Pushups can be a pain in the neck and shoulders for those who are new to exercise -- literally. The thought of doing pushups may stimulate memories of your middle-school P.E. coach barking in your ear. Doing pushups is achievable and gets easier if you practice the basic forms daily. Beginners can start with the kneeling pushup or incline pushup with hands on an elevated surface before progressing to the standard pushup. Regardless of which form you do, always maintain a neutral spine, which retains its natural curves, and breathe from your belly. Warm up your body by doing dynamic stretches for three to five minutes, such as standing trunk twists, arm circles and retracting your shoulder blades together. Consult your physician before beginning any new exercise program.
Set the height of the squat bar on a squat rack or a Smith machine between two to three feet off the floor. Grab the bar with both hands, and position your chest over the bar with your legs and feet together. Keep your hands beneath your shoulders and your arms straight. Take a few deep breaths with your belly before you start.
Inhale as you lower your body toward the bar until your chest gently touches the bar. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Tighten your buttocks slightly to help maintain your spine and hip alignment so that your hips don't sag toward the floor. Do not extend your neck forward or hunch your shoulders.
Exhale as you push yourself up until your arms are fully extended. Imagine pushing the bar away from you. Do not let your spine sag or twist in any way. Perform two or three sets of five to 10 reps. This is the number of sets and reps that you should work toward.
Kneel on the floor and place your hands on the floor about as wide as your shoulders with your fingers pointing forward. Your knees and feet can be together or slightly apart. Maintain a neutral spine position, and take a few deep breaths from your belly before you start.
Inhale as you lower your body toward the floor until your chest and abs almost touch the floor. Keep your elbows close to your ribs or point them out to your sides. Do not extend your neck forward or hunch your shoulders.
Exhale as you push your body up until your arms are fully extended. Work toward two or three sets of five to 10 reps.