How to Perfect Your Push-up: 4 Form Tips and Progressions

A push-up is a total body essential strength move and it's a great way to monitor your strength gains, especially when all you have at home is your own bodyweight! Yes, I said total body. It's doesn't just work your chest and tris. If you are performing a push-up correctly, you will work your entire body. Let's dig into four tips to perfect your push-up and how to slowly progress.

7 minute read

The push-up is a foundational movement that all athletes (yes, if you work out regularly you are an athlete in our eyes mama) should add to their fitness routine. Although this is true, if you aren't performing a push-up with perfect form it may not be doing you any good. It's time to think about whether you should start modifying until you have gained sufficient strength and talk through ways to slowly progress to a standard push-up. Modifications are still HARD and will still help you obtain your health and fitness goals.

Before we talk about progressing your push-up, let’s first jump into 4 tips to ensure you have perfect push-up form.

Hand Position.

  • Your wrists should be directly below your shoulders.
  • Screw your hands into the floor, fingers are slightly spread apart.
  • Ensure your triceps are making a 45-degree angle with your torso.

Spine Alignment.

  • Look directly in front of you to the ground to ensure your neck is in line with your spine.
  • Your spine should also be long and neutral, ensuring your booty doesn’t pike up or dip.
  • Engage your core, glutes, and quads will help keep proper alignment both when you lower yourself to the floor and when you press off.

Exhale on the Push.

  • The Push is the hardest part and if you have been following us, then you know you always exhale during the hardest exertion and/or when moving against gravity.
  • Start in plank position, inhale as you lower your body to the floor and exhale as you push your body back into a plank position.

Range of Motion.

  • As you lower your body, squeeze your shoulder blades together until your chin and chest are just inches from the ground.
  • If you are unable to hover inches from the ground without losing proper form, this is your first sign to modify.

Now that you know what perfect form looks like, let's talk push-up progressions. For these progressions, keep in mind that you will still follow the above form tips. Including or I should say, especially engaging your core and glutes as it’s easy to forget when you are on your knees.  

Progression one: Incline Push-up.

This reduces the load or in other words the weight you have to push off the ground. This is especially beneficial for pregnant women or newly postpartum, as it relieves the pressure from your front core and gives more for the growing belly. The higher you are from the ground, the less the load will be. Slowly progress from a table to a chair or bench if you are beginner. You can even do incline knee push-ups if you feel form start to slip.

Progression two: Knee Modification Push-up.

Simply drop your knees to the ground and bend your knees, cross your feet behind. Follow the same tips above to ensure proper form.

Progressions three: Hybrid Push-up.

Perform the decent part of the push-up on your toes, as this is the easier part. Then drop to your knees at the bottom and push your chest off the ground while keeping your knees planted into the ground. Come back to your toes in a plank position for a second rep, until you loose form. At that point, perform the remaining reps on your knees. Keep track of how many push-ups you can do before having to drop to your knees. Once you have performed 5 push-ups in this hybrid progression, try to add one push-up on your toes and progress from there.

Progression four: Standard Push-up.

This is the goal, performing both the decent and the push on your toes with proper form. You can slowly work your way up by performing a few perfect form reps on your toes and progressing from there. Once you have mastered 10 full range push-ups with perfect form, you can start progressing your push-ups to more challenging variations. Such as spider push-ups and power clap push-ups! It’s been a hot minute since I have been able to perform these types of push-ups given that I have been pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding but it’s certainly something to words towards if you are advanced! 

Now let's all add a few push-ups here and there, because practice makes perfect. Whether it's in-between meetings, when you first wake up to get the blood flowing, or at the end of a run or walk. Soon enough, we will all have perfect push-up form and be able to progress like champs!

Conquer your summit,

Christy Talamo, ACE-Certified Fitness Trainer, Post Partum Exercise Specialist