Pushups are one of my favorite exercises to talk about, because I have tons of people that really want to be able to do pushups but just don’t know where to start OR think that it’s just impossible.
First and foremost, it’s not impossible, even if you’re overweight, I can get you doing awesome pushups with GREAT form. So, this post will be exclusively why you should do pushups, how to do a pushup, and how to progress from NO pushups to a perfect pushup.
NOTE: I’m only talking about pushups in this post, soon I’ll go over chest pressing exercises and how to progress those, but today is purely for the person looking to improve their pushup technique (or the person who wants to just complete a pushup).
The Importance of The Pushup
So, I love pushups because it doesn’t matter what stage of athleticism you’re currently at this exercise NEEDS to be in your program and will benefit athletes of all stages, beginner to advanced.
Pushups are an incredible exercise to implement into a program because you work your ENTIRE body.
Although pushups are generally looked at as an UPPER BODY exercise, they also produce tons of great benefits to your glutes, hamstrings, core and back.
Plus, they are primarily an awesome chest, tricep and shoulder exercise.
This is one of those exercises that I will, almost always, put into a program in some way, shape or form. You can also change up your stance in a pushup to focus more on upper or lower chest muscles, shoulder focused pushups, or even a more focused tricep pushup.
NOTE: (if you’d like to see videos on pushups to focus on other muscle groups check out the list at the bottom of the post with videos)
When done right you can use pushups to see incredible strength, power and lean muscle mass gains. This is one of those body weight exercises that can have an immense impact on your physique just by doing the pushup to match your specific goal.
Now that I’m done swooning all over how awesome pushups are let’s cover how to set up for a Standard Pushup and what a standard pushup execution actually looks like.
How to Do A Pushup:
-The Set Up
- Set your hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart
- Make sure your hands are AT THE SAME level as your shoulders; do not have your hands set too far up past your shoulders or too far down below your shoulders.
- Make sure fingers are pointed straight ahead; you can have a slight OUTWARD angle but keep the angle small. Do not have your fingers pointing inwards toward each other.
- Get yourself into a neutral, straight arm plank position. This is your starting point.
- Make sure your core is good and tight before starting, think about sucking your belly button in as close to your spine as possible (while still being able to breath!).
- See Pic below for example.
This is going to be a walkthrough of what the standard pushup should look like. Other variations will increase the work on different muscle groups, this variation will specifically work chest as the primary muscle group.
The Down Phase
In the Down phase of a pushup we are starting at the top, in a good, neutral spine, plank position.
You want to make sure that your hips or low back aren’t sagging here, suck in your stomach, tighten the core and keep a flat neutral back position through the entire movement.
From the top slowly lower yourself to the floor.
Make sure to break from the elbows first and don’t just drop to the floor, you want to control your descent. Also, make sure that your elbows stay behind your shoulders; you don’t want them to wing out too far.
Your end point should be AT LEAST when your upper arm is PARALLEL with the floor making a 90 degree angle with your elbow. IF you can touch your chest to the ground and get a deeper pushup, then do so.
Now it’s time to come back up.
The Up Phase
Now the Up Phase of the pushup is where the true work starts.
From the bottom you want to tighten your chest, shoulders, core, and glutes to raise yourself off the floor.
You should be able to follow the same pattern up that you created in your down phase.
Making sure elbows stay behind the shoulders, fingers pointed forward, and back is in a neutral position think about squeezing your chest to drive your body back into the top position.
This should be a fairly quick and powerful movement up.
Once you get to the top you have just done a perfect Standard Pushup.
NOTE: THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of the up phase is making sure you DON’T let your hips sag; you really want to be conscious about where your hips are throughout the entire movement.
Many people are so worried about locking their arms back out at the top that they forget about their hips, and then we will see the hips drop in order to put more power into the upper body.
THAT’S A NO NO.
You should be able to control your hips through this movement, if you’re not able to then we need to modify your pushup and do either a Band Assisted Pushup or maybe even an Incline Pushup until more strength has been built.
How To Progress Your Pushup
The Incline Pushup is my go to starter pushup for any beginner program, this style will give me a great idea as to an individual’s upper body and core strength. If you aren’t able to do a single Standard Pushup right now then this is definitely my starting modification for you.
Band Assisted Pushups-
This style of pushup is easily my favorite. Because once you have spent some good time building core and chest strength we can now get you to do pushups from the floor with a little bit of assistance from the bottom with bands. This is a great way to get used to doing a Standard Pushup WITHOUT having to press your FULL BODY WEIGHT.
This is the goal. Once you have progressed passed the assistance modifications this is where you want to be. BUT don’t just jump into standard pushups if you have not built the upper body strength, and more importantly, the core and back strength to press yourself up from the floor.
Be sure you have great technique on Incline Pushups and Band Assisted Pushups before making Standard Pushups a regular routine.
Feet Elevated Pushups-
Feet Elevated Pushups are for those who have advanced beyond the Standard Pushup. By elevating your feet you put much more weight on your chest and shoulders to have to press off of the ground.
This is a great exercise to end a tough upper body or chest workout IF you can keep good form. Many people drop their hips in this style of pushup so definitely watch your form with this modification.
The Wrap Up
There’s no reason why a pushup shouldn’t be in your workout wheel house. Like I said before this exercise is tremendous at building a great chest, triceps and shoulders while still working your core, back, glutes and hamstrings.
And with the progressions I have shown you above there is really no excuse to improving your pushups with every program. If you can continue to improve your pushups you will start seeing GREAT success in your results very quickly, so make sure you implement this awesome tool into your database of great exercises.
Your homework this week is to find a pushup pattern that closely fits your abilities and begin to improve your pushup with every day.
By the way here are a few other pushup styles to work different muscle groups that I love to use.
Pushup Planks– great for building core strength and getting used to being in the pushup position from the floor.
Narrow Incline Pushups– A narrow stance will help develop your triceps more and being at the incline will decrease the difficulty of this exercise, if it’s too easy take it to the floor.
Pike Position Pushups– Doing a pushup in the pike position will allow for greater shoulder development by still using a pushup form. Ignore how crappy my pike position is here!
Pushups with Limb Raises– This is a great way to also spend some time working on shoulder development. Also, you can do some leg lifts rather than arm lifts and spend some time working on glutes as well.
TRX Atomic Pushups– This is an awesome way to really increase the difficulty of your pushups. You can also increase the angle of the TRX System so your feet are higher and make this even harder.
Alright that’s all I have for you this week, get to work, keep crushing it and talk soon!