- 10 Best Types of Push-up and How to Master Them
- 15 different ways you can modify push-ups
- Before you modify a push-up, be sure to master the correct form
- If you want to build strength, try doing standing push-ups against a wall
- Try doing push-ups on your knees as you progress
- You can also try incline push-ups, a modification that involves resting your hands on a sturdy, raised surface, a bench or table
- Table-top push-ups can be a great choice for those who can't yet support their full body weight, said Axe
- Utilize a mat or soft blocks if you need wrist and hand support
- There are a few push-up modifications for those dealing with wrist discomfort or pain
- There's an easy way to modify your push-ups to alleviate shoulder discomfort
- Try raising your feet on a sturdy bench, chair, or step to change which part of your body you're targeting
- You can try doing one-leg push-ups to test your core strength and stability
- Doing isometric push-ups is another great way to boost strength
- Spider-Man push-ups can help engage your oblique muscles
- Plyometric push-ups help get your heart rate up fast
- Other props can also be used to modify a push-up's intensity
- If you have access to them, gymnastic rings can also be used to help you work on your stability
- 3 Push-Up Modifications To Try If You Can’t Do A Full One
- Perfecting the Push-up for All Levels
- Push Ups for Beginners: Seated, Standing, Kneeling, and Tips
- Wall pushups
- Seated push-ups
- Kneeling pushups
- Standard pushups
- Incline pushups
- Comfort measures
- Overall form
- Hand positioning (narrow vs. wide)
- Building strength
10 Best Types of Push-up and How to Master Them
The push-up is commonly associated with military conditioning, gym class, and some martial arts. For many, they can be unexciting, feel impossible or even gruesome. Hopefully, though, after reading this you will incorporate this versatile and efficient exercise into your workout routine!
Push-ups are categorized as a calisthenic exercise performed prone (face down), during which the body is raised and lowered with the arms. Push-ups use many muscles, making it a great exercise to do regularly.
Push-ups use your pectoral muscles, triceps, and other muscles of the shoulder area such as anterior deltoids, serrates anterior, and coracobrachialis. Push-ups also use core muscles, such as your transverses abdominis and rectus abdominis, and help with core stability.
(Need something for the lower body? We’ve got you covered here.)
There are many varieties of push-ups – some are better for beginners, and some for more advanced levels. Below, we’ve compiled a list of the top 10 types and their benefits so you can find the ones that work best for you!
Get into plank position with your hands under your shoulders, engage your core and keep your chest lifted and eyes gazing out in front of you so that your spine stays in a neutral position.
Bend your elbows and lower your body to the floor with your inhale, then push up with control and exhale as you rise back to a neutral position. Don’t let your backside dip or stick up, your body should remain in a straight line from head to toe.
Draw your shoulder blades back and down, keeping elbows tucked close to your body. It’s important to practice good form consistently to avoid injury and yield greater results.
These pushups are great for beginners; they are performed by supporting the lower body on the knees instead of the toes.
The Wide Push-Up
Start from a normal push-up position but spread your hands wider than shoulder length. This will force your chest to do most of the work.
The Narrow Push-Up
From a normal push-up position, place your hands just a few inches apart from each other underneath your chest.
The Diamond Push-Up
For these push-ups, place both palms on the ground so that both thumbs and pointer fingers are touching and form a diamond. These push-ups really work your triceps!
The One-Leg Push-Up
From the standard push-up position lift one leg up off the ground and do a set, switch legs to complete the set. Be sure to engage your core to help you stay in position!
The One-Arm Push-Up
Get into position and bring one arm behind your back or to your side and complete the movement, switch arms and complete the set. These are a great challenge!
The Feet Elevated Push-Up
Do a normal push-up, but with your feet elevated on a box or bench. The higher the platform, the more you’ll work your shoulders, chest, and core. For more challenge, use an exercise ball.
The Body-Elevated Push-Up
Performed with hands on an elevated platform, commonly seen with medicine balls. For an even more advanced exercise, you can also elevate the feet.
