Push ups are one of the best exercises ever invented. A correct push up requires zero equipment, builds strength in all of the right places, has hundreds of variations to keep things fresh, and is easily quantifiable so keeping track of progression is a breeze.
When it comes to push ups, your form is crucial. Each push up needs to be done perfectly so that your total reps measured from workout to workout are on equal footing. If you did thirty perfect push ups two days ago, and then today you did sixty push ups by only going down halfway, sticking your ass up in the air, etc., it’s absolutely impossible to tell if you got any stronger.
How To Perform A Correct Push Up
When down on the ground, set your hands at a distance that is slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Depending on your strength and experience, your hands should be angled in a way that feels comfortable to you. You can turn your hands inwards slightly if it’s less stressful on your wrists, or you can do your push ups on your knuckles (as long as you’re on a semi-soft surface like grass or carpet.
Your feet should be set up in a way that feels right and comfortable to you. For some, that might be shoulder width apart. For others, it might be that the feet are touching. Generally speaking, the wider apart your feet, the more stable you’ll be for your push ups.
Think of your body as one giant straight line – from the top of your head down through your heels. Your butt shouldn’t be sticking way up in the air or sagging.
If you have a problem getting the proper form with your body, try this: clench your butt, and then tighten your abs. Your core will be engaged, and your body should be in that straight line. If you’ve been doing push ups incorrectly, this might be a big change for you.
Your head should be looking slightly ahead of you, not straight down. I read somewhere that said “if you’re doing them right, your chin should be the first part of your head to touch the floor, not your nose.” Looking up helps you keep your body in line, but feel free to look down if that helps you concentrate more.
At the top of your push up, your arms should be straight and supporting your weight. You’re now ready to do a push up.
Alright, now that you’re actually all set up and eager to begin, let’s get you through one repetition. Remember that good form is crucial, so keep your focus through each movement and start to set good habits.
How To Complete A Repetition
With your arms straight, butt clenched, and abs braced, steadily lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle or smaller. Depending on your level of experience, age, and flexibility, 90 degrees might be the lowest you’re able to go. Personally, I like to go down until my chest (not my face), hits the floor. That way, I know I’m going the same distance each and every time.
Try not to let your elbows go flying way out with each repetition. Keep them relatively close to your body, and keep note of when they start to fly out when you get tired.
Once your chest touches the floor (or your arms go down to a 90 degree angle), pause slightly and then explode back up until you’re back in the same position.
Congratulations, you just did a correct push up. Do as many as you can until you start to feel your form slip (even slightly); you are done for that set. Ten good push ups and 5 crappy ones are tough to quantify against eleven good push ups. If you can only do ten of something, write down your results and aim for 11 next time. Perfect form allows you to keep track of your improvements week over week.
Here is the video for a better explanation of how to do a correct push up: