Love them or hate them, push-ups are one of the most effective exercises to build a stronger upper body. You don’t need any equipment and you can do it anywhere. Also, there are many push-up variants so you can target different support muscles.
A push-up is usually done by lying face down, then raising and lowering your upper body using your arms only. This will primarily target your pectoral muscles (chest) and triceps but will benefit your deltoids, coracobrachialis (deep muscles of the chest and front of the arm), serratus anterior (muscles on the side of the ribs), and your core section too.
7 Steps to a Perfect Push-Up
1. Set yourself on the ground face-down with your hands positioned slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
2. Keep your feet together, toes touching the ground.
3. Keep your body in a straight line, from the top of your head down through to your heels. Do not let your butt sag down or stick up in the air – clench your butt and tighten your abs. This keeps your core engaged and helps to keep your body in a straight line.
5. Slowly lower yourself until your chest just touches the ground, this stretches the pectoral muscles. As a beginner you may not be able to get down so low, in this case lower until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle, and progress lower over time.
6. With your chest touching the floor (or as low as you can go), pause, then explode back up until you’re back in the starting position and make sure to squeeze the chest at this top position – very important.
7. That is one rep! Aim for as many reps as you can with good form. That is one set. Starting with 3 sets is a good guide. With every training session try to improve on the number of reps per set with good form.
3 Push-Up Alternatives for Beginners
1. Wide grip push-up
This variation is more challenging than the standard push-up because you’ll have less leverage to help push yourself up. Make sure you are comfortable with the standard push-up before trying this.
2. Diamond push-ups
This is done by placing your hands close together under your chest muscle group (put your index fingers and thumbs together, making a diamond shape with your hands). This variation engages your secondary muscles triceps, as well as the primary movers (pecs). It can also put a lot of pressure on your wrists and elbows so only try it once you have mastered the standard push-up.
3. Triceps push-ups
In this variation you must keep your arms tucked to your side, rotate your hands outward slightly, and keep your elbows steady as you lower your body down. This targets your triceps even more than the diamond push-up.
Done with all those moves and want a bigger challenge? Try this advanced push-up:
This variation really targets your serratus anterior (the muscle that originates on the surface of the ribs at the side of the chest and inserts along the entire anterior length of the medial border of the scapula). It can also be used as a warm-up drill.
1. Get into the downward dog position. You can bend your knees to lessen the pressure on your back.
2. Keep your elbows straight and sink your shoulder blades a few inches.
3. Push your shoulder blades as high as possible.
4. That’s one repetition.
Watch out for these 5 mistakes that you might be making during push-ups
1. Internally Rotated Hand Position
Hands should be placed straight with fingers pointing forward. Placing your hands pointing inside can cause extra strain on the wrists and elbows.
2. Flared Elbows
Internally rotating your hands may sometimes cause your elbows to point outwards, placing more stress on the elbow joints.
3. Poor Head Position
Pointing your head too far up or too far down places extra stress on the neck and puts the shoulder out of position and can lead to injury. Keep the head in a neutral position for proper alignment
4. Unstable Pelvis and Core
To keep the pelvis and hips in proper alignment and stable, the glutes must be squeezed. Tighten your core and squeeze your glutes hard to create active tension in your midsection.
5. Doing Push-Ups On Your Knees
This is often the solution for people who can’t do a normal pushup as is takes weight off the arms. The issue with this is that it doesn’t allow your glutes to properly stabilize your pelvis. It can also force you to round your back and place your hands in improper positions. If you can’t do a standard push up, do incline push-ups.
This is essentially the standard push-up but with your body inclined to a 45-degree angle by placing your hands up on a chair, table, bench, etc. and do your push-ups on this objects with correct technique. As you become stronger, lower yourself down on objects lower to the ground placing more weight on the arms, and ultimately on the floor into a standard pushup.