How To Do Perfect Push Ups for Beginners

You don't need to join the Army to enjoy the many benefits of doing a proper push up. A basic push up is an effective way strengthen the chest and arm muscles, and can be easily scaled as you get strong. Simple push ups require no equipment other than your own body weight and your arms, and they can be done anywhere there is a firm surface with enough space for you to stretch out flat in.

Kneeling Pushups

Step 1
Set the height of the squat bar on a squat rack or a Smith machine between two to three feet off the floor. Grab the bar with both hands, and position your chest over the bar with your legs and feet together. Keep your hands beneath your shoulders and your arms straight. Take a few deep breaths with your belly before you start.

Step 2
Inhale as you lower your body toward the bar until your chest gently touches the bar. Keep your elbows close to your ribs. Tighten your buttocks slightly to help maintain your spine and hip alignment so that your hips don't sag toward the floor. Do not extend your neck forward or hunch your shoulders.

Step 3
Exhale as you push yourself up until your arms are fully extended. Imagine pushing the bar away from you. Do not let your spine sag or twist in any way. Perform two or three sets of five to 10 reps. This is the number of sets and reps that you should work toward.


  • If you have a wall mirror, use it to check your form.
  • When just starting out, it's fine use a slightly cushiony surface (like a thin carpet or a yoga mat) to make the push ups more comfortable on your wrists.
  • One of the great advantages of pushups is that they can be done practically anywhere. Find a patch of floor big enough for you to lie down in, without any obstructions. The surface of the floor should be firm and not sliding around. Preferably it should be a surface material that is going to be comfortable on your hands—no gravel, for instance.
  • Concentrate on engaging your chest muscles, squeezing them at the top of the push-up. This builds muscle much faster. If you can't squeeze your chest muscles, do easier push-ups where you can. Consider doing inclined push-ups in front of a mirror so you can watch your chest muscles and be sure they are engaging. Try to eat a small amount of food first.
  • Normal push-ups are quite difficult to do with good form and proper control, especially so for someone who is just a beginner. If you find yourself shaking slightly as you do a slow and proper push-up, you are doing push-ups that are too difficult for you (or you haven't warmed up enough!).
  • Warm up before you start. Do some simple arm stretches and movements to loosen up. Warming up reduces the risk of injury, and gets muscles ready for more activity.[2]You can actually lift/push/pull/etc more if you go through a proper warm up routine than if you dive straight into the exercises. Make sure to stretch your arms and wrists - key joints in push ups. When you are done, do some cool-down stretches and movements as well.


  • As with any strength training exercise, if you feel intense and/or sudden unexpected pain in your chest and/or shoulders, stop immediately! If the pain is in your chest and/or shoulders, you have either done more push-ups than you can handle or you aren't ready for the exercise you are undertaking. You may need to start with lighter exercises that target the chest before attempting the push-up. If the pain is somewhere else, you are doing something wrong. If the pain persists, consult a physician.
  • Stop doing your push ups when your lower back gets tired. Don't sag in the middle as this could lead to injury.
  • Positioning your hands closer together to make the push-up harder has diminishing returns. If you put them too close together, you might have trouble balancing your torso during the lift and put extensive (and unnecessary) strain on the bones of the arms and shoulders. This might lead to aching of the bones well after the exercise or problems in the shoulder joint in the long run. The danger zone varies from person to person and from one body type to another. A general guideline to follow is: When you place your hands on the ground, extend your thumbs inward toward the opposite hand. If your thumbs are touching each other, you are at the limit. If you want to place your hands further together, consider the other mentioned methods of making the push-up harder. Trying to clap when you come up with your arms straight is another good variation of the push-up. When you do this, though, make sure you hold your tight, straight, position.

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