Push Up

How to do a Push Up

The Push Up is one of the most common exercises on the planet.

Exercise Description

This simple-seeming drill is extremely functional for building upper body and core strength while also reinforcing spinal alignment and good posture.


Exercise Specs

Ability Focus Strength
Implement None
Body Focus Upper/Core

Exercise Steps

  • STEP 1: Get on all fours on the ground. While still on your knees, place both hands in front of you, shoulder width apart. Your palms should be flat with your middle fingers pointing directly in front of you. Try to line up the joints of your arms; your shoulders should be stacked over your elbows and your elbows over your wrists.
  • STEP 2: Step back into the Plank position. Your feet should be closer than shoulder-width apart. Your goal is to create a perfect triangle from your shoulder to your heels to your wrists.
  • STEP 3: Maintaining the same body position, begin dropping your sternum towards the ground by bending your elbows. Your upper arms should be out 45 degrees from your body (if someone was looking at you from overhead, your body should look like an arrow) as you descend.
  • STEP 4: Once you get within 3 to 4 inches of the ground, stop (this is approximately the height of a closed fist). Push away from the ground, keeping your elbows from getting too far from your body. Once your arms are completely locked out, stop and begin descending again.

Exercise Cues

  • Neutral Spine
  • Shoulders Tucked
  • Avoid Shoulder Shrugging
  • Upper Arms at 45 Degrees From Body

Exercise Tips and Safety

When starting this exercise, especially if you are new to fitness, the most common error is cocking your elbows out to far. If you find that your elbows are in line with your shoulders at the bottom of the rep, you need to bring them closer to your sides. You are shrugging your shoulders and putting your shoulder joint at risk.

Another common mistake in this exercise is the extending/arching of the lower back. This effectively disengages the abdominals and puts additional pressure on your back. Basically, if you don’t feel your abdominals working, you are probably arching your lower back. In order to counter this, try to suck in your belly button towards your spine and tuck your pelvis under your body.

If you have wrist mobility issues or injuries, you can either rotate your hands in slightly creating an imaginary triangle with your thumbs and forefingers. You can also drop onto your elbows if necessary, but try to avoid this position if possible; the benefits gained are not as transferrable to other exercises as the variation proposed here.

Another common mistake is the dropping of the chin towards the ground. This brings the spine out of alignment and could lead to discomfort. Remember to keep your chin tucked to avoid this, especially during long durations.

An easy way to make this exercise easier is by spreading the feet apart. The wider the feet are apart, the more stability will be generated. Conversely, to make it more difficult keep your feet together or try it on a single foot to further degrade stability.


Mark de Grasse

Mark de Grasse is the owner and editor of WOMO Magazine. He's also the former Chief Fitness Officer of Onnit Labs, former owner and founder of My Mad Methods Magazine, and a fitness business consultant for hundreds of online brands. MarkdeGrasse.com

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