The ultimate guide to pushups (with videos)

  By Laura Cuddy  /  

Hate them or love them, pushups are a complete body functional exercise excellent for increasing your overall body strength.

Do you want to save time and workout multiple body parts at the same time? Well, pushups are your answer. You can effectively workout your arms and core at the same time with pushups. Apart from working multiple body parts, pushups improves posture, prevents injury and makes you stronger. 

Unfortunately, few people know how to do pushups properly.

In this article, we will tell you the benefits of doing pushups, how to perform them correctly and the different variants of this exercise for beginners and for pros.

pushups

The Benefits of Pushups 

No Equipment Necessary.

Pushups do not need equipment.

They are a bodyweight exercise done without any accessories.

You can do pushups anywhere you want: at a park or in your office bathroom!

Also, a complete routine doesn’t take long. At the end of this article we propose a 4 minute ‘To the One‘ session of pushups.

Gain Body Strength 

Doing pushups will help you gain a lot of body strength.

During each push-up, you mobilize nearly all your body weight. This allows you to gain strength and endurance.

Your muscles will grow in a balanced way. You’ll gain a strong and resistant physique.

Many people confuse muscle size with strength. This is not always the case.

This video shows an arm wrestling match where the most muscular man loses.

Pushups are a very easy exercise to perform.

Our application’s list of exercises includes pushups because they are functional exercises.

They follow a pattern of movement that your body already recognises. Pushups replicate movements from your day to day movements

This optimizes your time spent training and builds your physique. 

With pushups you use many muscles simultaneously.

During a pushup, you use many muscle chains.

With this, you activate the rectum of the abdomen which stabilizes the spine during each pushup.

So, during a push-up, you tone arms and core simultaneously.

Pushups use the scapula and activates its main stabilizing muscle, the serratus anterior. Other arm exercises don’t have the same effect.

The scapula is key to the biomechanics of the upper arm.

Besides working several muscle chains, pushups improve your cardiovascular fitness.

For more information about these exercises, check out our functional training guide.

You’ll improve your flexibility with pushups

Pushups with good technique will work the entire range of your joint movement.

This is key to improving your flexibility.

Video Functional Exercises to do at home

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Pushups help reduce everyday stress

Exercise releases endorphins, which is widely known to help with managing stress.

The muscles and nerves that are most related to body tension and nerves are those that cross the back and neck.

Do you remember how good a shoulder massage feels?

A lot of tension accumulates in this area and exercising these muscles releases it.

Pushups also relieve some stress-related anxiety and depression symptoms.

If you want to dive further into this topic, you can review this article on chronic stress.

 What muscles do pushups work?

As we have said, during push-ups many muscles work together at the same time.

The main muscles used are:

    • Pectoral muscles (Chest Muscles)
    • Triceps 
    • Biceps
    • Front and rear heads of the deltoids
    • Rhomboids and trapezius
    • Latissimus dorsi

The more closed your hands are during a push-up, the more you will work the triceps. Contrarily, the more open your hands are, the more you will work the pectoral.

How to do pushups properly?

You can only answer this question after asking yourself what you want to get out of your pushup. 

Each section involved in the pushup is a fundamental part of the technique. It is also fundamental to your objective and variant of the pushup.

It is very different to do a classic pushup than an L bend or a mountain pushup.

To do the classic pushup properly, it is necessary to perform the below steps:

  1. Lie on your stomach.
  2. Extend the palms of your hands oh the ground, level with your shoulders.
  3. Keep your back straight throughout the process. Posture is very important during pushups to avoid injury. Especially to work the arms and core.
  4. Lack of good posture during exercise can cause lumbar problems. (This is the second most common cause of medical visits according to the Spanish Journal of Rheumatology.)
  5. With the arms, begin lifting the body until you have straightened the entire length of the arm. Remember that the elbow should not lock once you have completed the extension. This will generate unnecessary tension.
  6. Lower the body by folding the arms until you reach the starting position. The chest should touch (and brush) the ground when it comes down, but should not be a weight support. Supporting your body weight with your chest or belly reduces the effectiveness of the push-up.
  7. When the chest touches the ground, your pelvis should be in the air and your gaze should be to the front.
  8. Every time you hit the ground, it counts as one repetition

Recommendations before starting to do pushups

Prepare your wrists

Before starting your pushups, it’s a good idea to prep your wrists. You can lie face down with your arms outstretched and move your body back and forth to work them.

