Ingrid Clay

How-to Progress Your Push Up

P-push it real good. 

Push-ups are an effective bodyweight, compound drill that can be done anywhere. We’re talking biceps, triceps, shoulders, back, chest and your core – the whole shebang.

They’re also hard AF to execute properly, so here are some ways to master your push-up and keep your body challenged.

Woman standing with her arms folded

Ingrid Clay, Senior Instructor, Los Angeles

The Basics

Start in a plank position with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet about hip-distance apart. As you bend your elbows, they should angle down and away from your body, about 45 degrees. Keep your core engaged and back flat so that both move in a single straight line, and try to push all the way down so that your elbows match your shoulders. Voila – you’ve got the perfect push-up.

Woman doing a push up in Barry's Red Room

Not quite ready to hit it full force? Try a modified push-up on your knees and focus on keeping those abs engaged while you press. Lead with your chest, then push up through your hands and upper arms.

Woman doing a knee push up in Barry's Red Room

The Extra Push (Up)

Whether you’re killing it with a standard push-up or somewhere in between your knees and toes, adding in variations will keep your sets interesting. 

Get handsy. When your hands are closer together, you’ll work more of your triceps as you press through the movement. Move them wider apart, and you’ll feel the burn through the chest.

Or, try hand releases. Bring your chest all the way to the ground, release your hands from the floor for a split second by retracting your shoulder bladers and engaging your lat muscles, then push all the way up. Woman doing a hand release push up in Barry's Red Room 

Play with elevation. If you’re trying get off your knees but aren’t quite there yet, put your hands on an incline, then pop up onto those toes.

Woman doing an incline push up in Barry's Red Room

Need more of a challenge? Decline push-ups (where your feet are higher than your shoulders) put more weight in your upper body as you work it.

Woman doing a decline push up in Barry's Red Room

How slow can you go? Try negative push-ups, where you start at the top and lower/raise yourself as slowly as possible. It’ll burn so good, but better sore than sorry.

Regardless of your progression or modification, it’s important to maintain proper hip, spine, head, and neck alignment. 

Set Yourself Up For Success

You can’t get a perfect push-up without a strong foundation, so work on strengthening your triceps, core, and chest (all major push-up muscles) to help perfect form. Our suggestions include tricep extensions or dips, planks, and chest presses.


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