Move of the month – push-up

Emma White - Certified Personal Trainer | 27 Nov, 2022

Each month, I will be highlighting a great exercise move to include as part of your workout routine! Up next...



How to do it

  1. Start in a high plank position, with your arms in line with your chest, and your hands just a little wider than shoulder width.
  2. Ensure your hands are flat on the ground and fingers are facing forward.
  3. Your body should be straight from your head to your toes, with your core activated to help support your lower back and avoid an arch or dip in the midsection.
  4. Gradually lower your body down towards the ground, focusing on pointing your elbows back – not out towards the side.
  5. Keep your body straight as you lower yourself down.
  6. Lower down until your chest is a couple of inches away from the ground, then push yourself back up to the start position in a slow and controlled manner.
  7. This is one rep. Aim to repeat this full movement 10-15 times for 3-4 sets.

What it's good for

The push-up is a great move for maintaining and improving total upper body strength. It uses all the major muscles of the upper body to some degree – as well as activating the core, glutes and leg muscles which are used to stabilise the body. Pushing movements predominantly use the chest, triceps and shoulders, so these are the muscles targeted the most with a classic push-up. Whereas pull movements call on the back and bicep muscles more. Building up to full push-ups or including them in your regular routine if you can already do them, is a fantastic way to maintain strength in your upper body. Push-ups are a body-weight movement, so they require no equipment and can be carried out anywhere.


There are several variations of a classic push-up, ranging from easier to harder than the classic. I've listed some of these in difficulty order from easiest to hardest below:

  1. Knee push-ups – with this variation, you have your arms and hands in the same position as the classic push-up, but your knees are resting on the floor. Your body should be straight from your head to your knees still. This is an option for beginners as your upper body has less weight to lift.
  2. Incline push-up – this is a good variation to start with if you can do them above knee push-ups. This involves pushing off from a bench or step, so that your upper body is elevated above your lower body, in an incline position. This again takes some of the weight off the upper body so can be good for beginners. The hand and body positioning should be the same as a classic push-up – straight body and elbows pointing back.
  3. Classic push-up – this is the next step after mastering the incline push-up.
  4. Narrow push-up – this can be a tough position as it activates the triceps more, which are smaller muscles than the chest muscles. With this variation, you put your hands close together so they're under your sternum rather than just outside of your shoulders.


  • With all variations of the push-up, it's important to get the hand position correct. Turning the hands inwards or outwards can put extra pressure on the wrist joints.
  • Ensure at all times the core remains strong, so keep the tummy tucked in and prevent your bum from sticking up. You want a nice straight line at all times.
  • Avoid the elbows coming out to the sides too far as this can put extra strain on the elbows.
  • Remember to breathe through the push-up, breathe in as you go down and out as you push up.

How NOT to do it

As above, ensure correct hand, arm and body positioning at all times. It's also important to ensure you lower your body all the way down to just an inch or two from the floor and push right back up until you have extended your arms fully. Releasing only halfway down or coming only halfway up means you'll only get half the benefit.

Emma White (Certified Personal Trainer) has always loved fitness. She's passionate about the many benefits of regular exercise, particularly the positive impact on mental health and overall quality of life, as well as how it provides the key to successful weight management.

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