If you begin to feel pain during your workout, your wrist may be warning you that something is wrong.

Either it’s too much for the joint or you’re not used to supporting the weight of your body. Or you may need to improve your technique.

Breath between repetitions

During pushups, many muscles used in the breathing process can become tense. Working the pectoral muscles and keeping the abdomen static can restrict breathing.

Thus, you must breathe at the end of every repetition to avoid unnecessary dizziness and to give your muscles oxygen.

Don’t hesitate to use your knees when necessary

It may seem easy, but maintaining the proper technique while doing knee pushups is not easy.

Try using your knees. You will see a small reduction in weight, but the intensity stays at a good level.

How do you support your arms and legs during pushups?

Lower limb support

The higher the support of the lower limbs, the more force we are moving towards the arms.

This involves more work for our upper body muscles. Particularly the shoulder muscles.

Conversely, if the feet are lower in height than the hands, this reduces the weight the arms will work.

Also, consider that you can vary how much your abs work. This depends on the distance between your hands and lower limbs (feet or knees).

The current strength of your abdomen will dictate which push-up variation you can start with.

Support your hands and arms

Each position of the arm will help you to work certain muscles.

If you keep your hands close together, you can do a diamond push-up. If you keep them wider apart, you can do an open push-up.

Keep your elbows close to the body and you’ll work the triceps and dorsal muscles harder.

As your elbows move from the body, this will increase the work of the shoulders.

The traditional way of supporting the hands is always with the palm extended on the ground. This puts less strain on the wrist.

If you’re starting out, avoid pushups on your fingers (as we see in movies!). It’s easy to injure yourself this way when starting out.

Once you define the support of your hands, you must look at where the fingers point. This is also important to know which muscles are used during the push-up. 

If the fingers point towards the middle, the pectorals will work more. But the bending with the inverted hand (the fingers facing your feet) will work much more on the biceps.

Increase Difficulty

To increase the difficulty of the exercise you can choose an unstable surface. This adds an extra effort on your balance and the muscles work much more. Also, the core works to keep you from falling.

You can also do pushups with one hand. Or, try pushing up with enough force to get both hands off the ground. When they make contact again, complete the push-up.

Common pushup mistakes

Maintaining the correct technique is not easy.

Here is a list of the most common mistakes people make when doing pushups:

  • Leave the lower limbs close to the ground and just raise the torso and shoulders. If you can’t keep your back straight: focus on doing a single well-done repetition instead of ten which can provoke damage to your back.
  • Moving up so fast that you do not extend your arms. This keeps the arm muscles under continuous pressure, which can hurt you. The same thing happens when you over stretch your arms and lock your elbows. You can injure yourself when you try to bend your arm again.
  • Control the movement of your head. You can look forward if the chin is level with your chest. If it is above, you can generate too much tension and you’ll feel stiff the next day.

  • Not doing the full movement. One of the most common mistakes is only moving the body a few centimeters lower and not extending your chest to the ground. Yes, you can do more repetitions, but you are working a very small section of muscles.

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Pushups for Beginners

To get the most out of pushups, it is best to recognize at what level you are at. Don’t start doing advanced pushups from the beginning. Start with beginner pushups until you feel comfortable to further advance. Here is a list of pushups great for beginners.

Knee Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Lie on your stomach with your palms resting on the floor at chest level, your knees on the floor and your feet up.
  2. Push yourself with your hands to raise your trunk. Remember to keep your body aligned and parallel to the ground.
  3. Return slowly without losing your posture until you’re back at the starting position.

Declined Push up

Instructions:

  1. Stand in front of a support object and with your back straight. Lean over it until your chest makes contact with the surface.
  2. From here, push with your hands until you have your arms stretched.
  3. Slowly return until the chest makes slight contact with the surface.

