Back to Basics: Push-Ups


I’m throwin’ it back this week with a basic body weight exercise that I hate to love. Push ups work the chest, shoulders, biceps and triceps as well as your core and quads that stabilize you throughout the movement. They can even get your heart rate up if you add a plyometric movement to them. 

I want you to feel comfortable doing this exercise no matter what your fitness level is so I will be giving you lots of options.  Once you get the proper form and breathing down, you’ll be a certified butt kicker in no time. As always consistency is key and know that doing less repetitions with great technique is much more effective that a gazillion reps with poor form. 

Here is the push up pyramid from easiest to most difficult:

  • Incline Push Up
  • Knee Push Up
  • Toe Push Up
  • Decline Push Up
  • Plyo Push Up

Form for each variation will be the same…just a different way to do it. Here are the biggest things to remember when performing this exercise:

1. Start with your hands a little wider than shoulder width apart. (There are also variations on hand placement based on the muscle group you want to isolate but we won’t get into all that today… it’s all about keeping it simple.)

2. Foot placement will be a little closer than shoulder width apart. If you’re going to perform the push up on your knees, they can be a little closer together and bring your heels a little closer towards your booty. 


3. The breath cycle of this exercise is to inhale on the way down and exhale as you push yourself back up.


4.  Your body should remain in a plank position (whether on your knees or toes) the entire repetition. You should never feel your back arch or look like a pyramid because your butt is too high. It should be a straight line from head to toe.


5.  Don’t forget to engage your core. Think about pulling your belly button to your spine and zip it up the entire movement.


Let’s review and get to the point… hands a little wider than shoulder width apart, feet a little closer than shoulder width apart.  Engage your core as you hold yourself in a plank position. Lower your body down towards the ground so you are about a fist length away from the ground and then exhale while pushing yourself back up to the starting position. Easy, right?


Here’s a demo of each variation following the tips I gave you…


Incline Push Up: you can increase your angle to make it easier and decrease your angle to make it more difficult.

Incline pushup Knee Push Up:  Always keep in mind that you can start on your toes if you know you can do a couple with good form and drop to your knees when your fatigue out weighs your ability to keep good form.

Knee push upToe Push Up

Toe push upDecline Push Up

Decline push up Plyo Push Up:  Same rules apply as far as proper body mechanics but a change in placement of hands as well as feet. Start with your hands wide as well as feet wide. Perform a push up in this position and as you push your body up you’re going to hop your feet and hands in shoulder width apart to perform a close grip push up.

Plyo push upPlyo push up 2

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