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Push-up technique


The push-up is a bodyweight exercise that involves the chest, shoulders, arms, core, glutes, hamstrings, and calves. There are many variations of the bench press technique, designed to concentrate on different muscle groups. We will focus here on a basic push-up technique intended to prepare athletes to perform the bench pressand other weight room movements.

The basic push-up involves the athlete beginning in a plank position and executing movements up and down.

Not every athlete is initially able to correctly perform push-ups from a plank position. In order to prepare athletes for plank push-ups, we present two alternatives: the incline push-up and the knees push-up. Each of these variations are valid exercises and work several muscle groups simultaneously. The intent of these variations is to help the athlete develop the strength and stability to perform plank push-ups successfully.


There are some constants for each of the push-up variations – angles and positions that support the push-up movement, protect key joints, and can be progressed eventually to the bench press.

The body position
When we assess the quality of a push-up, we first look at the line from the ankle (plank/incline push-up) or knee (knee push-up), the hips and the shoulders. Ideally, this should be a straight line and the line should be maintained throughout the movement. We do not want to see the hips sag (drop below the line) or the butt stick in the air (above the line). Maintaining this position requires engaging the hamstrings, glutes, and core.
Next, we look at the line from the wrist to the shoulders. At start, this should be a 90-degree angle to the ground (plank and knee push-up).

At the bottom of the movement, we look again at the line of the body and the arm positions. The line of the body should be maintained through the ankle/knee, hip, and shoulder:


The forearm should still be at a 90-degree angle to the ground and the elbow should be at a 90-degree angle – the upper arm is now parallel to the ground.


In order for the forearm to maintain its position and the elbow to hinge at a 90-degree angle, the elbow crease should face forward and the hands should be below the shoulders and facing either forward or slightly outward. This can be seen from the front-view starting position:


At the bottom, we see that the forearms are still at the 90-degree angle:


A common error is having the elbows flare out at the bottom rather than staying tucked in. This is typically the case when the elbow creases face each other at the start rather than forward. Here is the desired position:


The videos below demonstrate each variation in motion.

Plank push-up

Incline push-up

Knees push-up