Ultimate Pushup Guide: Master Proper Pushup Form

Ultimate Pushup Guide: Master Proper Pushup Form

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In this ultimate, comprehensive guide, I’d like to talk about how to do pushups. Specially, we’ll focus on everything about how to do a proper push up to nail that proper pushup form!

If I were to make an argument that pushups are the most popular exercise of all time, I would not sound too controversial.

Whatever sport you train—whether its badminton, water polo, archery, or boxing (our favorite!)—pushups are an essential exercise for all of them.

Is it surprising? Well, yes and no.

The well yes, but actually no meme.

If you consider it as another regular exercise, then yes, it might indeed surprise you. However, if you actually research it and find out how it works your body out, then it’s not surprising at all.

My father was a trainer who made me do push-ups since as long as I can remember.

It’s now deeply ingrained in me that push-ups are a must-do exercise. I guess not everyone was as lucky as I am and not everyone had a person teaching them about the importance and proper form of the exercise.

Luckily, people who did not have a father like mine have Boxingholic.

Mike showing approval sign.
We got you covered!

In this article, I’ll suggest to read on if:

  • You’re not sure about anything related to the exercise
  • You don’t know how to properly perform this exercise
  • You know how to do it but want to learn different types of push-ups and how to do them properly
  • You want to learn about importance of push-ups in boxing

The Benefits of Pushups

Push-ups are popular among people of all fitness level—that’s by no means a coincidence.

People have been doing them for hundreds or even thousands of years. In fact, we’re still doing them now and will be remain popular in the foreseeable future.

In this section, we will state five of the most important reasons why you need to start doing pushups.

#1: Increase Upper Body Strength

A man doing pullups.

As simple as that.

You might be quite surprised how much muscles are worked while performing a pushup.

Push-ups are very good for your arms, triceps, back, and chest. While doing them, your core holds your entire body, so they’re also beneficial for your abs muscles. Name another exercise that can develop a lot of muscles simultaneously. Probably quite few!

#2: Prevent Lower Back pain

Image depicting lower back pain.

One of the most common pains people who work out have is the pain of the lower back.

Pushups prevent it!

By doing pushups, you strengthen your muscles in your lower back. As a result, you decrease the possibility of injury and minimize the chances of having back pains. You could say it’s a great exercise for seniors!

#3: Improve/Correct your posture

Image depicting back and good posture, left and right respectively.

Most of us are guilty of sitting with a bad posture, and even the fittest people on this planet are not exempt!

Modern society has forced us to sit on a desk for a prolonged period of time. Sitting in front of the computer for few hours every day does not make your posture look like Michelangelo’s David.

Performing pushups is a good exercise for all of those who want to improve the look of their posture. Because the exercise strengthens our back, arms, and chest, our posture instantly improves. Pushups are also good for strengthening your muscles around the spine and so allows you to keep that good posture in place.

#4: Increase Testosterone Level

A shredded man with big biceps.

Yes, you heard that right.

 

We hope there will be a pandemic of pushups after we revealed this secret to you!

Multi-joint exercises such as pushups are vital to the increase in level of testosterone, due to the activation of multiple muscle groups during the exercise.

Studies indeed suggest that doing pushups increase the level of testosterone, which some call the hormone of masculinity.

#5: Enhance your Cardiovascular system

Two joggers jogging at sunset.

All exercises that simultaneously engage multiple muscles groups put a heavy demand on our cardiovascular system. Particularly, they encourage our body to deliver more oxygen-rich blood to our muscle tissue.

That’s not only healthy in itself, but it also supports our heart health and more importantly encourages our body to burn fat!

Proper Pushup Form: a Step-by-Step Walkthrough

We will now show you how to properly perform a pushup step-by-step. Nailing that perfect pushup will ensure you’re properly engaging all the muscle group and reaping the maximum benefits of a pushup.

Let’s get started!

Step #1 of Proper Pushup Form: Position yourself in a plank position

Mike in the plank position during the first step of performing the standard proper pushup form.

Assuming you’re at a proper location to exercise, first lie down with your belly pointing towards the floor and assume a plank position.

Here, your hands are shoulder-length apart and fingers pointing vertically along the floor. Also, your arms are pointing straight to the ground and the elbow joints locked in place.

You have to make sure your back is straight and your eyes looking towards the floor right in front of you when maintaining the plank position.

Step #2 of Proper Pushup Form: Dip your body down to perform the pushup

Mike in dipping down during the second step of performing the standard proper pushup form.

Now, you need to dip down to the floor by bending your elbows.

