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updated: 10/29/2012 6:24 AM

Pushups a great exercise if done properly

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  • Advanced pushup

    Advanced pushup

  • Pushup on knees

    Pushup on knees

  • Improper form on a pushup

    Improper form on a pushup


The pushup is one of the most popular exercises due to its simplicity and effectiveness. It can be done literally anywhere with no added equipment. We even use the pushup as one of our fitness assessment tools.

But, as simple as the pushup may seem, many people struggle with the actual movement and have even more trouble maintaining form throughout an entire set.

To perform, take a traditional pushup position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, feet hip-width apart and maintain a straight line from shoulder to ankle. Slowly drop your chest toward the floor as you bend your elbows to 90 degrees.

Is your chin dropping faster than the rest of your body? Do you feel your shoulder blades collapsing? Are your hips sagging? If so, attempt to correct these flaws by resetting and try again. If you can't avoid these mistakes, the traditional pushup may be too challenging.

A simpler version of the pushup, where you pivot from the knees rather than the toes, may allow you to keep proper form. This position takes more weight off the upper body and also lessons the strain on the core. It should allow you to move through a greater range of motion while maintaining safe and effective form.

On the other hand, if a traditional pushup is too easy for you, there are many ways to advance the movement. One option is to explode up out of the pushup so your hands come off the floor momentarily before catching yourself on the way down. Or you could raise one leg and perform the pushup with only one foot touching the floor.

You could even try a traveling pushup where you move side-to-side as you perform each repetition of the pushup. These progressions add a greater challenge for the upper body as well as the core.

These pushup variations can be done without any equipment -- just your body weight and a little imagination.

Proper form is the foundation for progression, so choose the style that best matches your fitness level and try to improve from there. Start out with three to five sets and do as many pushups as you can in each set while maintaining proper form. Try to progress each week by adding more repetitions or more sets. Soon, you'll be a master of the pushup and able to do more advanced moves.

For more tips on exercise and nutrition, visit our blog at or find us on Facebook.

Joshua Steckler and Mark Trapp are co-owners of Push Fitness, a personal training studio in Schaumburg specializing in weight loss, muscle toning and nutrition. Contact them at

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