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Push-ups: Correct Training Technique and Variations
Jan 17th, 2010 - written by Stephan in Strength Training



Without doubt push-ups are the most popular bodyweight exercise. They strengthen almost the entire body, especially chest, shoulders and arm muscles, they are available in many variations, you can do them without any equipment and the technique is quite easy to learn. Yet, it takes some basic knowledge to do push-ups correctly, because like with any other strength training exercise, also push-ups bear the potential of mistakes that may lead to injuries and pains. Therefore read this guide to a correct push-up training technique.

Push-up Benefits

StrengthWorking with your own bodyweight requires great effort and makes push-ups the a perfect exercise for strengthening the muscles of the torso.
Muscle GrowthAnyone who does push-ups on a regular basis may soon be pleased to develop some muscles. Push-ups mainly build chest, front shoulders and triceps muscles.
EffectivenessBesides the dynamically active muscles push-ups also put high demand on many stabilizing muscles, which an almost total body workout out of this exercise.
SimplicityA great advantage is the simplicity of push-ups. You can do push-ups almost anywhere and anytime.

Push-up Technique

  • Place your hands slightly more than shoulder-wide apart on the floor.
  • Then extend you body, place feet with toe tips on floor as well and hold your body above the floor while keeping your arms almost extended.
  • Now bend your elbows and lower your body until the chest almost touches the floor and your elbows are bent about at right angles.
  • Press your body up into the starting position, elbows remain slightly bent.
  • Repeat as often as possible, provided a correct training technique.

Push-up Setup

HandsPlace the hands slightly wider than shoulder-wide apart, not too far away. Let the fingertips point forward.
WristsPlacing the palm flat on the floor can occasionally lead to pain within the strongly extended wrists. In this case, it is better to do the push-ups on the fists or with handles, which allows the wrists to stay straight.
Upper ArmsHold your upper arms between almost perpendicular to the upper body or close to the upper body, depending on the type of push-up.
WaistKeep the abdominal muscles tight. Shoulders, hips and ankles form a straight line. Do not allow the body to sag.
GlutesAlso keep the gluteal muscles tight. Along with the abdominal tension it prevents the body from sagging.
HeadKeep the head aligned to the spine in a neutral position and look down.

Push-up Variations

There are a variety of push-up variations that make this exercise either lighter or heavier or have that shift the demand on different muscles involved.

NameImageTarget MuscleLink

Pectoralis Major, SternalPush-up
Push-up, Close Grip

Triceps BrachiiPush-up, Close
Push-up, incline

Pectoralis Major, SternalPush-up, Incline
Push-up, decline

Pectoralis Major, ClavicularPush-up, Decline
Push-up, Diamond

TricepsPush-up, Diamond
Push-up, with Elastic Band

Pectoralis Major, SternalPush-up
Push-up, on Knees

Pectoralis Major, SternalPush-up, On Knees
Push-up, One Arm

Pectoralis Major, SternalPush-up, One Arm

Common Mistakes

Overextended WristsAs mentioned before, some people may experience pain from overextended wrists. In this case it is better to perform the push-ups on the fists or with special push-up grips.
Sagging body.
Head LeadingDuring push-ups keep neck and head aligned to the body. Move your chest to the ground and let your head follow the motion.
Looking aheadTo avoid unfavorable strains or injuries in the neck, it is very important to look down in a neutral fashion while doing push-ups.
Upper Arm AbductionFor the shoulder joints secure the upper arm angles are between slightly below perpendicular to the body and near besides the body.

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