The Correct Way To Do a Push Up – Strengthen Your Upper Body

The push up is probably the most recognizable and basic exercise there is. However, as popular as it is, many people do not know the right correct to do a push up. Below I will explain proper form, common mistakes, the benefits of doing push ups, and variations.

Proper Form – Technique Is Key

Proper push up form is more important than actually executing the push up. Why? Because if you don’t practice proper form, you’re not receiving the full benefits of the exercise. And that goes for every exercise, not just push ups!

Here is the the right way to do a push up:

  • Setup
    • Place your hands directly beneath or slightly wider than your shoulders.
    • Your feet can be shoulder width apart or close together, as long as your toes are grounded to the floor.
    • Keep your body straight. You do this by engaging your core. Squeeze your abs as if you’re about to get kicked in the gut, and clench your butt like you’re holding back a number two.
    • Don’t look at the ground, but slightly in front of you.







  • Execution
    • Lower yourself in a slow and controlled manner. Once your elbows form a 90 degree angle, or lower, pause for a second, then explode up, while keeping your form, back up to the starting position.







  • Congrats! You just did a full push up!

Improper Form – What NOT To Do

Basically, if you’re not following the above advice, you’re probably doing the push up wrong. Here are some of the most common mistakes people make when performing a push up:

  • Half reps
    • Half reps are what you get when you’re not going 90 degrees or below. This is especially a problem if you’re new to exercising or doing push ups. By doing half reps, you’re not performing the full range of motion and slowing down your strength progression.
  • Wide elbows
    • You’re elbows should be at around a 45 degree angle to your body. If you flare you elbows out too far, you’re putting your shoulders at risk of an injury.
  • Not keeping your body straight
    • A lot of people either let their lower back sink or are pointing their butt to the sky. By letting your lower body sink, you are not engaging your core and therefore not strengthening it. If you let your butt point up, it becomes a pike push up, which is a completely different exercise.

Push Up Benefits – Strong Chest, Arms, and Core

The main benefit of push ups is the fact that you don’t need any equipment to do them. No weights, bands, or gym. Just a flat surface. The muscles that benefit from it are:

  • Chest, or the Pectorals
    • The chest is the main driver in the push up
  • Core
    • By engaging your core, you are strengthening your abdominals and lower back
  • Shoulders, or Deltoids
  • Arms, or Biceps and Triceps

Push Up Variations – Make It More Challenging

Have push ups become too easy? Don’t worry, there are ways to make them harder. Unable to perform push ups efficiently? There are easier variations to work your way up to normal push ups. Here are some of the many variations of push ups.

For when push ups are too hard:

  • Elevated Push ups
    • These are just like regular push ups except you’re placing your hands on an elevated surface like a bench, two chairs, or your bed. This exercise is easier because your weight is more at your feet than your upper body.
  • Knees Push Ups
    • Just as it sounds, these are pushups on your knees, which put more of the weight on your knees. The simplest way to setup for knees push ups is to set up like regular push ups, and then right before your first rep, lower your knees to the ground.


For when push ups are too easy:

  • Feet elevated push ups
    • Feet elevated push ups bring more weight toward your upper body, therefore making it more challenging. It also works your upper chest more. Use the same setup as a regular push up except place your toes on a bench or chair.
  • Weighted Push Ups
    • Have a buddy place a weight on your back. No workout buddy? Use a weighted vest. Weighted vests are very handy for practically all calisthenics exercies.

Now You’re The Push Up Expert

So many people are too focused on relying on the bench press, chest flies, or chest machines to build and strengthen their chest that they forget the most basic chest exercise of all, the push up. Follow these push up tips and I can assure you that you will notice huge strength gains in your upper body.

I hope this article helps you on your fitness journey! Leave a comment below.