Skip to content

Push up Workout: Drop and Give Me 20!

By Joe Palumbo
IFBB Professional Bodybuilder

During his 30-plus years on television, the Late Jack LaLanne regularly demonstrated proper push-up technique and wowed us with feats of strength like finger-tip push-ups and one-armed push-ups.

This one move strengthens the core, upper body and quads. It will leave you feeling like you’ve had a killer, total-body workout with just a few minutes of action. Push-ups engage every muscle in the body, burn significant calories, and tone up the abs quickly. It is the go-to exercise that can be performed anywhere at any time. Push-ups are an effective base for every training regimen.  You make use of your own bodyweight as the resistance. You can lift between 50 and 75 percent of that weight, depending on your body shape and weight.

Assume a facedown, prone position on the floor.

Lie flat on your stomach. Position your hands palms-down on the floor, approximately shoulder width apart. They should positioned next to your shoulders, with your elbows pointed towards your toes.

Tuck in your toes, tense your whole body, and push yourself up to the top of the push-up position. Raise yourself using your arms. At this point, both your hands and the balls of your feet should support your weight. To make a straight-line from your head to your heels, contract your abdominals to keep your hips from sagging. Breathe out as you push. The additional power for the push will come from your shoulders and chest working in unison with your arms. Do not let your midsection flop!

You need to keep your abs engaged. Keep your hips and glutes raised, and back strong throughout the movement. Lower your body until your elbows are at 90 degrees and push back up. That is one rep.

Try to avoid these common mistakes:

Avoid flaring your elbows away from your body. In the correct push-up, hand and elbow position are crucial. Keep your elbows tucked in and pointed towards your feet.

Maintain a straight line from head to toes. DO NOT FLOP your midsection! Your whole body should move up and down together. Tight gut, tight butt…

Your head/nose should not touch the ground first. Your chest should be the first thing to touch the ground.  You can only reap the full benefits of push-ups if you’re doing them properly. If you can’t complete a push-up with proper form, work up to them! If you need to, start with knee push-ups.

Increase the benefits of push-ups by improving your overall push-up technique. Start with the number of push-ups you can complete with good form. After you have mastered good form, work on increasing the number of reps.

Once you have mastered the technique, you don’t have to ditch push-ups for more complex exercises! You can supercharge the push-up with different hand positions, or varying angles. You will not only receive the total body benefits of push-ups, you will challenge your muscles differently, so you continue to see gains.


Assume the push-up position, face-down on the floor. Lie flat on your stomach. Position your hands palms-down on the floor, approximately shoulder-width apart. As you lower your body down to the ground, lift one knee up and touch to your elbow on the same side. As you push back up, bring your leg back to the starting position. Repeat on the other side.


Assume the standard push-up position. The key-point is to keep your hands close together, directly under your chest, so that your fingers form a diamond pattern. As you lower down, allow the elbows to brush your ribs.  This will allow your triceps and the back of the upper arms experience greater activation. Be careful, because the temptation to use poor form is greater than with regular push-ups. There is less space to comfortably fit your arms. Just remember to keep strict form, and you will reap the rewards. Keeping a 45-degree angle between your arms and your body is what you should aim for.  The narrower position of the hands places more of the load on the triceps. In fact, in a study by the American Council on Exercise (ACE), they found that the diamond push-up is the most effective exercise for the triceps.


The decline push-up is a progression from the standard push-up that targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps. The decline angle places more emphasis on the upper chest and shoulders. Get in the standard push-up position, but with your feet elevated.  You can use any sturdy object (a chair, box, weight bench, step or railing) to prop up your feet. After elevating your feet on the object, adjust your hands so your wrists are directly under your shoulders. Raise your body in plank position with body straight and arms extended. Keeping your body straight, lower your upper body to the floor by bending your arms. To allow for full descent, pull your head back slightly without arching back. Push up until your arms are extended. Repeat.


As with the decline push-up, you can use just about any sturdy object to elevate your upper body. You can use a wall to do the most basic version of the incline push-up. Stand, facing a wall, and place your hands on the wall at shoulder-height. The farther your feet are from the wall, the more challenging the exercise. Ideal platforms include a bench, a box, bench, or step. Place your hands on the edge of the platform slightly wider than shoulder width. Set your feet far enough away that your body is straight. Your arms should be perpendicular to your torso. While maintaining a straight body, bend your elbows to lower your chest toward the platform. Then, straighten your arms and return to the original position to complete one rep.

For a more advanced push-up, try this. However, please take caution. It can be quite difficult. Make sure you have mastered proper form before trying this.


This variation of the standard push-up improves power and explosiveness. Remember the key point of the clap pushup.  As you press up from the floor, do so explosively so that your hands leave the ground. Clap them together before you return to a bent-elbow starting position.

Push-ups are an simple and effective way to develop an athletic physique. No need to worry about expensive gym memberships or complicated weight machines. Instead, it’s just you and your body weight working to build your muscles.

Be safe… Train smart

Previous article Fitness Can Save Your Life