The hows and whys of the perfect push-up
04/08/2017 // Frances Bloomfield // Views

If you're trying to build a better body yet can't be bothered with a gym membership, workouts at home are the way to go. Some exercise moves are easy to pull off. Others, not so much. The push-up is one of those that can fall in the latter if you're not used to doing it. You might be tempted to forgo it all together, but this simple calisthenics exercise is an excellent way to increase your upper body strength and build up your core. The best part is that a push-up can be done anywhere at any time, with many variations.

Mastering the perfect push-up is easy, and here's how to do it.

The perfect push-up

Place your hands on the ground, right under your shoulders, with your fingertips pointing straight ahead. Take care not to splay your hands too wide or you risk putting undue pressure on your shoulders. Plant your toes firmly on the floor. You want your entire body to be as straight as possible and in a neutral position, so flatten your back and brace your core.

Lower your body until your chest touches the floor. Maintain a flat back and neck—you can do this by focusing your eyes three feet in front of you. Again, try to keep your body as straight as possible. Don't let your butt or your elbows stick out. The push-up is a whole-body movement, so engage your glutes and keep your hips from hitting the ground.

Push back into the starting position, exhaling as you do so. Repeat as many sets as you can manage. Don't forget to breathe while exercising: inhale as you go down and exhale on the way back up.

Other tips

Focus on the quality of each push-up instead of quantity. Doing a push-up sloppily decreases its efficacy because you'll be targeting fewer muscles that way. Remember that the push-up is supposed to work out your entire body, but only if you let it.


Mind your form. Tuck your elbows at a 20- to 40-degree angle close to your torso. Keep your shoulders down and prevent them shrugging towards your ears. Ensure that your hips and torso are straight. Like what was previously mentioned, the push-up is a whole-body workout. Forgetting the proper form on any body part is a sure-fire way to have it miss out on what makes the push-up so great an exercise.

Don't sweat it if you don't do a lot of push-ups on your first try. If you've never done a push-up before, then five sets or even one can be a challenge. Don't beat yourself up if all you can manage at the moment is one push-up. If you did it right, that's what really counts. Just keep on doing push-ups and you'll get better at doing them in time. Perseverance is key.

Once you've gotten the hang of push-ups, you can vary them up to stimulate your muscles. Raising the difficult and intensity can be done simply by changing your hand or body position. Try doing push-ups with only one arm. Do the Superman push-up by lifting your left leg off the floor and your right arm in front of your body when you get back up.

Give yourself a pat on the back. Push-ups aren't just a great way to increase strength in your body, they'll also boost your metabolism and make you less likely to sustain injuries. A single push-up now might not seem like much, but in time that can become 10 or even 30 push-ups daily. You've taken the first step and just need to keep moving forward.


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