Push-ups can be done in various ways, including standard, modified, easier, and more challenging techniques. Proper technique is important to avoid injury and achieve maximum effectiveness. A certified fitness coach can help choose the best way based on fitness level.
The best way to do pushups, according to most exercise experts, is to use a technique that helps you strengthen your shoulder and tricep muscles, but doesn’t harm your body. You can do push-ups in a variety of ways, based on your fitness level. A standard push up is performed by lying facedown on the ground, then pushing up with your hands until your arms are fully extended and only your hands and toes are touching the ground. The modified push-ups include those performed with the knees on the floor, those performed with an incline and those performed standing.
A standard push up is performed as follows:
Lie prone on the ground. You can lie down on an exercise mat, thin mat, or towel if needed.
Flex your feet so the bottoms of your toes are on the ground.
Place your palms on the ground at chest level, with your fingertips at shoulder height.
Keep your hands a little close to your body but not underneath. Placing your hands about a hand away from your hips should be about right.
Your elbows should be slightly away from your body, at about a 45-degree angle to your shoulders.
Slowly push your upper body away from the floor. Keep your body straight, from heels to neck. Avoid lowering your hips, arching your back, or letting your head dip towards the ground.
When your arms are fully extended, briefly hold this position with your body straight.
Slowly lower yourself to the ground. For multiple repetitions, your chest should touch the ground lightly or almost touch the ground each time.
Although this exercise is called a push up, the push up movement is also an important component. Don’t just collapse on the ground. Slow work down to the ground improves your workout and prevents bruising. Doing this exercise without achieving a full range of motion — such as halfway up or halfway down — will limit its effectiveness, and you won’t get the same results as you would if you used proper technique.
There are various techniques that can be used to make this exercise easier. The most common modification is the knee push up, sometimes called the “girl push up” — a term that some people consider sexist, especially considering that men can use the technique too. This type is performed the same way as a standard push up, except the knees stay on the ground. Keeping your knees down reduces the amount of weight you have to push up off the ground, making them easier.
Another modification that makes push-ups easier is to do them uphill, with your hands higher than your toes. For example, you can rest your hands on a bench, chair, or other sturdy object. As with other push up techniques, your body should be kept as straight as possible.
If an upward incline push-up is still too difficult, you can perform a standing push-up after placing your feet 12 cm or slightly further away from a wall. Rest your hands on the wall, lean forward until your face almost touches it, then push your upper body away, just like you would with a standard push up. This technique could also be useful for people who have lower back problems.
More challenging push ups
There are also various techniques that can be used to make push-ups more difficult. One technique is the downward incline push up, with the feet raised higher than the hands by placing the toes on a box, bench, chair, or other object. The steeper the incline, the more difficult the exercise will be. A handstand push up is performed with the body upright, upside down, usually with the back against a wall and heels touching. This difficult technique is performed by doing a handstand, lowering yourself until the top of your head touches the ground, then pushing up until your arms are fully extended.
Another challenging modification is the push up ring. This technique uses a pair of gymnastic rings that hang from the ceiling or some type of support beam. The rings are lowered until they are close to the ground, and instead of placing your hands on the floor, place each hand on a ring as you do the push up. The instability of the rings forces you to stabilize as you lower and push yourself up, working your arms and core muscles to an even greater extent.
This exercise can be performed in many other ways, all with the same basic premise of fully rising and falling while keeping the body rigid. Some variations include the one-handed push up, the hand push up, and the hand release push up. In a clap push up, you push your upper body up hard enough that you are able to clap your hands before putting them back down to catch the fall. A similar variation is done by lifting your hands slightly off the ground at the top of each push up, but not clapping each time. In a hand release push up, you should briefly lift your hands off the floor at the end of each push up, while your chest is on the floor.
Adjusting your hand position will make you work different muscles. For example, you might bring your hands together, under your body, or further away from your body. A common variation involves creating a diamond shape between your hands by touching the tips of your thumbs and forefingers. Care should be taken when attempting any variation or modification of the standard push up, because improper technique or trying something too difficult can lead to injury. A certified fitness coach can help you choose the best way to perform this exercise based on your strength and fitness levels.