One of the most popular bodyweight exercises: simple and complex at the same time. Everyone knows how a perfect push-up should look like, yet not everyone does it right. The properly done push-up works our arms, shoulders, chest and, above all – the core. And all that without any equipment whatsoever. Here are some crucial points we should pay special attention to if we want our push-ups to be as effective as possible.

8 key points of the perfect push-up

1. Hands

Many times, I saw people directing the fingers to the center, like it’s supposed to make the push-up easier. Well, it doesn’t. The fingers should be directed forward, the hands put shoulder-width apart in the triceps push-up, and just slightly wider in the classic push-up.

2. Arms

The arms work differently in two different kinds of push-ups. In the tricep push-up the elbows work directly to the back, close to the chest. In the classic push-up, the arms go to the sides. One important point that not everyone is aware of – the elbows should not be blocked when we’re up – as you push up, aim at straight but not blocked elbows in the final stage.

When you block the elbows in a full extension, the arms’ muscles are in a dead point for a while – which means they don’t work. Do the push-ups one right after another at a nice, fluent pace. This way the muscles work all the time.

3. Shoulders

The shoulders should be directly above the hands in the starting push-up position. Often they are slightly in front of or behind the hands’ line, which can cause an unnecessary stress for the arms’ joints. Do the push-ups by the mirror to correct the positioning of the arms – or shoot a short video of your performance with your phone.

A common mistake is to let the shoulders go up faster than the back and core. Make sure the shoulders stay in one line with the rest on the body through every phase of the push-up.

4. Back

Hardly anyone mentions this point, while in fact it’s quite important. The scapulae (or shoulder blades) shouldn’t be sticking out the back line. The back should be perfectly flat – this means neither the lower nor the upper back should be arched in any way. To make sure your back is flat, pay attention to the abs.

5. Abs

The stomach should be in and the abs should be braced. This way, the back will be perfectly straight. Push-up is an amazing core exercise exactly because of the flat-line positioning of the body possible thanks to strong core muscles.

6. Hips & glutes

Top one push-up mistake is the wrong positioning of the hips – they are often too high or too low. Imagine your body is a bead strung on a thread. The thread goes through the top of your head, your core, your legs, and out between your feet.

Try to keep your glutes and your belly button as close to the thread as possible. Tense the glutes, and the abs, and your hips will be right where they are supposed to be.

7. Head

Another hardly ever noted point – and a very common source of mistakes. The neck and the head should be stiff during push-ups. Neither the forehead nor the chin should work down towards the floor when we’re going down. Remember about the thread – it should be in one line all the time, and it starts from the top of your head.

8. Feet

Keeping the feet together or apart is not a mistake. Nonetheless, keeping them together seems to help keep the glutes tense all the time. The secret of the push-up keeping all the muscles as ‘close together’ as possible – if the legs are close together, the muscles of the legs and the glutes will be braced all the time.

One exercise – so many details. The push-up is not an easy exercise. It takes some time to learn it. Invest in proper technique and you will learn faster. Afterwards, you can be sure that the push-ups you do will bring the expected effects. Stay strong!

See Why Technique and Proper Form Are So Important in Workout >>

About Cathy Patalas

The sports soul and the alleged specialist in words of 52Challenges.com. The main 52C Blog writer. A diligent student at the English Department of the University of Wroclaw, majoring in applied linguistics. An ex-acrobat and aerobic gymnast with the 13-year long experience in „training for winning”. A multiple medallist of Poland nationals in acrobatic gymnastics, and academic nationals in aerobic gymnastics. A fan of gymnastics of every existing type. Personally, finds making everyday choices in a healthy lifestyle even more demanding a challenge than making everyday sacrifices in the athlete’s lifestyle.