Push-ups are an essential bodyweight exercise that will help you improve your all-round fitness and strength. The classic push-up is a powerful exercise as it employs major muscle groups (chest, triceps, shoulders). It also engages your core for an excellent workout and better posture––pretty impressive for a simple up and down movement.
Though seemingly simple, anyone who has ever tried a push-up knows that they can be quite challenging at first. Here's how to do push-ups, step-by-step, so you master this basic exercise and meet your fitness goals.
How to do push-ups
Maintaining good form in any exercise is essential. Correct form prevents injuries and guarantees that you target the correct muscles. Here’s a breakdown to help you execute a basic push-up correctly:
Begin with hands placed directly under shoulders and feet slightly wider than hip-width distance apart on the floor.
Step legs behind with feet together and toes curled under, then lift hips up and keep chest in front of hands.
Tense every muscle in body to form a straight line from head through to heel, and maintain this line throughout.
Lower chest to touch floor. Always aim to go as low as you can, as to access your full range of motion.
Push palms into the floor and extend arms to press body back up to start position.
Note: The wider you place your hands, the more you’ll work your chest muscles. The closer you place your hands and the tighter your elbows are to your body, the more you’ll work your triceps.
Back to basics
If you’re new to exercising or haven’t trained for a while, a push-up can seem daunting. As with any exercise, there are methods to adapt the movement to make it easier to perform. These adaptations are called “regressions” in the fitness world. Regressions allow you to work the same muscles but train at your own level, so you can gradually build up your strength and progress steadily towards the standard version of the exercise—in this case, a regular push-up.
The elevated push-up pictured below uses a wall or table to support your weight, so you don’t have to hold your body’s entire load, like you do in the horizontal version.
Your core matters
Your core is your powerhouse. The deep-seated muscles of your midsection are important when it comes to stabilizing your movement and creating good posture, so the stronger your core is, the easier it will be to perform a push-up. Your core is what helps maintain a straight and neutral spine, and prevents your hips from sagging when in a push-up position.
Should you find that your core and upper body aren’t strong enough yet to execute a push-up with correct form, then start with a plank to help strengthen these muscles and get you one step closer to the perfect push-up.
Aim to hold the plank for as long as you can, holding it a little bit longer each day. Even a couple of seconds longer every time will make the world of difference.
Take it slow
Whether you’re practicing against a wall or have progressed to the floor, you can improve your strength considerably by slowing down the movement as you lower your chest to the ground. Your muscles will have to work harder under contraction to support your body. My advice is to get as low as you can go and hold the position (in what’s called an isometric hold) as long as you can. Once you feel like you can’t hold it anymore, gather all your power and push back up to your starting position—maintaining a straight back and strong core the entire time. This will strengthen the relevant muscles and help you master that push-up.
Consistency is key
We’ve all heard it before, but practice makes perfect—nowhere is this more relevant than when getting to grips with push-ups. Attempting to train push-ups once in awhile will only result in limited (or no) improvement (likely accompanied by discouragement). If you aim to workout four times a week, you’ll be rocking the perfect push-up sooner than you think.
Working out with 8fit will help you achieve the perfect push-up, as the full-body workouts in the app are designed to train all relevant muscles necessary to perform most foundational exercises. Adapt the difficulty level of your workouts frequently to you keep yourself challenged but more importantly motivated, as you progress and see results.
Remember you can do anything you set your mind to, so let’s get a workout in today and own those push-ups.
Looking for more chest exercises? Try our chest workout at home.