Pushups may have been the bane of your existence in middle school gym class. But as an adult, it’s time to make them the bae of your workout routine.
Why? Pushups are one of the best total-body moves out there. “I love push ups because not only do they work your chest, shoulders, and triceps, but also, when they’re done correctly, they build core stability,” says Betina Gozo, NASM-certified personal trainer.
They’re also a great foundational movement that prepares you for both pushing and pulling motions. Really, could you ask anything more of a single exercise? But to get the full-body-benefits of pushups, you need to learn how to do them properly first.
How can I do a pushup correctly?
How to: Bring yourself into a high plank position, with your feet to a bit wider than hip-width apart. This will give you more stability. Think about wrapping your shoulders back, but keeping your ribcage knit together. Everything is super engaged in your core.
As you lower yourself down, elbows should point out at a 4:30 and 7:30. Don’t let your elbows flare out, but don’t keep them too narrow, either. Then push into your entire hand and press yourself back up.
Okay…but what if I can’t quit do a full pushup yet?
If a full pushup is too challenging, try a couple regression options.
How can I integrate pushups into my workout?
“I would start with 5 to 10 eccentric pushups at three sets with a 30 to 60 seconds of rest in between,” says Gozo.
Or, you can try making a superset with a pulling movement like renegade rows or pull-ups.
“Once you feel strong enough to move to regular full pushups, incorporate 5, 10, 15—however many you can do,” says Gozo.
Do three sets of them, with rests in between.
Another option is to make pushups part of a full-body or upper-body workout.
What are some other pushup variations to try?
Once you learn how to do a full pushup the right way, there are endless iterations to play with. Here are 10 to get you started.
1. Hand-release pushup
How to: Place your hands shoulder-width apart on the floor, then extend your legs behind you with your feet about hip-width apart. Your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Keeping your core tight, bend your elbows to lower your body all the way down to the floor. At the bottom, allow your torso to rest on the ground as you lift your hands a couple inches off your mat. Push back up to high plank. That’s one rep.
2. Close-grip pushup
How to: Assume a high-plank position—but with your hands directly under your chest instead of out to your sides. Lower your body, elbows narrow and pointing toward your feet and biceps close to your body. Then press back up. That’s one rep.
3. One-Hand Elevated Pushup
How to: Start in a high-plank position with one hand on top of a yoga block or elevated surface. (Note: You can drop to your knees for a modified version.) Engage your core, keep your legs straight, and hips level. Slowly lower yourself toward the ground bracing your core. Stop when your elbows get to 90 degrees. Push hard into the ground to lift your body back up in one long line. That’s one rep.
4. Wide Pushup
How to: Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart on the floor, then extend your legs behind you with your feet togehter; your body should form a straight line from head to heels. Keeping your core tight, bend your elbows to lower your body toward the floor. Press back to start. That’s one rep.
5. Triangle Pushup
How to: Assume a high-plank position, but with your hands close together under your chest so your thumbs and forefingers form a triangle on the ground. Lower your body with your elbows pointing toward your feet and biceps close to your body. Then press back up. That’s one rep.
6. Sliding Pushup
How to: Place your hands about shoulder-width apart on the floor with a slider underneath each palm. Then, extend your legs behind you, so your body forms a straight line from head to heels. Keeping your core tight, slide your hands to the side and immediately lower your body toward the floor. Press back to start. That’s one rep.
7. Pushup With Plank Jack
How to: Start in a high-plank position with your shoulders stacked above wrists and sliders under your toes. Glide your feet out to the sides and lower your body down into a pushup at the same time. Press back to start. That’s one rep.
8. Knee Tuck Pushup
How to: Get into a high-plank position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and sliders underneath your feet. Squeezing your core, bend your knees as you glide your feet forward until your thighs hit your chest. Press back out to your plank and complete a pushup. That’s one rep.
9. Medicine Ball Pushup
How to: Place a medicine ball under one hand and rest your knees on the ground to create a straight line from your head to your knees. Slowly bend your elbows and lower your body down. Once your left arm is at a 90-degree angle, return to start. That’s one rep.
10. Medicine Ball Pushup Shuffle
How to: Start in a high-plank position placing one hand on top of a medicine ball. Do a one-hand elevated pushup, then switch sides by rolling the ball across your mat to rest under your other palm. Do another pushup. That’s one rep.
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