Push Up Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures

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By Alex
Last updated on
Exercise NamePush Up
Primary MusclesPectoralis MajorPectoralis Minor
Secondary MusclesAbsHamstringsSpinal ErectorsShouldersTriceps
Required EquipmentBodyweight
Optional EquipmentNone
Rep Range8-20+
VariationsBent Knee Push Up, Feet Elevated Push Up, Weighted Push Up, Clapping Push Up, Triangle Push Up
AlternativesBench PressDips

Push Up Instructions

Note: Pictures coming soon!

1. Starting Position

  • Assume a plank position; elevate torso and legs off ground by extending elbows.
  • Space hands just outside of shoulder width, with palms flat on the floor.
  • Position feet hip width apart or closer; heels up and toes against floor.
  • Keep body straight by maintaining a neutral spine and tensed core.

2. Eccentric Repetition

  • Flex elbows and extend shoulders to lower torso until chest touches floor.

3. Midpoint

  • Pause for a split second at the bottom of the rep.

4. Concentric Repetition

  • Extend elbows and flex shoulders to raise torso until elbows are locked.

5. Repeat

  • Repeat the push up for however many reps are left in the set.
  • I recommend between 8-20 reps. If that’s too easy, do push ups as your final chest exercise or try an advanced variation.

Common Push Up Errors to Avoid

Looking upDon’t bend your neck to look forward. Keep it neutral by focusing on a spot on the floor, roughly a foot in front of you.

Elbows flared outKeep your elbows tucked in. Don’t bow your elbows out to the side. They should remain relatively close to your ribs; technically, your upper arms should be 45° from the side of your body. Failing to do this causes excess shoulder strain.
Incomplete range of motionDon’t half-ass it. No partial reps. Go from elbows fully extended to chest touching the floor, and back to full elbow extension.
Sagging hipsKeep your hips up so that your lower back doesn’t sag to the ground. It’s a common flaw to let the hips touch floor. I’ll say it again: Keep your body straight.

Push Up Tips

  1. Lead with your chest. Go down until it touches the floor. No other body part should touch the floor. Keep your chin retracted (straight back into your face, not tucked down) to prevent your head from dropping below your chest.
  2. Tense your abs and glutes throughout the movement. This keeps your body straight by encouraging proper spinal alignement. If you find that your lower back and hips droop, then add the plank exercise to your routine to bolster your core strength.
  3. Think of your toes as the pivot point in the motion. So, your toes will bend at their joints and your heels will be up. This provides good stability (since your toes “grip” the floor) and seamless mobility (since the joints provide the flexibility to go up/down without issue).
  4. Pull your body downward. This may sound odd, but you want to think of pulling your body down instead of just lowering it. It helps improve muscle involvement and can make the positive rep seem more explosive.
  5. Critique your push up technique to ensure your body remains straight. Ask your workout partner to check your form. No partner? Do push ups next to a mirror and turn your head to see your body from the side. Or, simply film yourself.
  6. Do push ups as assistance work for the bench press or weighted dips. Yes, the push up is a great exercise. But it should never be your main chest exercise.
  7. Do push ups to warm up for heavy compound chest exercises. A couple light sets of push ups gets blood pumping to the chest, shoulders and arms, and lubricates the respective joints. Plus, you don’t waste as much time loading/unloading the bar for bench press warm up sets.

Is This Exercise Right for You?

The push up is an exercise that can benefit anyone, regarless of experience. It’s a simple movement that produces rapid gains in upper body pushing strength…

…Not only is it simple; it’s incredibly versatile. There’s a plethora of push up variations from which to choose, to match your abilities and needs.

You may want to avoid doing push ups, or at least use caution if you have shoulder issues.

Alex from King of the Gym
Hey! My name is Alex and I'm the founder and author of King of the Gym. I've been lifting weights seriously since 2005 in high school when I started a home gym in my parents' basement. I started writing about fitness in 2009. Then, in 2014, I got into writing home gym equipment reviews and I haven't looked back. My current home gym is in my own house and it's constantly growing and evolving. My goal is to help you build the home gym of your dreams! Read more about me here.

2 thoughts on “Push Up Exercise Form Guide with Video & Pictures”

    • You’re totally right, Albert. This is one of my older tutorials, from back when I didn’t really understand how helpful more images could be. My newer exercise tutorials all have multiple photos for the different phases of the lift. Maybe I’ll be able to go back through these older ones in the future to add more, but I’m busy writing a lot of new content so it’ll have to wait. Thanks for the feedback!


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