How To Do A Push-Up
Push-ups are a fantastic exercise! It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting out on your fitness journey or you are looking for a new challenge, it’s good to know how to do a push-up (which you might also call press ups!).
I’ve taught you how to do chin-ups, so now I’m going to explain how you can work up to a full push-up. PLUS, I’ll give you a few tips on ways you can make push-ups harder!
- How to do a push-up
- Push-ups for beginners
- Incline push-up
- Push-up progression
- Why can't you do push-ups?
- My final push-up tip
How to do a push-up
Just like any exercise, you need to make sure it is being done the right way, otherwise you may increase the risk of an injury.
This is how to do it with the correct push-up form:
- Place both hands on the floor slightly further than shoulder-width apart and both feet together behind you, resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.
- While maintaining a straight back and stabilising through your abdominals, bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the floor until your arms form two 90-degree angles.
- Push through your chest and extend your arms to lift your body back into starting position.
While push-ups are an upper body exercise, they also a great way to challenge your core! When doing this exercise, it’s important that your body forms one straight line from your head through to your heels. What I mean is that you should try to avoid ‘sagging’ through your lower back or sticking your butt up in the air while doing them.
When doing any variation of a push-up, whether on your knees or toes, it’s important that you keep your core activated. A helpful way to do this is to imagine that you are drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Ensure that your chin also remains tucked into your chest so that your neck is long and an extension of your spine.
Because push-ups are a bodyweight exercise, you can do them anywhere! That makes them perfect for squeezing in a workout on holidays, if you’re travelling for work or you love a budget-friendly workout routine!
Push-ups for beginners
Here's how to work up to your first push-up if you've never done one before or you're struggling with doing push-ups on your toes.
Have you ever had a moment where you’ve attempted one and then immediately thought to yourself, “I can’t do push-ups”? You are definitely not alone.
Push-ups can be tough, especially if you’ve never done them before! Getting the technique right is so important, so don’t be afraid to do modified push-ups, such as resting on your knees, when you start out. That way, you can work on your technique AND gradually build up your strength.
When it feels as though push-ups on your knees are getting too easy but you can’t quite do them on your toes, try adding an incline by resting your hands on a bench or chair.
- Place a bench horizontally in front of you.
- Place both hands on the bench slightly further than shoulder-width apart and feet together on the floor behind you, resting on the balls of your feet. This is your starting position.
- While maintaining a straight back and stabilising through your abdominals, bend your elbows and lower your torso towards the bench until your arms form two 90-degree angles.
- Push through your chest and extend your arms to lift your body back into the starting position.
When you’re feeling stronger, you can try reducing the height of the incline. For example, try swapping the bench for a step. When you start noticing that incline push-ups aren’t as difficult as they used to be, it might be time to move to a full push-up!
Check out my push-up variations video for some other ideas too!
If you’ve given incline push-ups and the other variations a try and you still don’t feel as though you are making progress, I’ve got some reasons why, as well as some tips to help you, further down.
Push-Up Progression: Challenge Yourself!
In the same way you can modify to make push-ups easier, you can also make them harder! When you’re ready to test yourself, you can try modifying push-ups to make them more demanding. If you’re no longer seeing results from workouts, it might be time to increase the challenge, known as progressive overload.
Try these ideas for push-up progression:
- Lift one leg: By lifting one leg off the ground and extending it behind you, the move becomes even more taxing on your body. It tests your balance and forces you to really engage your core!
- Change your hand position: Where you place your hands can change which muscle groups you are targeting. When your hands are in a wider stance, this helps work your chest and triceps as well as the front of your shoulders, whereas moving your hands in closer together (so that your elbows ‘shave’ your sides) can really help to isolate your triceps.
- Add a variation: Try adding a burpee to your push-ups to really step it up and work every muscle!
Help! Why can’t I do push-ups?
You’ve tried lots of push-up variations, including my suggestion for incline push-ups but you are still struggling. Now you feel like you simply weren’t meant to do a proper push-up, ever. Don’t worry — I have some reasons why you can’t do push-ups and what you can do to overcome these obstacles!
You’re lacking strength
As I mentioned above, you need more than upper body strength to do push-ups! A good foundation is so important for every push-up, which means that you may need to work on overall strength and stability. Compound exercises, such as squats and planks, can help with improving your stability, while rows and chest press exercises can help you to develop more upper body strength.
The great thing about my workouts in the Sweat app is that they target your whole body and help you to develop strength all over!
You aren’t following correct push-up form
Incorrect form means you aren’t getting the most benefit out of any exercise but when it comes to push-ups, it may actually prevent you from doing them in the first place.
When doing a push-up (as I explained above) you should be able to hold your body in a straight line. If you have sagging hips or flared out elbows, you are making push-ups harder than they need to be. It may make it hard to push your bodyweight back up, so you feel as though you’re not lifting properly off the ground. Try doing a plank with correct form in front of a mirror at the gym (or in front of your workout buddy) and see if there are any problems with the alignment of your body.
You have a previous injury or condition
As you probably already know if you’ve tried a push-up, they can be tough on your wrists. While some joint pain can be the result of poor push-up technique, some injuries or physical conditions can also limit your ability to do this exercise. If you notice wrist pain during push-ups or any other type of pain that always starts with particular exercises, chat to your healthcare professional. Some conditions or injuries can make it hard to do push-ups correctly but there are always other exercises you can use instead.
Now you know how to do a push-up correctly
It might be an exercise people get wrong often but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do a push-up following the correct technique.
As with any exercise, I want you to focus on quality first! There is no shame in starting with push-ups on your knees, or against a wall, if it means you learn the correct way to do them. Once you can do standard push-ups, THEN you can think about making them harder. Don’t be in too much of a rush!
* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.