How to Do a Proper Form Push-ups and Other Push-up Variations

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Last updated on May 10, 2023

Once you master the proper pushup form you will start building strength and tone your chest, shoulders, and triceps muscles like never before. In fact, just doing pushups and pullups can sculpt you an amazing looking body.

What are push-ups good for ?

Research published in the US National Library of Medicine showed how push-ups can be used beneficially to target specific muscles group in the upper body. Specifically, the study reviewed 5 push up variations (standard, narrow, wide, forward and narrow pushups) and concluded push-ups can be used to effectively train specific muscle groups.

Push-ups are good for building body strength and conditioning. Research have proven push-up variations can target specific muscles groups. Forward push-ups for the back and abdominal muscles, narrow push-ups for building the tricep and pectoral muscles and the backward push-up for overall body strength and conditioning.    

What is a proper form for pushup ?

The proper form for a standard push-up is:

  1. Start with a plank position.
  2. Keep back straight and relaxed.
  3. Keep arms straight and supporting your weight. They should be no higher than shoulder level.
  4. Keep legs straight with feet together and relaxed. Your weight should be evenly balanced.
  5. Head looking down and kept relaxed.
  6. Lower your body down slowly using your arms. The motion should be controlled and your elbows at a 90-degree angle.
  7. Push back up to the start position. The motion should be controlled.

Which pushup is best for beginners ?

If your a beginner you are unlikely to have the relevant upper body strength to do standard or advanced push-ups or execute the exercise using the correct form which can result in injury.

The best pushups for beginners are the knee push up and the wall push-ups as they will build upper-body strength and beginners can execute using the correct form.


The muscles worked when doing Push Ups

The pushup is a great compound exercise, with various muscles being used. It is a great amalgamation of muscles that work with one another to perform actions.

The muscles worked doing a standard push up are:

  • The Pectorals
  • The Deltoids
  • The Triceps
  • The Abdominals
  • The Serratus Anterior

All these muscles work with one another to create a stable environment for you to perform the push up.

5 Benefits of Doing Push-ups ?

Adding the perfect push-up into your daily routine provides numerous fitness and health benefits, to include:

1. Enhanced energy levels

Feeling like your energy levels are dipping before the day is over? Dropping down to do a set of push-ups will instantly boost up energy levels as nothing will. This is because the exercise increases the body’s heat leading to better circulation and mental alertness. The rush of energy after doing a set of push-ups makes you ready to work on any unfinished task.

2. Promotes weight loss

Doing push-ups simultaneously involve multiple muscles, quicken the breath, and make the heart work overtime. When this happens, the body’s metabolic level also shoots up leading to weight loss. The double benefit of body strength and increased metabolic rates easily makes the proper push-up one of the best exercises to do every day.

3. Boosts strength in the upper body

Adding push-ups in the daily workout routine is the smartest way to significantly improve the strength of the upper body. A defined and strong shoulders and chest are the ultimate rewards when push-ups are made a part of the workout routine. There is no better upper body strength and fitness test than seeing how many good-form pushups you can perform.

4. Bone mass increase

Aging is an inevitable process along with a declining bone mass. Fractures are the common occurrences for weakened bones. This can be avoided when bones are kept strong and strengthened with weight-bearing exercises. Push-ups serve the same purpose of strengthening elbows, wrists, and other major muscles. Doing several sets of push-ups each day increases the bone mass levels to prevent injury.

5. Strengthens the body’s core

push up with proper form

Crunches are the usual way people go for when it comes to toning abs. However, strengthening the core of the body is more important than going with the cosmetic change in the abs. Crunches alone will not strengthen the core, but push-ups can.

Push-ups that are performed correctly engage every muscle in the body including the core. This is because the abdominal muscles work overtime to provide stability to the spine. This action not only strengthens the core but also tones and tightens the abs without having to do crunches. The fastest and most effective way of getting that defined stomach is by doing push-ups.

When you think about pushups, they are essentially an active plank position. The fact that you have to hold your core rigid while the rest is moving explains why pushups are an excellent addition to any workout plan. They hit pecs, shoulders, triceps, and also the core muscles.