Push ups

Instructions:

  1. Lie on your front supporting yourself with your hands on the floor, level with your chest.
  2. Push yourself up with your hands to lift your upper body. Make sure to keep your body straight and parallel to the floor.

Hindu Knee Push ups

Instructions:

  1. With your knees on the floor while flexing your legs, keep a straight line from your back to your stretched out arms. Hold this posture with your hands on the ground. This is the initial position.
  2. From this position move forward. Push your arms until you reach the McKenzie position (you can see it here).
  3. From the McKenzie position, return to the starting position.

Lateral Knee Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Perform a knee push-up.
  2. Once in the upper position (with arms outstretched), move your right hand to the left and then open your left hand until you find a suitable position.
  3. Do another push-up.

Open Knee Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Start from the initial position of a knee push-up.
  2. From here, move each hand about 20 cm out.
  3. Perform the push-up.

Reptile Knee Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Start with your hands together at chest level in the kneeling push-up position. Move one hand back towards the hip, then do a push-up.
  2. Bring your hand back to chest level and move the other one back before doing the second push-up.
  3. Repeat, alternating hands for each push-up.

Hindu Pushups

Instructions:

    1. It begins with your arms and feet resting on the floor and forms a triangle raising your hips.
  1. From this position, move your body forward and perform the push-up ending in the McKenzie position.
  2. Returns to the start position to finish.

Lateral Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Perform a push-up. When you reach the top, move your right hand next to your left hand. Then move your left hand until you have an opening large enough to do a push-up movement.
  2. Do the same movement but moving the hands in the opposite direction. Count one side for each repetition.

Advanced Pushups

 Mountain Pushups

Instructions:

  1. With your hands and feet on the ground, lift your butt and form a pyramid.
  2. From this position, carefully do a push-up. Do not hit your head against the ground.

Reptile Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Start with your hands together at chest level. Move one hand back towards the hip, then do a push-up.
  2. Bring your hand back to chest level and move the other one back before doing the second push-up.
  3. Repeat, alternating hands back for each push-up.

Clock Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Start in the standard push-up position, but with your hands together at face level and flex.
  2. For the second push-up, open the arms. Imagine your hands are on a clock face. Place your left hand at the 9 o’clock and your right at the 3 o’clock position. Do a push-up.
  3. For the third push-up, place both hands at the 6 o’clock position. Your hands should be chest height.
  4. For the fourth push-up, your hands should be close together at shoulder height. Imagine your hands in the center of the clock face.
  5. Repeat all movements from the first position.

Spider Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Get into the starting push-up position.
  2. During the push-up, move one of you legs, trying to touch your knee to your elbow on the same side.
  3. Return to the starting position and change legs during the next push-up.

L Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Start by supporting your feet in a chair or on a raised surface, forming a L whose axis is the hip.
  2. Perform a push-up until your head is very close to the floor. Slowly return to the initial position.

Inclined Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Start by supporting your feet on a raised surface and form an L whose axis will be your shoulders.
  2. Do a push-up with the same movements as the classical push-up.

Rolling Pushups

Instructions:

  1. Do a push-up and at the end, jump your feet forward until you’re in a squatting position.
  2. From this position, roll on your back on the floor while keeping your knees near your face.
  3. Roll back to a squat and jump your feet back into the classic push-up position.

Diamond Pushups

Instructions:

  1. In the push-up position, put your hands together with your index fingers and thumbs touching. They should form a diamond.
  2. Do a push-up.

Flying Pushups

Instructions:

    1. Do a push-up.
    2. When you reach the bottom push up off the ground with enough force to separate the arms and feet from the ground.

  1. Cushion the fall with the arms flexed to start another push-up.

Pushup Workout ‘To the One’

For this pushup training session, we’ve chosen ‘To the One’.

For those who don’t know about To the One, the session goal is to decrease the number of repetitions each round. You start with 10 repetitions a round and decrease until you just have one. If you’d like to know more, you can read our ‘To the one’ guide.

Training Session

TTO:

Hindu pushups

Open pushups

Knee pushups

 

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