Functional Training Series: The Push Up

The push up is one of the most basic of exercises. Most of us learned to do push-ups as small children. 

It is a great exercise for many reasons, but certainly one its best features is that it does not require a gym or any special equipment. Your body is the gym and the equipment. The push-up focuses on building strength in the three main muscle groups involved in pushing – chest, shoulders and triceps. 

The push up begins and ends in a plank position; therefore, it is a great core exercise building the spinal erectors, obliques, and abdominals. Because the body is suspended in air from the toes to the hands the entire body is under tension strengthening the whole body and building bone density. 

The American Council on Exercise rates the push-up as one of the top three exercises all people should use regularly. The push up should be performed 2-3 times per week completing 10-15 per set. The following are the steps to a basic push up:

1. Begin in the prone position 

2. Feet should be hip width on toes

3. Weight on the chest with palms down slightly wider than shoulders

4. Curl your toes and raise up by pushing up with the arms

5. Keep the body in straight line from head to heels – plank position

6. The plank position is the beginning and end of the push up 

7. In the plank position the glutes / hips should not be raised or sagging

8. The head should be in a neutral position looking down – neck in line with spine

9. Lower down until arms bend to a 90 degree angle and push back up until arms are straight

There are many variations of the push up to either decrease or increase the intensity.

Modified Push Ups to decrease intensity:

Wall Push Ups

Mayo Clinic Modified Push Up

Modified Push Ups to increase intensity:

Diamond Push Ups



Clap Push Ups

Weighted Push Ups

Declined Push Ups

Single Leg Push Ups

Medicine Ball Push Ups

T-Push Ups