Is It Healthy to Do Push-ups Every Day?

If you’re a beginner to strength training like push-ups with push-up variations, expect stress to happen to the muscles that are unaccustomed to this kind of activity. This is because strength training workouts break the fibers in the muscles as a way to make them grow thicker and stronger.

However, you will also need periods of recovery to allow muscle growth to happen. Doing push-ups continually, every day and without let-up, will only stop or slow down the muscle growth gains from happening.

For beginners, the triceps, chest, glutes, hips, and shoulders will feel extremely fatigued after a rep of 8–12 push-ups. The worked muscles need a full recovery period of 48 hours which means that doing push-ups two to three times a week is the ideal schedule for novices.

Getting progressively stronger allows an additional set without feeling fatigued. Try to get the same number of reps as you did on the first set, resting no more than 2 minutes between sets.

Doing a Push-up with the Right Technique

  • If you are familiar with the plank position, then the proper position of the push-up is like a moving plank. So, the start position is a plank with your palms on the ground.

  • The correct position of the hands on the floor should be shoulder-length apart.
  • There should be a 45-degree angle of the elbows when you start to lower your chest to the ground but without touching the ground

  • A common mistake is flaring your elbow to the sides, which puts too much stress on your shoulders, and should be avoided.
  • The fingers of the hand must be splayed with 12 o’clock position for the middle fingers with palms flat on the ground.
  • Ensure that the entire body, from head to toe, is one straight line. Keep your core braced, and maintain that straight line from head to toe throughout the movement.

  • You should lower your body slowly, pausing briefly at the bottom, and then go back up, pausing briefly at the top.
  • Remember to lock your elbows at the top, and to try go as all the way to the ground if you can. Tuck elbows and lower your body to the ground. You can briefly touch the floor with your chest, but don’t use it for rest. Avoid partial reps.

  • Some people lack wrist flexibility to assume the classic pushup position. If that is the case, you can try doing a regular pushup on your knuckles, or buying pushup handles. Don’t worry, there won’t be any other equipment required to do any pushup form.

Triceps pushup

The triceps push-up is an even harder exercise to do than traditional push-ups. Therefore, doing the triceps push-ups target the smaller muscles of the upper body other than the shoulders, pecs, and chest muscles. The key difference is the hand placements, as tricep pushups have the hands much narrower. Doing the triceps push-up include:

  1. Assume the push-up position
  2. Place the hands slightly closer to the body with elbows tucked
  3. Fingers are splayed as well but the elbows are tucked closer to the body
  4. The entire body, from the top of the head to the tip of the toes is one straight line
  5. Start lowering yourself slowly like you would do when performing standard pushups
  6. The elbow should skim the body when you slowly lower it
  7. Push yourself up and repeat the same range of motion.

Perfect example of triceps pushup is diamond or triangle push up. If you find this too difficult feel free to place your hands slightly wider.

Incline push-ups

The incline push-up is a modified version of the traditional push-up that can help people struggling to do the real thing. However, experts say that doing the push-up with bended knees do not make the right transition to the traditional push-up. This is because you stop worrying about maintaining the proper balance in the lower body when you are on your knees.

The incline push-up is a better alternative. Start with a box or bench to support your weight and hands. Gradually lower the incline until such time you can actually do a real push-up.

After that, you can also try decline pushups by performing the same thing only with your feet placed on the bench. These are more advanced pushups, and performing these modified pushups will challenge your pecs even more.

For those who want to take this further consider doing pushups with a weight vest.

Medicine Ball Pushup

If you have a medicine ball at home, you can try doing medicine ball pushups. A Bosu ball or a pilates ball will work too. By placing your hands on a ball you will challenge your pecs and abs more, as the surface beneath will be unstable, which will increase your core strength.

Alternatively, you can place your feet on a pilates ball to perform an even more challenging version of incline pushups. In fact, a pilates ball is an excellent alternative to a regular bench and you can also use it when lifting weights. The fact that you have to engage your core will do wonders for your core stability, which will translate to other exercises as well.