The Wall Push-Up
Another great variation of a push-up for someone new to exercise or lacking the upper body strength for a standard push-up. These are performed by standing close to a wall and then pushing away from the wall. Increase the difficulty by moving your feet farther from the wall.
Fun Facts About Push-Ups:
- In most forms of push-ups, you are lifting 65% of your body weight
- The record for the most consecutive push-ups is 10,507 by Minoru Yoshida of Japan in 1980.
- Push-ups dates back to 1905
- The record for the most push-ups done in 24 hours (non-consecutively) is 46,001 by Charles Servizio of the USA in 1993.
- The Fence Lizard demonstrates push-ups to attract its reptilian mates
Photo demonstrations are courtesy of Jose Rodriguez. For more push-up ideas or to schedule a one-on-one personal training session with Jessica, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org. To schedule a consultation with Jose Rodriguez (pictured), email him at email@example.com!
Post written by FFC West Loop Personal Trainer Jessica Frank.
15 different ways you can modify push-ups
Even though they're one of the most popular strength-building exercises out there, the perfect push-up can be tricky to master.
Fortunately, whether you're looking to gain strength, challenge yourself, or work around a bit of discomfort, there are plenty of easy ways to adjust a push-up.
Here are some ways you can modify your push-ups, according to experts.
Before you modify a push-up, be sure to master the correct form
“Proper form and set-up is key regardless of the variation you choose,” said Chelsea Axe, DC, CSCS, and fitness expert for Ancient Nutrition and DrAxe.com. “Keep the heels stacked directly over the toes and the shoulders stacked directly over the hands.”
She also said your neck should “stay neutral,” which means you shouldn't tuck your chin to your chest. Instead, look directly at the ground in front of you.
“Engage your quads and glutes and pull your belly button towards your spine,” she added. “There should be no movement in the body from this position except in the elbows once the movement begins. The elbows bend and stay tucked into the body as you lower down and then extend to raise your body up.”
For all types of push-ups, she said you'll want to keep your spine neutral so your body appears to be in one straight line when you're looking in the mirror.
“Remember that push-ups are meant to be a full body movement,” said iFit trainer Mecayla Froerer. “If you notice just your upper body leading the push-up, remember to engage your core and let your entire body move down as one.” You should also not be forcefully lowering your body down or snapping back up, added Froerer.
If you want to build strength, try doing standing push-ups against a wall
“This is a good way to start if you are new to push-ups or haven't done them in a while,” said physical therapist Dr. Jasmine Marcus. Axe noted that wall push-ups are great for those looking to build up their strength while decreasing the tension placed on their wrists and elbows.
Froerer also said that this is a great modification for “individuals who are looking for a lower intensity version of a traditional push-up, including senior citizens, pregnant people, and those with limited mobility.”
To try this modification, Axe said you should place your hands shoulder-width apart on the wall and slowly step back while keeping your core tight and engaged. Froerer said your toes should be pointed straight ahead and she recommends that you start off by standing about a foot away from the wall. Then, engage in the exercise as you would a standard push-up.
Axe also noted that the further you step away from the wall, the more challenging it will be to do a push-up.
Try doing push-ups on your knees as you progress
“Push-ups on the knees is a variation that can be done when one cannot completely support their own body weight or wishes to perform a higher number of repetitions,” said Axe.
Froerer said this is also a moderate version of a standard push-up that's meant for those who are working on their core strength, who are trying to boost their upper body strength, or who haven't worked out in a while.
“To perform, kneel on the ground and walk your hands out until your body is in a straight line from your knees to your head. Place your hands directly underneath your shoulders,” said Axe.
“Keep your feet uncrossed and neutral behind you to keep your pelvis neutral. Engage your core and bend only your elbows, keeping them tight into your body to lower towards the ground.
Extend them to complete the repetition.”
You can also try incline push-ups, a modification that involves resting your hands on a sturdy, raised surface, a bench or table
Incline push-ups can also be done using your environment if you can find a sturdy, raised surface to lean on. Helen H. Richardson / Contributor/Getty
“Incline push-ups are a great way to engage more of your lower chest muscles and back,” said Axe. “It can be a good option when trying to limit the tension on the shoulder or elbow joints.” Froerer also told INSIDER that this variation is a great place to start if it's been a while since you exercised or if you want to work on increasing your upper body strength.
