How to Do a Push-Up: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a push-up to help with upper body strength, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

push-up-holding

How to Do a Push-Up: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a push-up to help with upper body strength, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

push-up-holding

How to Do a Push-Up: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a push-up to help with upper body strength, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

push-up-holding

How to Do a Push-Up: A Hinge Health Guide

Learn how to do a push-up to help with upper body strength, plus modifications to make this exercise easier or harder.

push-up-holding
Table of Contents

Push-ups: maybe you love them, tolerate them, dread them, or hate them. They’re a well-known exercise, but many people think they can’t do them. If that’s you, it might be time to reconsider. 

Push-ups are a versatile bodyweight exercise that offers a wide range of benefits. They help build strength in your chest, shoulders, and triceps, and also engage your core, improving overall stability and posture. 

The compound nature of push-ups also means they are effective for building functional strength, so they help with many daily activities like lifting objects and maintaining an upright stance for extended periods. Plus, as push-ups require no equipment and little space, they are accessible and can be integrated into routines easily, providing a convenient way to boost cardiovascular health, muscle endurance, and help joint and muscle pain. 

Here, learn how to perform a push-up and ways to modify this exercise to suit your needs.  

Our Hinge Health Experts

Dylan Peterson, PT, DPT
Physical Therapist and Clinical Reviewer
Dr. Peterson is a Hinge Health physical therapist who focuses on developing clinical exercise therapy programs and member education.

What Is a Push-Up?

A push-up is a common bodyweight exercise that primarily targets the muscles of the chest, triceps, and shoulders. It also engages many other muscles throughout the body, especially the core, for stability. The basic movement involves raising and lowering your body by using your arms while keeping your body in a straight line, parallel to the ground.

What Muscles Do Push-Ups Work? 

Push-ups are a compound exercise, which means they engage multiple muscle groups at once. Here are the primary muscles that push-ups work:

  • Pectoralis major. This is the primary chest muscle. It's heavily engaged when you do push-ups. 

  • Triceps. Located on the back of the upper arm, the triceps help you extend your elbow.

  • Anterior deltoid, or the front part of the shoulder muscle. It's activated when you push your body up and helps you flex your shoulder.

  • Serratus anterior, which is sometimes referred to as the "boxer's muscle." This muscle is located along your ribs beneath your armpits. It helps stabilize your shoulder blade against your rib cage.

  • Rectus abdominis. Often known as the "six-pack" muscle, this helps stabilize your core and keeps your body straight during a push-up. 

  • Obliques, which run along the sides of the abdomen and help you rotate your trunk. They assist in stabilizing your core during push-ups.

  • Erector spinae, which are the muscles that run along the spine and help keep your back straight during a push-up. 

Benefits of Push-Ups

Push-ups are a foundational exercise that helps improve overall upper body strength, core stability, and endurance. This translates to enhanced performance and increased efficiency in many daily activities, such as:

  • Lifting objects, such as groceries, kids, or boxes. 

  • Pushing motions (e.g., a heavy door, a lawn mower, or a stroller). 

  • Carrying loads, like heavy bags.

  • Getting up from a lying position. The motion of pushing yourself up from a bed or the ground might become more effortless with regular push-up practice.

  • Activities requiring balance, whether it’s a sport or even simple tasks like standing on one foot to put on a shoe. 

  • Repetitive tasks. Jobs or chores that require repetitive upper body movements, such as scrubbing, painting, or hammering, can become easier due to increased endurance from regular push-up practice.

Push-Up: Exercises and Modifications 

The information contained in these videos is intended to be used for educational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice or treatment for any specific condition. Hinge Health is not your healthcare provider and is not responsible for any injury sustained or exacerbated by your use of or participation in these exercises. Please consult with your healthcare provider with any questions you may have about your medical condition or treatment.

Push-Ups

Push-Ups

Push-Ups

Push-Ups

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To do a push-up: 

  • Start on your hands and toes, lifting your knees off the ground while keeping your legs straight. 

  • Your hands should be under your shoulders, located a bit wider than shoulder width apart to start. Your hips should be raised to about the same height as your shoulders.

  • Bend your elbows and move your chest toward the floor, stopping at a height that is comfortable yet challenging for you. 

  • Focus on keeping your hips from dipping toward the floor. 

  • Push your hands into the floor as you straighten your arms to return to your starting position.

Everyone is different, which is why you may need to modify this exercise to meet your needs.

Push-Ups Modifications

Push-Ups Modifications

Push-Ups Modifications

Push-Ups Modifications

To make a push-up easier:  

  • Drop your knees to the floor and then perform the push-up. This decreases the total load on your upper body. 

  • You can also decrease your range of motion, limiting how far you move your chest toward the floor. 

To make a push-up harder: 

  • Adjust the placement of your hands. Placing your hands closer together will challenge your arms more. Placing your hands farther apart will challenge your chest muscles more. 

How Hinge Health Can Help You 

If you have joint or muscle pain that makes it hard to move, you can get the relief you’ve been looking for with Hinge Health’s online exercise therapy program. 

The best part: You don’t have to leave your home because our program is digital. That means you can easily get the care you need through our app, when and where it works for you.  

Through our program, you’ll have access to therapeutic exercises and stretches for your condition. Additionally, you’ll have a personal care team to guide, support, and tailor our program to you. 

See if you qualify for Hinge Health and confirm free coverage through your employer or benefit plan here.

This article and its contents are provided for educational and informational purposes only and do not constitute medical advice or professional services specific to you or your medical condition.

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References

  1. Azeem, K. (2015, February). The Push–Up. ResearchGate. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/275023773_The_Push_-up

  2. Lillis, C. (2019, August 23). Pushups every day: Benefits and risks. Medical News Today. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326149#muscle-tone-and-strength

  3. Solan, M. (2019, February 18). The rise of push-ups: A classic exercise that can help you get stronger. Harvard Health Blog. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/rise-push-ups-classic-exercise-can-motivate-get-stronger-2019021810165

  4. Yang, J., Christophi, C. A., Farioli, A., Baur, D. M., Moffatt, S., Zollinger, T. W., & Kales, S. N. (2019). Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. JAMA Network Open, 2(2), e188341. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.8341

Table of Contents
What Is a Push-Up?What Muscles Do Push-Ups Work? Benefits of Push-UpsPush-Up: Exercises and Modifications To do a push-up: To make a push-up easier:  To make a push-up harder: How Hinge Health Can Help You References