Clap Pushups

Clap pushups are unnecessary, as they risk injuries, without any major benefits to your workout. Therefore, instead of clapping just push yourself off the ground forcefully letting your hands leave the floor. This will develop power and will also activate many of your muscle fibers.

When you land, your pec and triceps muscles have to slow you down to prevent you from slamming the floor, which will strain them, helping them grow. Please only consider doing these pushups if you are confident and injury free.


At the end of the day, performing an exercise workout is the best alternative than not doing anything at all. However, when it comes to push-ups, experts agree that the incline push-up is a better alternative for beginners than doing an incorrect traditional push-up so that eventually you will be able to perform the real pushup correctly.

There are so many pushup techniques to choose from, with various hand positioning, this exercise never gets stale. Pushups are a good option for beginner bodyweight training, but also for advanced lifters who are doing this for a long time. Don’t neglect them no matter what your level is, you will find at least one type of pushup that works for your situation.

Related Questions

Are wall pushups effective?

Whether you’re using it as a progression to regular pushups or trying to add more intensity, wall pushups are an effective way to gain strength in your chest, arms, back, and shoulders.

Wall pushups work the same muscle as regular pushups, but you need less force to perform this variation due to the difference in body positioning.

How many pushups do I need to do a day to get ripped?

There isn’t any limit to how many pushups a person can do in a day. Many people do over 300 pushups in a day. However, for an average person, 50 to 100 pushups are sufficient to maintain an amazing upper body.

For best results, focus on maintaining a good pushup form in each rep

Will my arms get bigger if I do pushups?

Pushup and its variations are some of the most effective bodyweight exercises for building a bigger arm and chest without any gym or hardly any equipment.

Pushups mainly work your chest, shoulder, bicep, triceps, and back. Since it works both biceps and triceps, you can gain arm muscle from doing pushups.

However, you should increase the intensity to maintain progressive overload, which is crucial for muscle gain

How do beginners improve pushups

Pushups are a simple yet effective upper body movement that can help you build strength in the upper body and core. While you may be familiar with the standard pushups, they can be pretty challenging for beginners.

If you can’t do a regular pushup at first, there are other variations that you can do to help you gain upper body strength and master the regular pushups.

Here is a list of pushup variations you can do as a beginner-

  1. Wall Pushups
  2. Seated Pushups
  3. Kneeling Pushups
  4. Table-top Pushups

Try doing 3-4 sets of 10-15 reps of these variations and work your way up to standard pushups. Focus on maintaining an engaged core and a neutral back while performing these variations

Which pushups are the hardest?

Pushups are a compound movement that works the entire upper body. Mainly identified as a basic exercise, there are many challenging pushup variations that only 1 percent of all people can do.

10- Single-arm Push-Up

9-  Behind-The-Back Clap/ Muy Thai Push-Up

8- Moving Jump Push-Up

7- Superman Push-Up

6- Triple Clap Push-Up

5. Two-finger Push-Up

4- Flying Superman Push-Up

3- Aztec Push-Up

2- Planche Push-Up

1- 90-Degree pushup

What will 20, 40, 50, 100, 200 pushups a day do?

The pushup is known as one of the best bodyweight exercises as it works almost every muscle group of your upper body. Doing a couple of hundred or more pushups a day might not get you ripped like a pro bodybuilder, but it will make you stronger and improve your appearance.

As a beginner, you can start by doing 20 pushups a day and keep building on it. Even 50 pushups a day can challenge your body and make you gain significant upper body strength.

Do pushups burn belly fat?

Since pushups primarily target your upper body muscles, they have a relatively more minor effect on your abdominal region. However, they can contribute to reducing belly fat by increasing the number of calories that your body burns — therefore, leading to a calorie deficit if you maintain your calorie intake properly.

Are bicep pushups bad?

Biceps are one of the most challenging muscle groups to train without any equipment. This is why the bicep pushups have gained popularity for training the biceps using nothing but your own body weight.

As opposed to regular pushups, here, you place your arms further back from your shoulders and rotate them as much as possible without causing any discomfort in your shoulders. Then lower your upper body and push yourself back up again like regular pushups.