Froerer said to do this move you'll start by placing your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the raised surface ( a bench, chair, or table). She said that you'll want to position your feet roughly hip-width apart.
“Stand at an angle against your bench/chair/table with your body in a straight line while maintaining a neutral spine. While looking roughly one foot in front of your fingertips, bend at your elbows while keeping them close to your torso,” she explained.
Table-top push-ups can be a great choice for those who can't yet support their full body weight, said Axe
“To perform, place your hands on the ground directly underneath your shoulders. Then kneel so that your knees are on the ground directly underneath your hips and your body forms a 'table' position,” Axe told INSIDER. “Pull [your] core in and bend your elbows only to bring your closer to the ground. Straighten them to complete a repetition.”
Utilize a mat or soft blocks if you need wrist and hand support
If you're ready to try a traditional push-up but need a bit of extra support, you can place your hands on a mat or soft yoga blocks, the experts advised. “Using a soft mat for your hands when doing push-ups can help alleviate wrist pain,” Axe told INSIDER.
“To perform, place your hands on a soft mat, shoulder-width distance apart and directly underneath your shoulders. Walk your feet back until your body is in a straight line. Keep your core engaged to not dip in your low back and bend your elbows to lower your body to the mat. Keep your elbows tucked into your sides and straighten them again to finish the repetition,” she added.
Read More: The single most effective full-body exercise you can do, according to Instagram's most famous personal trainer
There are a few push-up modifications for those dealing with wrist discomfort or pain
If you feel you're straining your wrists, Marcus said she recommends you try to grip dumbbells while you do a push-up.
Axe added that doing wrist stretches before you perform push-ups can help alleviate wrist pain. She also said you may want to try changing the positions of your hands.
“Push-ups may be done from a fist position instead of an open hand or one may rotate their hands outward slightly to alleviate some tension,” she told INSIDER.
“To perform, begin in a full plank position with your hands directly under your shoulders and core engaged.
For the fist variation, make a fist with each hand and place the 'punching surface' of your hand on the ground so that your wrist is completely neutral.”
“To perform the open-handed, rotated version, rotate your hands outward 15 degrees, keeping them directly underneath your shoulders,” said Axe. “Once you have set up, engage your core and bend only at your elbows keeping them pulled tight into your body. Extend your elbows to complete a repetition.”
There's an easy way to modify your push-ups to alleviate shoulder discomfort
Marcus suggested one simple tweak — reduce the amount you're lowering your body as you work on building up shoulder strength.
Try raising your feet on a sturdy bench, chair, or step to change which part of your body you're targeting
Raising your feet can help to target your upper chest. Chicago Tribune / Contributor/Getty Raising your feet is another great modification, said Axe, noting that doing so can “target more of your upper chest and front shoulders.” She said the higher you raise your feet, the more your shoulders will be targeted.
“To perform, place your feet on an elevated surface: a step, a bench, a chair, etc. and walk your hands out so they are directly stacked underneath your shoulders and engage your core so that your body is in a straight line,” she told INSIDER. “Keeping your core pulled in to not sag in your low back, bend your elbows to bring your upper body closer to the ground and then extend back up.”
You can try doing one-leg push-ups to test your core strength and stability
“Starting with your body in a tall plank position, place your hands and feet shoulder-width apart,” said Froerer. “Before lowering yourself, lift one leg off the ground and engage your core.”
“While looking about a foot in front of your fingertips, slowly lower your body down with your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your torso,” she told INSIDER. “Once you reach the halfway point of your repetitions, switch which leg you raise. This will test your stability and core strength.”
Doing isometric push-ups is another great way to boost strength
To complete an isometric push-up you'll want to do a traditional push-up but instead of immediately lowering and raising your body, you'll hold your body at its lowest point for three to five seconds. Then you will return your body to a raised position and hold it for another three to five seconds, said Froerer.
Spider-Man push-ups can help engage your oblique muscles
Froerer also said she s the Spider-Man push-up because it is “a great way to engage your obliques” and it can add a stability challenge to your workout.
