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Guide to the Perfect Pushup

posted on October 5, 2017


What most people think when they hear “pushup” is the standard variety of this move. It’s easy to execute, but proper form is crucial.  Maintain your focus through each movement and start to set good habits!


Here’s how to get set up to do a push up:

  • Start in plank position with the hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart.
    • Angle your hands in the most comfortable position for you, straight forward, slightly turned inward if it’s less stressful on your wrists, or on your knuckles on a semi-soft surface like grass or carpet.
  • Your feet should be in the most comfortable position for you. For some, that might be shoulder width apart. For others, it might be that the feet are touching. Generally speaking, the wider apart your feet, the more stable you’ll be.
  • Picture a metal rod running from the top of your head down through your heels. Keep your body in line throughout the movement. Your butt shouldn’t be sticking way up in the air or sagging.
    • If you have a problem getting the proper form with your body, try clenching your butt and then tighten your abs to engage the core. If you’ve been doing push ups incorrectly, this might be a big change for you.
  • Your head should be looking slightly ahead of you in a neutral position. If you’re doing them right, your chin should be the first part of your head to touch the floor, not your nose.
  • Steadily lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle or smaller, keep your elbows back, pause slightly and then explode back up until you’re back in the same position.


If you’re not quite strong enough to complete a standard pushup with proper form, work on a modified stance until you can. You can also try doing a pushup off of a wall while standing if this modified pushup is too much at first.


If you’re looking for more of a challenge, here are other push up variations!

  • Wide– Place the hands farther out to the side of the body than in a standard push up for more chest and shoulder activation.
  • Narrow– Place the hands closer to the body than in a standard push up for more chest and tricep activation.
  • Decline– Elevate the feet on a bench or box to get more upper chest and shoulder activation.
  • Diamond– Put the hands together so that the thumbs and index fingers form a diamond, place the hands below the center of the chest to isolate the triceps.
  • Pike– Raise the butt into the air so the body forms a triangle with the ground. It looks a little like the downward dog, but the arms are more perpendicular to the ground. This is a fantastic way to work up to a handstand push-up, just gradually elevate the legs for more shoulder activation.
  • Staggered– Place one hand farther forward than the other to emphasize one side of the chest. This may be useful for someone whose strength is lagging on their non-dominant side.
  • Negative– Lower the body slowly, but keep the “up” part of the movement fast. This is a great way to build size and strength in any exercise.


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