Anatomy of a Perfect Push-Up

Push-ups are quite possibly the perfect upper-body exercise. You can do it anytime and anywhere. Plus, the many push-up variations allow you to target different muscle groups and modify the exercise to accommodate any fitness level. If you work at it, maybe you could be a push-up rock star and set a world record some day!

But before you dream of push-up glory, you need to get the form right. Some of the most common form problems are:

  • Your back is bent
  • Your butt is sticking up
  • Your body is not aligned
  • Your hand placement is off

If you’ve made these mistakes in the past, don’t fret. We’re here to help you do the perfect push-up!

5 Essentials to Perfect Push-Ups

  1. From the floor, get your body into starting push-up position as shown in the image above. Make sure that your hands are slightly wider than shoulder distance apart.
  2. While squeezing your glutes and pulling in your core, inhale as you slowly lower your arms until your elbows are at 90 degrees, making sure to keep your butt low.
  3. Then exhale as you push-up back up, making sure to engage your core for support.

Remember to keep your body aligned. You should be able to draw an imaginary straight line from your head to your feet throughout the motion.

Complete only as many as your body will allow before losing your form. Slower push-ups are usually preferred for the sake for your form, your joints, and feeling that deep muscle burn. My favorite push-up pace is 5 seconds down, 5 seconds hold, and 5 seconds up (it’s hard, but worth it).

But what if you can’t complete one regular push-up with proper form? Totally cool! We have a mod for you!


You can gain the strength to do a full push-up by first practicing modifications. There are a few options for beginners: use a stability ball, bench, or your knees. Also, if they’r getting too easy or too hard, you can change the speed or angle of the movement.

Advanced Push-ups

No matter what style or speed of push-up you’re doing, always warm-up with a slow set to “prime” the muscles. Make sure you aren’t using momentum by bouncing off the floor, or neglecting the full range of motion.

Triceps Push-up

A great way focus on those triceps muscles. Start in the standard push-up position, but with your hands aligned with your shoulders and arms and elbows close at your side. As you lower your body, inhale until your chest touches your thumbs, and then exhale as you push-up.

Judo (Dive-Bomber) Push-ups

These are awesome for your core and balance! Start in downward dog position. Then, push up onto your toes and your body with your arms until your chin is near the floor. Finally, push up into upward facing dog before returning to the starting position.

What’s your favorite style of push-up?

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