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How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

Being able to do a workout move, versus doing it properly, is the difference between building muscle and creating an injury. 

Starting with the basics of any exercise is an easy way to ensure you stay injury-free and can actually meet your fitness goals. 

Here, we explore how to properly master the pushup–from the beginning. If you're new to exercising, pushups, or feel like you keep running into injury, read on! Or, if you're a seasoned pro, this is a great way to ensure you've got the basic form and feel down. 

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There are three main hand positions you can place your hands in to perform your first push up. These are not the only position but just the ones we will focus on today.

Here are the three positions that we will focus on–but these aren't the only ones out there: 

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

1. High elbow

This position works mostly on your chest and the front of the shoulder.

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

2. Hybrid, or conventional position

This position is most common. This conventional position works on both the chest and triceps muscles. It is popular because it puts less stress on the rotator cuff and will help those who want to increase their bench press.

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

3. Triceps pushups position

The best way to set up for the triceps push up position is to place both hands on the ground shoulder width apart. Rotate your hands so that your thumbs are facing forward. This will allow your elbows to slide nicely down by your side.

Here are the steps to master the pushup, properly! 

Now that you know the three different positions. How do we start?

The best thing to do is find a high railing or a box like the picture below and pick your position.

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

1. Pick the height you want to start (the higher, the easier)How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

2. Pick which position you want to practice (I picked hybrid or conventional position)

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

3. Put your body in an active plank

  • Feet shoulder-width apart
  • Knees straight
  • Butt squeezed
  • Abs tight
  • Shoulders retracted
  • Ears over your shoulder
  • Arms extended

4. Stay in the active position

However, instead of having your arms fully extended, slowly pull your body to the ground. Yes, I said pull. When you do a pushup, it is important to be actively going up, and actively going down.

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

5. Return to the start position

Once your elbows have reached 90 degrees, return to your starting position. 

This will be your first elevated pushup. 

Once you can safely complete 10 in a row, you are now able to remove a level from your box or try it on a smaller apparatus (if you are using a railing, move to something smaller).

Once you can do these 10 times in a row, you are now ready for the ground.

Bonus material

If you do not have boxes or a railing, you can work on your pushup by doing pushups backwards, as follows:  

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

Ground Lowers

Start in the push up position, and lower your body very slowly so that both of your knees and your chest touch the floor at the same time.

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

If you are unable to just push yourself back to the starting position, bend your knees and press your body up so that you can lock your arms into plank and straighten your legs back to the start position.

How to Master The Pushup (Properly!)

Please note: Doing pushups from your knees are not a very proficient way to increase your ability to do a regular pushup. Because pushups involve so much core, with the combination of stability through the shoulder, it is important to strengthen the core and chest simultaneously by practicing on an elevated surface. Pushups from the knees are not a fair regression to the regular push up.

You can find more tips and exercises like this from our  trainers on the SNFC Blog!

... not a reader? Be sure to book your FREE personal training sessions for one-on-one guidance and inspiration.