The Push Up

by Becca Egan, BS, NASM-CPT

Exercise: The push up

Muscle Groups Targeted: Shoulders, chest, biceps, triceps, core

Importance: The push up is a functional movement that works all the muscles in the upper body as well as the core and back (stability).

Proper Form:

  • Start at the top of the push up with hands directly beneath your shoulders.
  • Fingers spread apart, index fingers should point at 11:00 (L) and 1:00 (R).
  • Keeping a straight line form your shoulders all the way down to your heels, engage your core and start lowering yourself to the ground.
  • Lower all the way to the ground until your chest (and nothing else) touches the ground. Make sure your hips aren't sagging at the bottom.
  • As soon as your chest hits the ground, drive through the palms of your hands and return to starting position.


  • Place your hands closer together to work the triceps more
  • Place your hands wider (but still angle your elbows towards your hips) to work the chest muscles more.
  • More difficult: at the bottom of the push up when your chest is on the ground, release your hands from the ground, enough to just break contact, then place them back and preform push up. This is called a hand release push up. It is more difficult because you are losing tension.
  • Less difficult: complete movement on your knees. Same rules apply. Straight line from your shoulders to your knees, only chest touches the ground.


  • Engage/brace the core so your hips don't sag on the way up.
  • Start on an incline if you cannot preform movement on the ground. Same rules apply - only chest touches surface your pushing off and keep body in straight line.

Sample Workout:

Push ups
(10 push ups, 10 squats. 9 push ups, 9 squats. etc)

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