Maybe it was after your first high-school fitness test. Maybe it happened after you saw “G.I. Jane” for the first time, or “Coach Carter,” or (of course) “Rocky.” But regardless of when, it’s certain to have happened to you.

At some point, everyone who’s into fitness has gotten into push-ups—and not just add-them-into-my-workout into them but seven-weeks-to-100-push-ups into them and 100-push-ups-a-day into them. But before you can take on a max push-up challenge, you’ve got to get the form right. So follow along to master the perfect push-up.

For beginners

If you’ve got any issues in you upper body, this exercise can irritate them, so check in with your physician or physical therapist beforehand. And remember, strength exercises do cause muscle soreness, but they should not cause joint or neck pain. If you’re hurting, stop and only start back at it when you’re pain-free and cleared for action.

Best practices

  • A common mistake you’ll see with push-ups is having your elbows way out beside your Instead, you want those elbows down by your ribs.
  • Your arms should form a 90-degree angle at the bottom of the range.
  • Push through the heels of your hands.

Master this: Push-up

  1. Start in a long, strong plank position on your hands and toes. Make sure your feet are hip-width apart, and set your hands an inch or so wider than your shoulders.
  2. With a strong, straight back, lower your chest down until it hovers above the floor.
  3. Push the ground away to return to the starting position.

Tip: Mindset is everything when it comes to push-ups. Think “strong as steel from your head to your heels!”

Make it easier: Try pushing from your knees instead of your toes, or put your hands up on a box or a wall. The higher your hands are, the easier the pushing!

Make it harder: Elevate your feet, setting them on a step or box. It will get harder the higher you lift them.

Photo credit: Tom Casey,