How to do a push-up, for beginners


The push-up is an upper-body exercise that works on the pectoral muscles on our chest and triceps on our legs. “It is done keeping your head to toe in a straight line and primarily moving the elbow. Anyone who can hold a plank for a minute can easily start on a push-up,” says Arvind Ashok, co-founder, The Quad, Chennai.

Getting the technique right is important for its efficacy. To do a standard push up, start by lying face down on the floor with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Raise your body off the floor by extending your arms. Make sure to keep your upper body and lower body in a straight line. Bring the body closer to the floor by bending your arms and repeat. “Grip the palm to the floor and squeeze the armpits together while doing it. If done wrong, it can cause cause strain on our joints and lead to injury,” he says.

According to Prashanti Ganesh, co-founder and senior coach, Strength System, Chennai, the push-up is essentially a moving plank. “Here, the range of motion is more important than the number of reps and sets. Your body needs to be just an inch or so from the floor at the bottom of a push-up for it to count as a good rep,” she explains.

Beginners can start the exercise with a low resistance version before moving on to a standard push-up.

Push-ups in five easy steps:

Start with a wall push-up. Stand at about two feet from a wall. Extend your arms straight out in front of you. Your palms should touch the wall surface at about shoulder-level height and shoulder-width apart. The fingers must point toward the ceiling. Bend your elbows and lean your body toward the wall till your face almost touches it. Push back to the starting position; repeat.

How to do a push-up, for beginners

Move on to high bench push-up. This can be done with the help of a kitchen counter top, or your dining table. Stand facing the counter-top. Place hands wider than shoulder-width on its surface. Move the feet back till the arms are perpendicular to the body. Lower chest by bending the arms and push the body up until arms are extended; repeat.

Supplementary exercises

  • To do a standard push up, Arvind suggests these workouts to improve your upper body strength:
  • Planks: Lie on a mat with your hands under your shoulder. Place legs together and forefeet on floor. Raise by keeping your body in a straight line. Hold position till you can. Improve the time with each attempt. “Planks helps to tie our abdominal muscle to the rest of our body. Planks are a prerequisite in doing push-ups and help in improving strength and mobility,” he says.
  • Baby crawls: Stand on your knees and keep your hands wider than your shoulder. Keep your head up and move on your knees and hands. You feet should drag across the floor. Move in both forward and backward direction. This exercise helps our hips and shoulders to work together and also strengthen our overall body.

Bring the height down in lower bench push-up. Use an exercise bench or the stairs in your home to do this exercise. Stand facing the stairs and place your hands on the second step. Move your feet back till your body makes a straight line. Lower your body by bending your elbow and push back to original position; repeat.

Improve strength with negative push-ups. Lie down with your face down. Keep your hands wider than shoulder width and raise your body. Slowly descend by bending your elbow. Drop to your knees and push your torso up. Once there, straighten your leg and repeat.

Progress to knees push-up. Lie down on the floor face down, with hands slightly wider than shoulder-width. Bend your knees and raise your body by extending your arms. Use a pillow to reduce the pressure on your knees. Lower body to the floor by bending your arm and pushing it back up by extending the arm. Try this with one leg extended and once comfortable, move on to stretch both the legs keeping the forefeet on the floor to make a standard push up.


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