As a rule of thumb, drop down to the point that your chin lightly touches the floor. Furthermore, your biceps should be angled about 45° relative to the direction of the spine.

Last but not least, make sure you’re engaging your back muscles by squeezing those shoulder blades when you’re at the very bottom of the pushup.

Step #3 of Proper Pushup Form: Push in order to go right back up

Mike back up to the plank position during the third step of performing the standard proper pushup form.

You now should go back to the original plank position by pushing the floor all the way up.

Make sure you’re in the original position. Don’t push those hips too high nor point your head parallel to the floor as if you’re looking at a distance.

Step #4 of Proper Pushup Form: Repeat the movement in step #2 and #3

You should now repeat the movement and form in step #2 and step #3 to make sure you’re nailing that proper pushup form.

Congratulations! You’re now a master of performing a proper pushup! Here’s how the full movement looks like.

Mike performing the standard pushup and nailing the proper pushup form.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Doing Pushups with Proper Form

When trying to master the proper pushup form, there are quite a lot of things you have to be careful while doing standard pushups, as doing it improperly will not allow you to reap the maximum benefits offered by performing them.

But don’t worry—we’ve got your back!

Below, we’ll show you what to exactly watch out for and remember about when performing a proper pushup.

Improper hand placement

Proper pushup form: side by side comparison of proper hand placement.

One of the most common mistakes when performing a pushup.

People put hands either too wide, too narrow, too high, or too low. Any of those are incorrect and will result in pain in the shoulder joints and palms.

Make sure your hands are shoulder width apart. Also, the palm of the hands should be positioned directly under your shoulders and perpendicular to the surface of the floor.

Flaring your elbows

Proper pushup form: demonstration of the mistake in a side by side comparison of flaring the elbows.

A typical rookie mistake we often see in the gym!

It usually is a byproduct of the previously mentioned mistake on hand placement. Problem with ‘flying elbows’ is that while having your elbows in a wrong position, you put more stress on your shoulders and consequently increase the possibility of injuries.

Place your hands correctly and be aware of your elbows’ position during the exercise—that should do!

Lowering your back

Proper pushup form: demonstration of the mistake in a side by side comparison of lowering the hips.

This is a mistake that might potentially have the most serious consequences.

Often happens to people who have a strong upper body but weak lower back and legs.

As they hold the pushup with their arms, they simultaneously drop their back. This results in the lower back sagging down and putting the body in an uncomfortable position.

Doing pushups with your back lowered is not something that will not only cause pain, but also potentially cause a spine injury. If you feel your back is lowering, try pushing your hips up to ensure you’re maintaining that proper pushup form.

Having the hips too high

Proper pushup form: demonstration of the mistake in a side by side comparison of pushing the hips too high.

The complete opposite of the mistake mentioned in the preceding paragraph.

Putting your hips too high will make the exercise less effective as you’re engaging less of your core muscles. That’s why you should be imitating the plank position when you have your hands extended during the pushup.

So, keep that hip low so that your upper and lower body forms a straight line.

Doing half the range of motion

Mike in the plank position during a pushup.

You have to make sure you’re performing the full range of motion for the exercise.

What you’d be doing is a semi-pushup and so won’t fully engage all the muscle groups.

It’s a bad habit that you should be conscious about when performing pushups. Doing even two correct pushups is better than doing 12 semi-pushups.

Therefore, to fix this, make sure you dip down to the point that you’re touching your chin on the floor and when you’re in your plank position in your pushup, make sure to fully extend your arms to the point that your elbow joints are locked.

Not breathing

Emoticon with puffed cheeks.

Yes, it’s a tough exercise especially if you try to do pushups until failure, but even during that, you have to make sure you’re breathing!

If you don’t breathe and instead keep that air trapped inside your lungs, you’ll gas out faster than your actual physical limit.

A good way to breathe is to inhale when you’re dipping down and exhale when you’re returning to your plank position. Moreover, make sure you’re breathing through your nose, since you’ll be taking the most amount of oxygen into your body.

Remember—don’t let your cheeks be like a beetroot!

Using momentum instead of muscles

Mike dipping down during a pushup.

Very often seen when guys make a competition about who can do the greatest number of pushups.

When they try to do as many as possible, they do them in a fast and explosive fashion, using leverage, movement, and momentum instead of muscles. Yes, it allows one to do few more pushups, but these are not done under proper pushup form and will not effectively engage the entire muscle group.

In fact, a certain study found that doing fast pushups resulted in greater strain to the elbows and the surrounding area and could result in higher risk of injuries. Furthermore, they found that slower pushups resulted in greater engagement of the muscles.

