You CAN Do A Perfect Push-Up! Here's How

Written by Chris Freytag

As a group fitness instructor, telling my classes it's time for push-ups sometimes results in a collective groan. Push-ups aren’t easy, but they are powerful.

They're a good indicator of overall strength and as we age, we lose about a half pound of muscle a year (after the age of 35) if we aren’t actively replacing it. So at the very least, push-ups will help you maintain muscle and strength.

Not only do they work your upper body (chest, arms and shoulders), but done correctly, they also strengthen your core, butt and quadriceps. With a push-up plan, you can build strength, track your progress and increase the number of reps you are able to do, even if you can only do one today.

Plus, you can do push-ups anywhere — all you need is your own body weight!

How To Have Great Push-Up Form

To prevent injury and ensure you work your muscles effectively, technique is important.

Place your feet and hands in the correct position: For a traditional push-up, your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hands facing forward. Your feet should be directly behind you, slightly apart. You can keep your feet further apart for increased stability until you get comfortable putting them closer together.

Think plank position when doing push-ups: To have the right technique, you want your body to be like a straight line or plank — no butt up in the air and no dropped or cranked back head. Aim for a straight line from the top of your head down through your heels. Engage your abs (photo above, left).

Slowly lower your body: With your arms straight, glutes and abs contracted, lower your body slowly toward the ground. Aim to keep your core body steady and don’t sag through your low back. (Remember to keep your butt down!)

Use a full range of motion: Make sure you go all the way down so your chest is near the ground or your arms are at an approximate 90-degree angle. Keep your body aligned and make sure your butt isn't up in the air (photo below, left).

Only do as many as you can while keeping good form: If your form starts to slip, it’s time to stop. Each day you can try to add one more push-up to your routine and work up to doing more. Set a goal for yourself. If you can only do one now, set a goal and work your way up to doing a set of 10.

How To Work Your Way Up To A Full Push-Up

If you’ve never tried push-ups before or if doing just one is a challenge for you, that’s OK! Remember, push-ups aren’t easy, so work up to doing a full one. Start with wall push-ups and once you have those mastered, move on to elevated push-ups and once those are a snap, move on to modified push-ups. Here’s how!

Step One: Wall Push-Ups

Set your hands on a wall at a width that’s wider than shoulder-width apart. Walk backward with your feet away from the wall until your arms are fully extended.

Lean into the wall and keep the rest of your body in a straight line. Lower yourself toward the wall until your nose almost touches the wall, and push back up to the starting position.

Add a few repetitions each day for a week or two. Once you are up to 50 in a row with good form, move to the elevated push up.

Step Two: Elevated Push-Ups

Place your hands onto a sturdy table, chair or bench. If you start out with something as tall as a kitchen table, try to decrease the incline every few days and move down to a chair or a step. Follow the regular push-up form (on your inclined surface) and do as many in a row as you can with good form.

Practice for a week or two adding a few reps each time. Once you can do 30-50 elevated push-ups, progress to the modified push-up.

Step Three: Modified Push-Ups

Begin with hands on the floor, wrists below your shoulders, glutes and abs engaged, knees on floor. Do a full range of motion with your chest coming down to the floor and then push back up.

Add a few modified push-ups every day and once you are up to doing at least 30-50 in a day, you are ready for full push-ups on your toes.

Are you a newbie? Try this push-up challenge: For one month straight, add one push-up a day. Start Day 1 with 1 push-up. By day 30, you should try for 30 push-ups in a row. If you are modifying, that’s OK, just also add the challenge of working up to your toes. Record your progress on a calendar or make a chart.

Dare I say you will soon be on your way to the groan-free push-up zone? With this plan, you will be truly impressed with your progress and how you can significantly build up your own strength.

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