The Perfect Push Up

The Perfect Push Up

Push Ups are one of the most well-known exercises in the world of fitness. Regardless of expertise, everyone has an idea of what a push up looks like. It has been and continues to be, a part of the President’s Physical Fitness Test that we all had to take in elementary school and is one of three exercises in the Army’s Basic Training Physical Fitness Test.

Bodyweight push ups are often used as a part of a movement screen to assess upper body pressing strength, shoulder mechanics, and the ability to stabilize your core with movement. They are a great exercise to evaluate measures of relative strength (strength relative to bodyweight), which is a great indicator of progress in a program designed for both strength gain and fat loss. Assessing how many push-ups you are able to do prior to starting a program and then re-evaluating at the conclusion of a program can give you some good objective data to see if you got stronger or not.

Furthermore, in order to do a correct push up, you must demonstrate good core stability and shoulder mechanics. Unlike the bench press or other horizontal pressing movements, there is no bench or pad to support your body while you move. Therefore, you have to create the stability to produce movement from a stable base.

If you are not able to do a bodyweight push up, using the exercise as a gauge of improvement is very useful. You can gain assistance by going onto your knees, elevating your hand position, or attaching bands to a rack and placing them under your hips. Striving towards being able to do a bodyweight push up is a great goal that will help you function not only in other exercises but also in your function outside of the gym.

If you are able to rep out push-ups, you can include them in your program in a variety of ways. If you are looking to put on some muscle, push ups are a great exercise to add some volume throughout a workout to get enough of a stimulus to promote growth. If you are looking to shed some pounds of fat, incorporate some push-ups as part of a circuit to get the heart rate up while still getting the benefits of resistance training.

To learn how to properly execute a bodyweight push up, check out the video and follow the guidelines below:

Movement Category - Upper Body Push (Horizontal)

Exercise Description  

  • Lying face down, place your hands at chest level slightly wider than shoulder-width, with your toes on the ground.
  • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes to maintain a rigid torso and neutral spine.
  • Begin the descent by “screwing your hands into the ground” to stabilize the shoulders and allow for your elbows to track tight to the body.
  • Control the descent until your chest touches the ground.
  • Begin the ascent with a forceful exhale and push the floor away with your hands until your elbows lock out.

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Jordan is an Athletic Trainer and strength coach based out of Richmond, VA. He earned a Master of Science degree in Kinesiology with an emphasis in Sports Medicine from Indiana University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Athletic Training from Franklin College. Jordan holds certifications from the BOC and NATA as a Certified Athletic Trainer (ATC) and the NSCA as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). Jordan’s goal is to bridge the gap between rehabilitation and performance by combining both rehabilitative and strength and conditioning principles. Contact: or at

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