To do this move, you'll start in traditional push-up form but “as you slowly lower yourself down, bend one of your knees, and bring it up and out next to the side of your body. Push yourself back into the starting position while bringing your leg back to its starting point. Switch knees on the next repetition.”
Plyometric push-ups help get your heart rate up fast
If you're looking to mix cardio movements with strength movements, look no further than the plyometric push-up, which starts in traditional push-up form but ends with a twist.
“In one quick explosive movement, you'll push yourself back up while bringing your hands away from the floor,” said Froerer. “This advanced push-up variation is for those seeking a way to incorporate power training along with strength into their fitness regimen.”
Other props can also be used to modify a push-up's intensity
Each expert suggested you can also place your hands on a Bosu ball (a dome-shaped, partially inflated training device that's commonly used for balance-related exercises) when doing a push-up. Marcus said that the “unstable” surface of a Bosu ball can make push-ups more challenging.
Axe said you may want to try using a medicine ball (a weighted ball commonly used for strength exercises) or two to help change up the intensity of a typical push-up.
To do a push-up with one medicine ball, keep one hand on the ground and the other on top of the ball. Your body should be in plank position, said Axe.
“Both hands should still remain directly underneath the shoulders. Engage the core and bend the elbows only and then extend. You can alternate which hand the ball is under every repetition or change it every set but remember to keep it even,” she explained.
“You can also utilize two medicine balls when doing push-ups,” she added. “The set up for the push-up is the exact same except one medicine ball is placed underneath each hand. This is a very advanced movement and can test stability as well as strength.”
If you have access to them, gymnastic rings can also be used to help you work on your stability
“Gymnastic rings are a great tool to both keep your push-up form in check and also increase the intensity of the exercise,” said Axe. “This will not only be a full-body exercise but will also challenge stability as well.”
“To begin, adjust the height of the rings. The higher the rings, the easier it will be. Grip the rings and walk your feet back so that your body is in a straight line,” she told INSIDER. “Engage your core and bend your elbows only, keeping them tight into your body. Once lowered down, straighten them to complete the repetition.”
3 Push-Up Modifications To Try If You Can’t Do A Full One
Even though push-ups are an incredibly effective arms exercise, they're notoriously tough AF. Enter push-up modifications! Just because they're a beast doesn't mean you can't (or shouldn't) add them to your workout routine.
Not only do push-ups help build strength in your upper body and core, doing the move feels pretty badass.
Here are three modifications that are still amazing for working your upper-body muscles, and will help you build the strength and range of motion you need in order to crush your first full push-up.
Wall push-ups, incline push-ups, and knee push-ups are a great place to start, explains celebrity trainer Lacey Stone. Regular push-ups require you to lift your entire body off the ground using just your upper body, Stone explains.
However, these push-up variations practice the same range of motion, but eliminate some of the weight you need to move.
They’ll also strengthen your “push-up muscles” (triceps, biceps, shoulders, chest, back, and abs), and “they put less pressure on the joints,” Stone says.
The wall push-up is the easiest modification, followed by the incline push-up, then the knee push-up. “The more frequently you practice, the quicker you’ll be able to advance,” says Stone.
Try them all, and challenge yourself to advance to the next modification (and eventually, full push-ups).
If you have any pain or injuries (especially issues with your shoulders, wrists, elbows, or neck), check in with your doctor first.
Here's Stone's plan for improving your push-up skills:
- Do 3 sets of 12 reps of your modification of choice, 3 times a weekfor 2 weeks
- Do 3 sets of 15 reps of that same modification, 3 times a week for 2weeks
- Move on to a more challenging modification and repeat this 4-weekplan.
And here's how to do these three modifications.
1. Wall Push-Ups
Laura Barisonzi / Getty Images
- Stand a few feet away from a wall (the further away you stand, themore challenging the move will be).
- Lean forward and place your hands on the wall in front of you,slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Bend and straighten your arms to complete a push-up.
2. Incline Push-Ups
- Place your arms on a bench, table, or couch and extend your legsstraight behind you so that you're in an elevated plank position. Again, your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.