In other words, you should avoid doing pushups in a fast and explosive fashion. Instead, you need to take it slow and do the full range of motion for the exercise.

Not squeezing your shoulder blades

Proper pushup form: demonstration of the mistake in a side by side comparison of not squeezing the shoulders.

This is a common one that at times even fitness veterans make.

When dipping down during the pushup, you should not just flatten the back like a chopping board.

Instead, you must squeeze your shoulder blades together as if you’re breaking a nut using them. This is to make sure you’re effectively engaging your muscles in the back.

So, make sure you tighten those muscle in the back when you dip down for that pushup and once you get used to it, you’ll have a strong upper body that will be useful for boxing!

What if I Can't Do a Normal Pushup with Proper Form Yet?

pushup-struggling

If that’s the problem, don’t worry about it!

Regardless of your age, gender, or size, we all started at one point where we couldn’t even do a single pushup. The only difference between you and a person who can do 100 pushups in one go is the hard work that the person already put in.

So, if that’s the case, start now and get to work.

Let’s keep it simple—if you can’t do the pushup, start with exercises that imitate it in order for you to learn the movement and gain the strength to do it. We present to you two different types of pushups you can do before being able to do the standard version with proper form.

Depending on if you have adequate strength but not enough to do the standard version, you can skip the first one and do the second one. Also, in general, you should progress to the next pushup below if you can do 3 sets of 20 reps in one training session.

Wall Pushups

Mike performing wall pushups.

Simplest, easiest, and the best way to start. You only need your body and a wall, so you can do it anywhere.

While standing in front of a flat wall, place your hands on it and imitate the push-up movement in that position. It might not sound like the most exhausting exercise out there, but doing 50 reps of it will surely test you physically.

Knee Push-ups

Mike performing knee pushups.

The pushup to do before being able to do the standard pushup.

Basically, it’s just like the standard pushup, except you do them with both of your knees to the ground.

This exercise is an excellent one, as it’s the milder and lighter version of an actual pushup. Once you’re comfortable doing a lot of them in one go, then you should be able to do the normal pushup!

Different Variants of the Standard Pushup

Once you have mastered the standard pushup with that proper pushup form, you might start feeling bored of the same routine. The good news is, there are many variants of the standard pushup you can do to not only vary your pushup routine, but also challenge yourself!

Below, you will find different types of pushups you can immediately implement in your workout to make your fitness or boxing journey exciting. Below is by no means an exhaustive list, so we encourage you to experiment with other pushups.

One-legged Pushups

Mike performing one leg pushups.

Place one of your legs on top of the other and to enjoy harder pushups that’s physically more demanding. A great pushup when you want to improve your balance and stability on top of the benefits provided by the standard pushup.

Side-to-side Pushup

Mike performing side to side pushups.

In this pushup, you add an extra step on top of your standard pushup to engage even more of your muscles.

Once you have dipped down to the floor in your pushup, swing from side to side before pushing up back to your plank position. This extra step will engage more muscles in your shoulders and arms.

Diamond pushups

Mike performing diamond pushups.

Another special variant of the standard pushup that puts more emphasis on your outer muscle in your arms such as the triceps.

Perform this pushup by forming a diamond/triangle with your hands and then doing the standard pushup.

Wide pushups

Mike performing wide pushups.

Quite a physically demanding pushup, but nevertheless a very effective one.

This pushup can be done by placing your hands about twice the shoulder width apart. An excellent one when you want to train your chest muscles extra hard.

Japanese pushups

Mike performing Japanese pushups.

You might be wondering if this is even a pushup, but it’s an excellent one that strengthens your back, arms, and chest muscles simultaneously.

Here, you raise your hips high into the air, go slowly down forward and then make nutshell/circular movement. The movement might sound complex, so, check out the demonstration below.

Double pump pushups

Mike performing double pump pushups.

A pushup that puts extra tension to your arms to engage your arm muscles.

In this pushup, you add an extra step—once you’ve dipped down to the floor in your pushup sequence, go back up halfway and then down again. After that, you go fully back up to your plank position.

Plyometrics pushups with a jump

Mike performing a plyometrics pushup with a jump.

A pushup that’s physically demanding, but good in general for martial arts.

Start by your standard plank position in your pushup and then dip down as usual. From this position, explosively push the ground so that both of your hands are in midair. Subsequently, when your hands land on the floor, immediately dip down and redo the explosive sequence.

Plyometrics pushups with a clap

Mike performing a plyometrics pushup with a clap.

Another difficult pushup that employs explosiveness to the pushup.

The pushup sequence is as follows—when you dip down to the floor, you explosively push your hands up from the floor and do a clap midair.

