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Northglenn Health and Fitness: How to do a Push-Up Properly

The push-up should be a cornerstone in your fitness journey, and for good reason. Serving as a multipurpose exercise, it doesn’t just focus on amplifying your chest, arms, and shoulder strength. Rather, it also uses core engagement and promotes stability across the body – without you even noticing! But do you know the best thing about a push-up? It’s an exercise deeply anchored in natural human movement, making it not just effective in improving your day to day life, but also safe. As with all exercises, realizing its full potential hinges on the correct technique. This is where our personal trainers can help. Until you meet with one of us, follow our guide below!

Steps to Perfect the Push-Up:

  1. Position Hands Properly: Set your hands just outside shoulders, ensuring fingers are directed forward. 
  2. Core is Key: Actively engage your core throughout the push-up, preventing any drooping in the lower back area.
  3. Maintain Body Alignment: Your body should be one coherent line from head to heels, like a sturdy plank.
  4. Descend with Control: As you bend your elbows (kept close to the body), descend until your chest is nearly grazing the ground.
  5. Come back up with Power: Harnessing the strength of your chest and arms, push yourself back to the initial position without compromising on alignment.
  6. Remember to Breathe: As you go down, inhale, and as you rise, exhale.
  7. Control Over Speed: The essence of a push-up lies in controlling the movement rather than flying through with bad form.
This is a standard push up. You can master this after you get the basics down (see below).

Potential Pitfalls with Incorrect Push-Up Form:

  1. Wrist Complications: Improper hand positioning can inadvertently place undue strain on the wrists.
  2. Shoulder Concerns: If elbows flare away too far from the body there will be a loss of power from the proper muscles and the risk for shoulder issues increases.
  3. Lumbar Strain: A relaxed core (not actively engaged) could lead to a sag in the lower back, posing injury risks with repetitive incorrect movements. 

If you’re just beginning your push-up journey or want to refine your technique, consider these scalable options:

Woman doing a beginner push up
  • Wall Push-Ups: Stand facing a wall, place hands on it, and perform push ups. This reduces weight-bearing and eases the movement.
  • Barbell on a Rig: Adjust a barbell on a squat rig at chest height. Stand facing it and perform your push-ups. The height can be reduced as you gain strength.
  • Knee Push-Ups: Start in a regular push-up position but with your knees touching the ground. This variation reduces the amount of body weight you need to lift, easing the transition to a full push-up.

Watch this video for a visual guide to a push up option you can use to build until you are ready for the floor:

One of many variations until you can safely go to the floor.

If you are ready to take the next step, set up a 10 minute call with us by clicking here to match you up with a personal trainer.

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