- Keeping your body in a straight line and your elbows close to yourbody, bend and straighten your arms to complete a push-up.
3. Knee Push-Ups
- Start in high plank with your shoulders above your wrists and yourspine long. This GIF shows your hands in a diamond push-up position, which is great for targeting your triceps, but for this modification place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, says Stone.
- Drop to your knees, rolling to the top of your knees to protect yourknee caps.
- Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the ground.
- Push through the palms of your hands to straighten your arms.
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Perfecting the Push-up for All Levels
The push-up has long been used to develop strength in the arms, shoulders and chest. However, the push-up is also a great core exercise. During the exercise, the trunk and hips should remain as stable as possible to create a lever for the working muscles.
The deep core muscles, such as the transverse abdominus, become actively engaged to stabilize the spine and pelvis so that the force generated by the pectoral, deltoid and triceps muscles can move the body around the axis of rotation at the toes (or knees, for modified push-ups).
This is one reason why the push-up is often done incorrectly; many people simply don’t know how to activate all of the muscles required to successfully complete the exercise. In this article, you’ll learn how to develop a consistent method of progression that can help your clients learn how to successfully perform this beneficial exercise.
Before one can learn the push-up, it’s important to first develop the strength of the deep core muscles to maintain stability around the spine so the arms and shoulders can move the body.
This is the role of the first three exercises described below—they create the foundation.
Have your clients perform these exercises consistently for at least four to six weeks before progressing to the more challenging exercises described later in this article.
The first step is to develop the proper strength and placement in the wrists and shoulders. This can be done in a quadruped or all-fours position, which reduces the amount of weight directly on the arms.
Position the wrists under the shoulders, the knees directly under the hips and keep the spine in a neutral position. Push the hands into the floor while pushing the upper back and shoulders up to the ceiling.
The goal is to push the hands down into the floor while pressing the shoulders in the opposite direction to create tension in all of the muscles.
The hands have a high number of sensory nerve endings; when they are placed directly on the floor for a plank, the pressure of the hands pushing into the floor helps to engage and activate many of the muscles responsible for shoulder strength and spinal stability. Hold for 20-30 seconds, rest for 30 seconds and repeat for three to four repetitions. This exercise should be performed as part of warm-up when working on improving the push-up.
A common way to do the plank exercise is with the elbows on the floor directly under the shoulders. This position does not allow for proper strength to develop between the hands, shoulders and the muscles responsible for stabilizing the spine (see above).
Doing a modified plank with the knees on the floor (instead of the feet) and the hands on the floor helps strengthen the connection between the palms, shoulders and spine by using a shorter lever (the distance between the hands and knees versus that between the hands and feet), which results in less resistance.
This is helpful for developing the strength to do a push-up. Start by holding for 20 seconds, gradually progress to holding the modified plank for 45 seconds. After each plank, have the client rest for the same amount of time he or she held the plank and perform three to four sets.
Once the client can do four sets of 45 seconds, he or she is ready for a greater challenge.
The high plank is basically the “up” position of the push-up; practicing high planks helps develop the wrist, shoulder, upper-back and core strength to maintain a stable body throughout the entire range-of-motion of the exercise.
Place the hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart so that the thumbs are pointing toward the midline of the body and the fingers are pointed the same direction as the head. To increase stability while pushing the hands into the floor, rotate the elbows to point back toward the feet to increase the strength and stability in the shoulder joints.
Instruct the client to squeeze the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability around the pelvis (this is a more effective cue than “contracting the core,” which doesn’t address any specific muscle). Start by having the client hold the high plank for 20 seconds and rest for the same amount of time as the plank; perform three to four sets.
Gradually increase the time up to 45 seconds. Once the client can hold a high plank for four sets of 45 seconds, it is time to work harder.
During the lengthening phase of muscle action, there is more tension within the muscle fibers so the muscle is capable of generating higher levels of force.
Placing the emphasis on the lengthening phase of muscle action by practicing the lowering phase of the push-up can help develop the strength to control movement of the body through the entire range of motion.
