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Are You Doing Push-Ups Right? Here's How to Do It Better

Push-ups are a great exercise for your whole body, but they're easy to get wrong. (And hurt yourself in the process.)

Push-ups are an amazing exercise because they work your whole body. They work the chest muscles and the core muscles at the same time, so a lot of the benefits you get from planks, you get from push-ups.

Push-ups are great for people of any age and fitness level, because they can be modified and changed in difficulty, so you can do easy push-ups on your knees, medium difficult traditional push-ups and very difficult plyometric clapping or one-legged push-ups, all with the same exercise.

But it's also easy to get them wrong — in the IronStrength classes I teach, I see people with their hands too close together, their bodies sagging and yet getting nowhere close the ground.

Here's how to do it better:

  • Start with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders. This will give you a more full range of motion to lower to the ground.
  • Keep your core engaged. Think of this as a plank position in motion.
  • Fight the sag. Your butt should still have some lift to it.
  • Keep your elbows back and close to your torso.
  • Lower down to about an inch from the floor. If you can't do this from a plank position, simply try it from your knees.
  • Push back up, but not too fast! Pause on the way up to really work the muscles.

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Jordan D. Metzl, MD is a sports medicine physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery, author of The Workout Prescription and creator of the IronStrength workout.