How to Do a Push-Up

Push-ups are a body weight exercise that require no extra equipment to complete effectively and can be modified to suit any fitness level. This is a compound movement that is great for targeting multiple muscle groups such as the pectorals of the chest, deltoids in the shoulders, triceps and biceps of the upper arms, the erector spinae of the back, and even the rectus abdominis and transversus abdominis in the core.

Push-ups aid with any pushing motion used in daily activities and serve to protect the shoulders against rotator cuff injuries.

How to:

  • To perform a standard push-up, start on all fours on the floor. Hands should be placed on the floor just wider than the shoulders.
  • Extend your legs out behind you until you are balanced on your hands and toes, forming a straight line with your body. Be careful that your back does not dip toward the floor. Feet should be placed about hip width apart, but you can adjust to the most comfortable position.
  • Engage your core and inhale as you slowly lower yourself toward the floor. Your shoulders should be at no more than 90 degrees at the lowest point of the movement.
  • Exhale and push through the chest as you slowly push back up to nearly straight arms. Make sure not to lock the elbows at the top of the movement.


The exercise can be repeated as many times as you are able. If you are a complete beginner, you may only be able to complete one or two repetitions from your toes. Try not to be discouraged by this.


Incline push-up: A complete beginner, or someone recovering from an injury, may wish to begin with an incline push-up using a bench or table to press against. The movement would be performed by placing your hands on the table and extending your legs out until your body is aligned in a straight line. The body is lowered until the elbows are at 90 degrees.

Knee push-ups: To reduce the amount of weight you are lifting, you can perform the push-up from your knees instead of your toes. Many people will start on their toes and then switch to their knees to complete more repetitions.

Standard push-up: Performing the push-up from the toes is the standard position that most people work toward.

Hand placement: The hands can be placed in different positions to decrease and increase the difficulty of the exercise. Hands placed wider than the shoulders can decrease the difficulty, while hands placed closer together can increase the difficulty

Triceps push-ups: Placing the hands directly below the shoulders while keeping the elbows in close to the body targets the triceps and increases the degree of difficulty exponentially.

Cautionary Notes

Watch your form, as allowing the back to sag as you fatigue greatly increases the risk of injury. It is important to stop or switch positions if you feel your posture is failing.

Locking the elbows suddenly at the top of the movement can also lead to injury and should be avoided. This can happen when the fatigue sets in but you try to push through anyway.

Make sure to keep your neck in alignment with your body by keeping your eyes trained on the floor between your hands.

To avoid wrist strain, try gripping the floor and press through your palms instead of pressing up through the fingers.

More Great Pectoral Exercises

Bench press
Chest fly
Machine Fly

More Push-Up Related Resources

How to Do 16 Different Types of Push-ups | SELF
14 Types of Push-Ups-and How They Help You | Outside Online
How to Do Pushups: Techniques, Benefits, Variations
Pushups Every Day: What Are the Benefits and Risks?
Push-Up Variations: 82 Types of Push-Ups You Need to Know About
Arm Exercises | Push-up
Push-up Push Workout |
Ultimate Push-up Guide: Do A Push Up With Proper Form | Nerd Fitness

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