Have your clients perform the following exercises for three to five weeks before progressing to the full range of motion of the push-up.
Modified Negative Push-ups
The word “negative” is used here because the weight is going down (as opposed to up), which causes the muscles to lengthen and increases the tension in the fibers. This is an effective strategy for initiating strength gains.
Start in a modified high-plank position with the knees on the floor and the hands slightly wider than the shoulders. Slowly lower the body to the floor for a count of five or six seconds. At the bottom of the movement, encourage your client to return to the starting position in a way that feels comfortable to him or her.
Working on the lengthening phase of muscle action can help develop the strength that will be used later for the complete range of motion of the push-up. Begin with two sets of six to eight repetitions, rest for 45-60 seconds after each set.
Gradually add one or two repetitions each workout until the client can perform 10-12 reps with control. Have the client work up to completing four sets, resting 90 seconds between each one.
Once your client can easily perform 10-12 reps of negative modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to the full version. Assume a high plank position with the feet approximately shoulder-width apart.
Keep the hands pressed into the floor and the thigh muscles squeezed while slowly lowering the body toward the floor. At the bottom of the movement, place the knees on the floor and return to the starting position.
Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and progress to performing two to three sets of 10-12 reps.
Many people are familiar with modified push-ups, but these are obviously not the best starting point for learning the push-up, especially not for those who first need to develop a foundation of core strength.
While the normal push-up has the feet and hands as the points of contact, bending the knees and placing them on the floor shortens the lever of the body significantly thus reducing the amount of resistance. Place the knees together on the floor so that they are bent and the feet are in the air. Keep the hands about shoulder-width apart with the fingers pointed away from the knees.
Slowly lower the body to the floor and then push the floor away to return to the original starting position. To increase stability of the core, encourage your clients to grip the floor with the hands and squeeze the thighs to engage the deep spinal stabilizers. Start with two sets of six to eight repetitions and rest one minute between sets.
Gradually progress to performing 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets. Once your client can perform three to four sets of 10-12 reps of modified push-ups, it’s time to progress to full push-ups.
To perform a full push-up, start in a high-plank position with the legs hip-width apart. Press the hands into the floor with the fingers pointed away from the feet.
Contract the thigh and glute muscles to increase stability and slowly lower the body toward the floor. Press the hands into the floor to return to the up position. Start with two sets of five to six repetitions, resting for one minute between sets.
Gradually add repetitions until the client can perform two sets of 10-12 repetitions and then start adding sets.
Interested in expanding your client offerings to include Behavior Change principles? Become an ACE Certified Health Coach!
Push Ups for Beginners: Seated, Standing, Kneeling, and Tips
Pushups are a simple and effective bodyweight movement that can help increase strength in your upper body and core. This exercise works the pectoral muscles in your chest and the triceps. These are the muscles in the back of your upper arms.
You don’t need any equipment to get started with pushups. They’re suitable for beginners and individuals who are more advanced with exercise.
Read more: What muscles do pushups work?
While you may be familiar with standard pushups, there are many variations that may help you get started, progress, or increase difficulty.
Try doing a set of 10 to 15 of each exercise, rest, and then do another set of 10 to 15.
Performing fewer pushups with correct form will be better over time than completing many with poor form.
Here are five pushup variations that increase in difficulty.
Doing a standing pushup against the wall is a good starting place if you’re new to this move. By standing, you put less pressure on your joints.
- With your feet shoulder-width apart, stand about an arm’s length away from a wall.
- Place your palms on the wall as you lean forward into a standing plank position. Your arms should be shoulder height and shoulder-width apart.
- Inhale as you bend your elbows and slowly move your upper body toward the wall while keeping your feet flat on the ground.
- Hold this position for a second or two.
- Exhale and use your arms to push your body slowly back to your starting position.
Read more: Wall pushup variations to strengthen chest, shoulders, and back
To work on stability in your shoulders, try pushups from a seated position.
- Sit on a bench with your palms down, arms at your side. Your feet should rest comfortably on the ground with your knees bent.
- Using your arms, push down into your palms so that your body lifts up — still in the seated position. Your hips and butt should be just a half inch or so off the bench.
