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Push-ups are the meat and potatoes of upper-body training, working your pecs, triceps, shoulders, core, back and even your glutes all at once, so it behooves you to learn to do them right. Here’s the lowdown on performing a push-up correctly, as well as some unique variations to take your training to the next level.
• Kneel on the floor and place your hands outside shoulder width on the ground in front of you, fingers forward. Extend your legs behind you so you’re balanced evenly between your toes and your hands.
• Make sure your belly does not sag and your back does not round upward. Think of tightening your abs as if you’re going to get punched in the gut to help keep your head, hips and heels in line.
• Keep your head neutral in line with your torso and your eyes focused on the floor about a foot in front of you.
• Bend your elbows and slowly lower toward the ground, keeping your body tight as you descend. Your elbows should stack over your wrists for safety and support.
• If your hips sag, work on keeping your abs tight and squeezing your glutes. This will also protect your lower back and give your core more support.
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• When your elbows make 90-degree angles, pause, then drive down through your hands and extend your arms to return to the start. Imagine you’re pushing the ground away, or even pushing your hands through the floor, to create more total-body tension and generate more force.
• Spacing your hands wider apart puts more emphasis on your chest muscles, while moving them directly underneath your shoulders emphasizes the triceps.
• Try placing your hands on a bench so you’re on an incline to hit the lower pecs, or raise your feet higher than your head so you’re on a decline to hit the upper pecs.
Beginner tip: If you’re not strong enough to do a fully extended push-up, go for one on your knees. To get into the proper position, get into plank, then drop your knees to the floor. Build up to standard push-ups by adding one to three each time you train. In a few months, you should be cranking them out!
Two Push-Up Variations
Diamond push-up: Place your hands with your thumbs and index fingers touching on the ground underneath your sternum. As you descend, allow your elbows to flare out. For better balance, spread your feet wider apart.
Spiderman: Lower into the bottom of a push-up, then, staying low, crawl forward with one hand and the opposite foot. Crawl forward with the other hand and foot, then extend your arms to come to the top once more.