Quite energy intensive and we wouldn’t recommend you to try it if you haven’t still perfected the proper pushup form of the standard pushup, as messing it up might cause wrist joint injuries.

However, it’s an excellent pushup especially for boxing, as it trains your explosiveness in your punch.

Plyometrics pushups with a chest touch

Mike performing a plyometrics pushup with a touch to the chest.

Even more difficult than the preceding pushup.

For this one, you do exactly the same as the preceding pushup with a clap, except you replace the clap to a touch to the chest.

Again, don’t try this if you haven’t properly mastered the standard pushup, as you’ll be prone to injuries.

Superman pushups

Mike performing the superman pushup.

One of the hardest types of pushup to do out of all the previously mentioned ones.

If you’re keen for the challenge, it’s done as follows—once you dip down to the ground in your standard pushup sequence, explosively push your entire body up so that you’re assuming a flying position in midair like superman.

Extremely good for your explosiveness, so highly recommend to do a few for your boxing training!

How to Get Better at Pushups?

A guy doing pushups.

After you learn the proper pushup form and being able to do regular pushup as well as even some variants like the Japanese pushup or the superman pushup, you might encounter a moment where you reach a plateau.

Don’t worry—this happens quite often if you train properly!

Many people might get to the stage where say, they’re able to do 30 or 35 pushups without stopping. However, at some point they’re not able to exceed their personal record.

You’re not alone—many students we trained hit at one point a plateau with the rate of progress diminishing.

Therefore, we’ll share with you several tips that will allow you to jump from doing a few pushups to doing as many as you want in one sitting!

Lose weight

A woman pinching the fat in the stomach.

As much as it’s easier said than done, losing weight is crucial to doing more pushups.

Being light is crucial for any exercises you perform with your own body weight. It’s simple—the lighter you are, the easier it gets.

If cutting your weight is an issue, we suggest looking at our article on how to cut weight fast or check out our article on Piperinox.

Rest and recover

A man resting during a workout.

If you’re desperate to improving the number of pushups you can do to the point that you’re doing it every day, we give you the opposite advice of what you would expect—rest.

Don’t do pushups for seven days a week.

Have a rest and let your muscles regenerate. You’d be quite surprised how many pushups you’ll be able to do after it.

Do a solid warm-up

A man stretching.

It’s quite surprising that many people don’t warm up before doing actual pushups, fearing they’ll be exhausted by the time they start the actual exercise.

The advice is simple—don’t start cold. Warm up your arms, hands, back, and core. You can warm up by starting lighter version of the exercise, such as wall pushups we mentioned earlier.

Start doing pushups when your body is ready for the training. It will not make a massive difference, but should help a lot especially when you recently started your fitness journey.

Work on your core

Mike training his abs.

One thing that might stop your progress are your abs.

Having a weak core might make you unable to hold that pushup position. One of the best exercises to do if you want to get better at pushups is the plank. It imitates the movement and body positioning you employ while doing push-ups.

Arnold Schwarzenegger’s advice

Arnold Schwarzenegger showing his biceps.

As a fitness guru and an ultimate bodybuilding role model once said—your muscles and progress grow when doing the last two reps after you think you can’t do it. 

Sometimes, it’s your mind that stops you from doing additional reps, so push yourself to the absolute limit. That’s the only way to improve.

If you’ve done 15 pushups and you feel like you absolutely can’t squeeze in any more reps, force yourself to do one or two more. Even better if you can maintain that proper pushup form until the end. That’s when progress happens and your muscles grow.

Do less reps but with added weight

Kettlebells lined up.

Feel like you don’t have strong enough muscles to break your pushup personal record?

Then you can start doing pushups with a backpack full of books, or a few weights delicately placed on your back. Instead of doing 10 normal push-ups, try to do 5 with additional weight placed on you.

This should increase the rate of your progress very quickly because when you go back to doing normal pushups, they will be a breeze.

Do pushups slowly with Proper Form

Slow road sign.

No rocket science here.

The slower you perform the exercise, the harder it gets as you’ll have to maintain the same position for a longer time. If you do them slowly, after a while you will see progress when you do pushups at a normal pace.

Work, work, and work!

A man sweating and drink.

Seems like a cliché, but nevertheless the most important one.

Progress is often not linear. Sometimes you might be able to quickly achieve 10 or 15 push-ups but the progress from 15 to 17 might be a lot longer.

Just work, work, and work—the progress will come. For some people it will come faster, while slower for others.  But don’t get discouraged. If you’re doing them consistently and work hard, there is absolutely no way you’ll not get better.

https://boxingholic.com/exercise-form/proper-pushup/

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