If you want to improve your push up form – and do more push ups, this video is for you. We’re going to show you how to (finally) push up properly by covering how you can optimally set up your body position, stabilize that position by activating the right muscles, and finally, combine it with a few modifications (i.e. push up variations) to unlock its maximum potential. After this video, you can be sure to get better push ups. Your push-up strength and the muscle growth you get from performing it will be taken to a whole new level.
First, setup. Getting this right is crucial to if you want to improve your push up form. We’ll start with hand placement. In general, you’d want it such that if you were to look down from an overhead view, your elbows should make an “arrow” shape. To find your sweet spot hand position, lie down on the floor with your hands at the level of your mid-chest. Take a look at your forearm and elbows. Move your hands until you find the hand width where the forearm is positioned directly over the wrists and the elbows are tucked into that arrow position (roughly a 45 to 60 degree angle). Most of you will end up with a hand placement at the mid-chest level and placed just outside the shoulders. Keep your hands on the floor. Then get onto your hands and knees, with your knees right under your hips.
This step is where we’ll focus on turning on several muscles that’ll help better stabilize your body as you perform your push-up, avoiding what’s called “Energy Leaks”. In turn, helping you do more push ups. Start by pushing your knuckle down into the floor and spreading your hands such that there’s space between each of your fingers. This will help us incorporate more of our powerful chest muscles. Next, slide your shoulders down and away from your ears. You should feel your lats turn on as you do this. Then, while maintaining this activation in your lats, push the floor away to open up your shoulder blades to integrate the serratus anterior. At this point, your head will likely be protruding forward. Adjust this by pulling your chin back to draw your head back in line with your body. This helps avoid stressing the neck and also puts our mid-back muscles into a better position for stabilization.
At this point we’re done stabilizing the upper body and are ready to move to the lower body. We’ll start by setting your hips in the right position. To do so, think about tucking your tailbone. Once you’ve made it here, you’re ready to step back. Take a breath in, engage your core, and then extend one leg back. Dig your toes into the floor and squeeze your thigh really tight to fully extend your leg. Hold that, then step the other leg back and squeeze the other thigh tight. Now you know all the basics of how to push up properly.
To perform your push-up, we’re actually going to start by pulling and then pushing. So from the top position we established in step 2, do not just let gravity flop you to the floor. Instead, to get better push ups, think about using your back muscles to pull yourself to the floor as if you were performing a row. Your body will have to travel forward slightly as you do so in order to keep those elbows directly over the wrists like we talked about in step 1. Then, while squeezing your butt and thighs, push away from the floor to the top to open up your shoulder blades again as we did during our setup. At this top position your head, hips, and feet should make one straight line. Maintain this as you proceed to your next reps.
Now that we’ve nailed down your perfect push-up, it’s time to modify it and use the appropriate push up variations based on your current strength level and body type. If you struggle with push-ups and can’t do more than 10 good push-ups, you can either do leg-banded push ups or incline push ups. For those who instead have “mastered” the standard push-up and can perform more than 20 good reps with them, it’s time to increase the difficulty. The most convenient way is to just slow down the reps. Instead of taking 1 second to go down, extend it to 3 seconds. Do the same on the way up. Once that becomes too easy, incorporate a 1-2 second pause at the bottom as well. My personal favorite, however, is banded push-ups.
If you want to maximize your growth and strength, it’s important to apply this same level of detail and execution with all of your exercises, not just your push-up. For a step-by-step program that shows you how to do just that, with in-depth tutorials for each and every exercise included in your program, then take our free quiz below to determine which of our programs are best for you and your goals:
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