However, even though bicep pushups aren’t necessarily bad for you, many people consider them ineffective. As you push your body up, you’re not actually using your bicep, or at least not in a way to stimulate muscle growth.

What do finger pushups do?

Finger pushups are a great accessory that can increase your grip strength, strengthen your fingers and increase muscle in your forearms.

To perform finger pushups, place your fingers on the floor and push them down to form a strong base. Slowly get into a plank and start lowering your upper body, similar to a standard pushup. Push your torso up to starting position and repeat.

Are Pike pushups easier?

Pike pushups are a pushup variation that puts more emphasis on the shoulders (front delts in particular) and triceps rather than your chest.

Pike pushups done with proper form are deceptively hard and more challenging than a regular pushup. Make sure your setup is constant, and your body remains balanced when doing pike pushups.

How long does it take to see results from doing pushups?

The pushup is known to be one of the best bodyweight exercises as it works almost every muscle group of your upper body. It mainly targets your chest, core, shoulders, back, and arms.

To get visible results from doing pushups, you should do them regularly for at least 30 days. Increase the number of pushups every day to keep it challenging and to stimulate muscle growth.

Do you need rest days for pushups?

It is crucial to allow your body to recover from daily workouts. If you’re doing 50-100 pushups a day, make sure you have at least three rest days in a week.

Muscle tissues are broken down during exercises. So, they need time to recover and rebuild themselves during rest days.

Should you do pushups fast or slow?

You can incorporate fast and slow pushups in your workout.

Fast pushups will help you gain endurance and explosiveness whereas, slow pushups help you gain muscle and strength.

Combining the two will help you get stronger and improve endurance at the same time. For the best conditioning, you can start your workout with slow pushups and end with fast pushups.

How many pushups should I do by age?

There is no hard and fast rule on how many pushups you can do.

However, the average number of pushups an adult can do varies significantly by age and gender.

  Number of Pushups
Age Group Male Female
15-19 23-28 18-24
20-29 22-28 15-20
30-39 17-21 13-19
40-49 13-16 11-14
50-59 10-12 7-10
60+ 8-10 5-11

What do decline pushups work?

The primary benefit of doing decline pushups is higher emphasis on the upper chest muscle that strengthens them. In a decline pushup, your arm pushes up and away from your torso.

Therefore, it works your upper pecs and shoulder muscles. When done in proper form on a regular basis, it can increase your upper body strength significantly.

What is a reverse pushup?

As the name suggests, reverse pushups are a variation of pushup that has you looking up instead of down.

Reverse pushups are highly effective in working your back and abs muscles. They are also recommended for total upper-body strength conditioning.

You can try these three different variations of reverse pushups —

  1. Backward facing reverse pushup
  2. Full-body reverse pushup
  3. Reverse hand pushup

What muscles do pike pushups target?

Pike pushup is a pushup variation that loads the weight onto the triceps and shoulders when pushing back up.

The shoulder, serratus anterior, upper back, and triceps are mainly worked in pike pushups.

It is best to start with small sets of 1 to 5 repetitions and then train your way up to larger sets of 8 to 12 reps for this movement.

What muscles do pushups work?  

Traditional pushups are an excellent exercise for building upper body strength. They primarily work the pectoral muscles, triceps, and shoulders.

They can also strengthen and build muscles in the lower back and core when performed in proper form.

Pushups are a fast and effective bodyweight exercise for developing strength and endurance.

Are Push Ups Good for Overall Strength and Conditioning?

Yes, push ups are good for overall strength and conditioning. They are an effective exercise that can be used to build strength in the upper body and core, while also improving muscular endurance.

Proper form is essential to getting the most out of a push up and avoid injury and achieve ineffective results. Push ups can be modified to be easier or more challenging depending on your fitness level, so it is important to choose the level where you are performing the exercise correctly.

Steve Theunissen has qualified from the International Sports Sciences Association (ISSA) and is a certified Personal Trainer and Nutritionist. He has over 30 years experience in fitness and nutrition and currently working with famous fitness professionals. He is currently living in New Zealand with is wife and daughter.

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