How to Do a Push Up

Four Methods:Learning Push Up BasicsDoing a Standard Push UpTrying Advanced Push UpsMaking Push Ups Easier

You don't need to join the Army to enjoy the many benefits of doing a proper push up. A basic push up is an effective way to strengthen the chest and arm muscles, and can be easily scaled as you get stronger. Simple push ups require no equipment other than your own body weight and your arms, and they can be done anywhere where there is a firm surface with enough space for you to stretch out flat in.

Method 1
Learning Push Up Basics

  1. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 1 preview
    Assume a face-down prone position on the floor. Keep your feet together. Your weight should be on your chest.
    • Position hands palms-down on the floor, approximately shoulder width apart. They should be about next to your shoulders, with your elbows pointed towards your toes.
    • If you are on a relatively cushioned surface, such as a carpeted floor, you may also support yourself on your fists between the first and second knuckles for a greater challenge. If you are on a less forgiving surface, consider investing in some push up grips, (they look like handles you put on the floor).
    • Curl your toes upward (towards your head). The balls of your feet should touch the ground.
  2. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 2
    Raise yourself using your arms. At this point, your weight should be supported by your hands and the balls of your feet. Make a straight line from your head to your heels, and contract your abdominals to keep your hips from sagging. This position is called a "plank," which is used for other various exercises. This is the beginning and the end position of a single push up.
  3. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 3
    Pick the type of push up that works best for you. There are actually three types of basic push up variations that use different muscles. The difference is where you place your hands while in the plank position. The closer your hands are together, the more you will engage your triceps. The wider apart they are, the more you will engage your chest.
    • Regular: your hands should be slightly wider than your shoulders. This works both your arms and your chest.
    • Diamond: put your hands close together in a diamond shape, keep them directly under your chest. This will require you to engage your arms much more than a standard push up.
    • Wide-arm: place your hands a good way's out from your shoulders. This version mostly works the chest and requires less strength in the arms.

Method 2
Doing a Standard Push Up

  1. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 4 preview
    Lower your torso to the ground until your elbows reach a 90 degree angle. Keep your elbows close to your body for more resistance. Keep your head facing forward. Try to have the tip of your nose pointed directly ahead. Keep your body in a flat plank—do not drop your hips. Draw a breath as you lower yourself.
    • How close you get to the ground will vary based on your strength and body type, but a good level to shoot for is to get your chest about a fist's height from the floor.
  2. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 5
    Raise yourself by pushing the ground away from you. Breathe out as you push. The power for that push will come from your shoulders and chest. The triceps (the muscle on the back side of your upper arm) are also contracted but they aren't the primary muscle group being used. Don't be tempted to use your rear end or your stomach. Continue the push until your arms are almost in a straight position again (but not locked).
  3. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 6 preview
    Repeat lowering and raising at a steady pace. Each pair counts as a single push up. Do this until you finish your set or you hit your maximum.

Method 3
Trying Advanced Push Ups

  1. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 7 preview
    Do clap push ups. Push yourself off the ground with enough force to be able to clap while in mid-air. This can be done as a plyometric exercise.
  2. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 8 preview
    Try a diamond push up. In the plank position, instead your hands together beneath you in the shape of a diamond. Now do the push up with your hands in this form. This requires significantly more strength in your arms.
  3. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 9
    Do a scorpion push up. Begin to do a standard push up or a basic variation of the push up. When you finish lowering yourself, raise one leg off the floor bend your knee towards your back and to the side. Do individual sets for each leg, or alternate between legs.
  4. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 10 preview
    Attempt a spiderman push up. Do a standard push up or a basic variation of push up. When you finish lowering yourself, lift one leg off the floor and pull your knee to the side up to your shoulder. Do individual sets for each leg, or alternate between legs. If done properly, this should engage the core in addition to the upper-body.
  5. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 11
    Try a one-armed push up. Spread your legs further than normal (for balance), put one of your arms on your back, and proceed with the push up using one arm.
  6. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 12 preview
    Practice a knuckle push up. Instead of using the palms of your hands, put your weight on your fists, using the first two knuckles of each hand. These require more strength in the arms and wrists, and are a good way to condition your knuckles for boxing or martial arts.
  7. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 13
    Do a fingertip push up. If you are very strong, you can try doing push ups using only your fingers, instead of your palms.
  8. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 14
    Attempt elevated leg push ups. You can increase the difficulty of your push ups by putting your feet up slightly higher.

Method 4
Making Push Ups Easier

  1. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 15 preview
    Push up from your knees. If you aren't quite to the point of doing full push ups yet, try starting with your weight on your knees instead of the balls of your feet. Perform the push up as normal, and when you can do these easily start trying regular push ups.
  2. Image titled Do a Push Up Step 16 preview
    Do push ups on an incline. You can make push ups easier by performing them with your hands on a somewhat higher level than your feet. Find an incline like a hill or use a piece of furniture to start your push up training until you are ready for a level surface.


  • If you have a wall mirror, use it to check your form.
  • Concentrate on engaging your chest muscles, squeezing them at the top of the push up. This builds muscle much faster. If you can't squeeze your chest muscles, do easier push ups where you can. Consider doing inclined push ups in front of a mirror so you can watch your chest muscles and be sure they are engaging. Try to eat a small amount of food first.
  • Warm up before you start. Do some simple arm stretches and movements to loosen up. Warming up reduces the risk of injury, and gets muscles ready for more activity.[1] You can actually lift/push/pull/etc more if you go through a proper warm up routine than if you dive straight into the exercises. Make sure to stretch your arms and wrists - key joints in push ups. When you are done, do some cool-down stretches and movements as well.
  • When just starting out, it's fine to use a slightly cushioned surface (like a thin carpet or a yoga mat) to make the push ups more comfortable on your wrists.
  • One of the great advantages of push ups is that they can be done practically anywhere. Find a patch of floor big enough for you to lie down in, without any obstructions. The surface of the floor should be firm and not sliding around. Preferably it should be a surface material that is going to be comfortable on your hands—no gravel, for instance.
  • Normal push ups are quite difficult to do with good form and proper control, especially so for someone who is just a beginner. If you find yourself shaking slightly as you do a slow and proper push up, you are doing push ups that are too difficult for you (or you haven't warmed up enough!).
  • Start by going down a little bit and gradually get lower. Soon it will be easier to go down.
  • Use a chair to lift your legs higher.
  • Start with having your torso higher by using a table and gradually get lower than you usually do.


  • As with any strength training exercise, if you feel intense and/or sudden unexpected pain in your chest and/or shoulders, stop immediately! If the pain is in your chest and/or shoulders, you have either done more push ups than you can handle or you aren't ready for the exercise you are undertaking. You may need to start with lighter exercises that target the chest before attempting the push up. If the pain is somewhere else, you are doing something wrong. If the pain persists, consult a physician.
  • Stop doing your push ups when your lower back gets tired. Don't sag in the middle as this could lead to injury.
  • Positioning your hands closer together to make the push up harder has diminishing returns. If you put them too close together, you might have trouble balancing your torso during the lift and put extensive (and unnecessary) strain on the bones of the arms and shoulders. This might lead to aching of the bones well after the exercise or problems in the shoulder joint in the long run. The danger zone varies from person to person and from one body type to another. A general guideline to follow is: When you place your hands on the ground, extend your thumbs inward toward the opposite hand. If your thumbs are touching each other, you are at the limit. If you want to place your hands further together, consider the other mentioned methods of making the push up harder. Trying to clap when you come up with your arms straight is another good variation of the push up. When you do this, though, make sure you hold your tight, straight, position.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Push Ups and Press Ups