- Lower back down to your starting position and repeat.
Balancing on your knees instead of your feet is another good modification while you build your strength.
- Begin in a hands and knees position with your gaze at the floor.
- Place your hands on the ground on either side of your shoulders. Your knees should be at a comfortable distance apart.
- Inhale as you slowly lower your elbows to bring your chest toward the ground. Be sure to keep your core muscles contracted.
- Pause for a second in the lowered position — your chin may lightly touch the ground.
- Exhale as you push up from the ground to your starting position.
Another way to start this pushup is to begin by laying on your stomach. Bend your knees so your feet are up in the air, then push with your hands into position on your knees.
Fully extending your legs increases the difficulty of this move by adding more body weight. One study showed that the “ground reaction force” or how much weight you push is 64 percent of your body weight with standard pushups. To compare, a kneeling pushup is 49 percent.
- Begin with your chest and stomach flat on the floor. Your legs should be straight out behind you and your palms should be at chest level with the arms bent out at a 45-degree angle.
- Exhale as you push from your hands and heels, bringing your torso, chest, and thighs off the ground.
- Pause for a second in the plank position — keep your core engaged.
- Inhale as you slowly lower back to your starting position.
If you want to really challenge your upper body, try incline pushups. You’ll need a stable surface on which to place your hands.
- Place your hands on the edge of the elevated surface. A bench, step, or other sturdy platform are good options.
- Step your feet back so your legs are straight and your arms are perpendicular to your body.
- Inhale as you slowly lower your chest to the edge of your platform.
- Pause for a second.
- Exhale as you push back to your starting position with your arms fully extended.
You can further increase difficulty by using a medicine ball, BOSU or balance ball, or suspension trainer. Doing so will make your body work harder to stabilize, taxing muscles even more.
Shop for exercise balls and accessories online here.
Good form and positioning are key if you want to get the most from your workout. Comfort, form, and safety are key parts of any exercise.
The right form can protect your body from injury and make sure you’re getting full engagement from the muscles you’re trying to work.
Try these methods to make your pushups more comfortable.
- Perform pushups on a yoga mat or similar surface instead of a bare floor.
- Place a folded towel under your knees for extra cushioning when doing kneeling pushups.
- Place hands directly under shoulders with your fingers pointing directly in front of you to avoid wrist pain.
- Place palms flat on the floor versus cupping your hands. This avoids straining your hands.
- Look down at the ground during this exercise to avoid straining your neck.
When doing pushups on the ground, you’ll want to keep a flat back. Resist sagging your spine or arching it up toward the ceiling. Contracting your core muscles will help keep your form in check. Make sure to keep your movements slow and controlled versus slamming your body down too quickly.
Your shoulders, hips, and ankles should be aligned.
Try asking yourself some questions to check in with your form:
- Where are my hands?
- Where are my shoulders?
- Do I have good contact with the ground beneath me?
- Are my core muscles engaged?
Hand positioning (narrow vs. wide)
You might wonder how hand positioning might increase difficulty. Your options are holding your hands wide apart or more narrowly together. One study from 2005 suggests that the narrow base position increases muscle activation in the pectorals and triceps.
To incorporate hand positioning into your routine, try keeping your palms in front of your chest and your elbows in toward your body at the start of your pushups.
Pushups may be hard to complete at first, even with modification. If you cannot complete 10 to 15, start with sets of 5 or less and build from there.
Increasing strength and endurance takes time but is worth the effort. Remember, performing fewer pushups with correct form will be better over time than completing many with poor form.
Read more: What are the benefits and risks of doing daily pushups?
New to exercise? It’s an excellent idea to check in with a personal trainer to ensure you’re performing pushups correctly. You might be able to talk to someone from a gym or through your healthcare provider.
After you get the hang of pushups and are confident with your form, you may want to try a pushups challenge. Consistency is important to building strength. In the challenge, you work your way up over the course of 2 months until you can complete 100 pushups at one time.
Even if you’re not looking to go so extreme, incorporating this efficient body-weight exercise into your routine is sure to strengthen your upper body, back, and core to help with everyday movement.