The push-up is one of the most effective exercises because, when done properly, it works the arms, the chest, the back, the shoulders and the core, and it requires no equipment and minimal space. The only problem is that executing a perfect push-up can be tricky. I am going to break down a few different versions and a couple of modifications for beginners.
1. Wide arm or neutral push-up - the classic push-up
A. Start in a regular plank on your hands and toes. Make sure that your hips are in the same plane as your shoulders. Keep your head in neutral by looking at the floor about three feet in front of you. Widen your arms by taking both hands out to the side a few inches. If you are using a yoga mat, your hands will be slightly wider than the mat. Keep the middle of the palms in line with the middle of the chest.
B. Keeping your eyes in front of you on the floor, squeeze your abdominals, relax your shoulders and bend your elbows out to the side in 90 degree angles as you lower your torso in one unit toward the floor. You can go all the way down to the floor if you want to work deeper into the shoulders or stop halfway which will keep most of the work in the chest.
C. Straighten arms and push back up into the plank.
2. Slightly modified narrow grip or chatarunga push-up - slightly more advanced than the wide arm push-up
A. Start by lying on your stomach on a yoga mat or on the floor. Place your hands slightly below your shoulders so that the bottom of your wrists are in line with the bottom of your ribcage. The sides of your hands are brushing the sides of your torso.
B. Roll your shoulders away from your ears, elongate the neck so that your head is in neutral and your eyes are glancing at the floor in front of you.
C. Bend your knees and bring your heels to your butt. Without pressing up yet, lift your hips up slightly so that they are above your chest.
D. Push the heels of your hands into the mat and press with your triceps so that you lift up into a straight arm plank.
E. Go onto your toes. Hold the straight arm plank and make sure that your shoulders are rolled back and the elbows are facing behind you. Keeping your hips in line with your shoulders or slightly higher to make it a bit easier, lower your chest to the floor. It is important not to drop your head as you go down and to keep the elbows in.
F. When you get almost all the way to the floor, lower your knees to the mat and push back up to the narrow grip plank and go back to your toes.
3. Incline push-up - this push-up is great for beginners. The higher the bench is the easier the push-up.
A. Place hands on a bench and toes on floor. If you would like to work your chest and shoulders, place your hands wide. If you want to work your triceps, keep the hands narrow.
B. Keep your eyes focused on the floor in front of you and lower your chest all the way to the bench or as close to it as you can get without dropping your hips below your shoulders.
C. Press back up into a straight arm plank and repeat.
4. Decline push-up – this is a very advanced pushup and can be done with feet on a bench or on a ball which is even more challenging.
A. Place hands on the floor in a narrow or wide grip and feet on a bench, medicine ball or large physioball.
B. Keep your head up and body in a straight line as you lower your chest toward the floor.
C. Push back up into a plank.
Perfecting your push-ups takes time and practice so try not to get discouraged. Start with a knee pushup or an incline push-up and then progress to a toe push-up. You will be doing decline push-ups before you know it!