and return to the starting position.

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