Push-ups

Equipment:

  • None necessary. For the modifications below you may need a bench or a wall.

How To:

  1. Push-up starting position

    Push-up starting position

    Lie face down on the ground or on a mat, in a prone position, with your stomach resting on the ground.

  2. Pull your legs and feet together and then flex your feet toward your shins so the tips of your toes are touching the ground.
  3. Place your hands in line with your shoulders but slightly out to your sides.
  4. Extended position

    Straight-arm position

    Squeeze your glutes and tighten your abdominal muscles while pressing yourself up off of the ground. The only parts of you touching the floor are your hands and toes.

  5. Make sure your elbows are slightly bent and in a straight line out from your shoulders. Your back is completely flat, and your neck is straight like the rest of your spine. You can achieve this relaxed neck position by looking down and a bit in front of you similar to your positioning while doing a plank.
  6. Controlled lower with inhale

    Controlled-lower with inhale

    While inhaling, lower yourself slowly and with control toward the ground until your chest barely touches the floor. Your elbows are in a 90-degree position and directly over your hands.

  7. Push-up with exhale

    Push-up with exhale

    With an exhale, press yourself back up to a straight-arm position.

Main Muscles Targeted:

Prime Movers:

  • Pectoralis Major (Sternal Head)
  • Triceps

Synergists:

  • Pectoralis Major (Clavicular Head)
  • Pectoralis Minor
  • Medial Deltoids (Med. Delt)
  • Anterior Deltoids (Ant. Delt)

Stabilizers:

  • Erector Spinae
  • Rectus Abdominis
  • Transverse Abdominis
  • Obliques
  • Rotator Cuffs
  • Serratus Anterior
  • Gluteals
  • Quadriceps

Modification:

  • Modification with toes touching the ground

    Modification with toes touching the ground

    Modification with toes off of the ground

    Modification with toes off of the ground

    You may need to decrease the difficultly level. That’s just fine. The reason you will need to decrease the difficulty level is because your full body weight is too heavy of a load for you to push-off the ground. So, you need to decrease the amount of weight you are asking your body to move. One way to do this is to leave your knees on the ground while you do the push-up. In this scenario, your toes, knees, and hands stay connected to the floor throughout the movement. If that is still too difficult, you can decrease the load even further by lifting your feet off of the ground and bending your knees to a 90-degree angle. In this modification, only your hands and knees stay connected with the ground. This is not a “girl push-up” but a very effective way to decrease your body weight by shortening the distance between the two parts of your body that are touching the ground. You can think of yourself like the Golden Gate Bridge. If your two sets of supports on either end of the bridge (your hands and feet) are not strong enough to hold up the entire length of the bridge and all the cars on the bridge you can either add a third support under the bridge (your knees dropping to the ground) or simply make a shorter bridge so the two supports (your hands and knees) have less to hold.

  • Another way to decrease the weight you are trying to lift is to place your hands on a bench or a wall. In this version your head and hands are now elevated above your feet. The closer you are to a standing position, the less weight you lift.

Variation:

  • If you want to increase the difficultly level you can place your feet on a bench so that they are higher than your head.
  • You can also do a single-leg push-up (leave only one foot touching the ground throughout the exercise), which requires more balance and control.

Quick Tips:

  • Do this exercise in front of a mirror or with a partner so you can monitor your form. It’s easy to “cheat” when you get tired without even realizing it.
  • If you feel yourself tiring, try a modification (see above) to allow yourself to finish the desired number of repetitions.
  • Inhale when you are lowering yourself to the ground. Exhale when you are pressing yourself back up.
  • Keep your glutes clenched and your belly button pulled in tight toward your spine. This will help you keep your form and not let your spine sag. But keep breathing!

*Remember, it’s always advised to consult with your doctor or health care expert before adding a new exercise to your routine to make sure you don’t have any contraindications.

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