How to Do A Proper Push Up

I need to share something very important with you:

I’m 95% certain you’re doing your push-ups incorrectly.

I’ll explain why shortly.

Let’s start here: push-ups are one of the best exercises ever invented (thanks random fit caveperson, whoever you were).

They require zero equipment, build strength in all of the right places, have hundreds of variations to keep things fresh, and are easily quantifiable so keeping track of progression is a breeze.

Push-ups and push-up variations are a HUGE part of Nerd Fitness and things that we encourage you to have in your routine. That’s why I’m so damn glad you’re reading this article – because push-ups are AMAZING.

I’m going to answer every question you have about push-ups and give you the confidence to do them correctly.

To answer that first question: want to know how I know you’re probably doing push-ups incorrectly?

Because pretty much EVERYBODY does push-ups incorrectly! 

I see it every day in the gym.

Don’t worry though, I ALSO used to do push-ups incorrectly, and did so for YEARS without knowing any better.

They say ignorance is bliss, but that does not apply to getting stronger and healthier – I spent years doing push-ups and training in a gym and saw no results – it’s because I was following the wrong workout and eating strategy.

I seriously wasted 6 years doing this! Doh.

This is why I started Nerd Fitness, and how it eventually became the site you’re reading today: I wanted to help people avoid all the mistakes I made and years I wasted.

In addition to our killer Online Coaching Program (aka “coaching that doesn’t suck”), we also have hundreds of free articles and dozens of free guides that dive deep into big overwhelming topics.

Speaking of free stuff, you can download both our free Strength Training 101 guide (which includes this guide on push-ups) and our Beginner Bodyweight Routine (which includes push-ups) free when you sign up in the box below!

Join hundreds of thousands of people in the Rebellion (our free online community) and I’ll send over those free guides!

How to get better at push ups


So you’ve learned how to do a push up, you can do a few of them, but you want to get better! 

Here are some tips to help you along the way:

  • Get healthy! As you lose weight (which is 80% nutrition!), you will have to move less weight around than before, which will make your push ups easier to manage.
  • Don’t cheat on the last few – when you’re tired, it’s easy to skip out on good form for your last few reps. As soon as you do one bad form push up, you’re done. Finish up your four sets, write down your numbers, and try to beat those numbers next time.
  • When starting out don’t do push ups two days in a row. You need to give your muscles time to rebuild and recover – take off at least 48 hours in between your push up adventure. When push-ups became a warm-up exercise for you – consider a PLP program.
  • Get protein into your system after finishing up your workout – protein helps rebuild the muscles you just broke down doing push ups, and it helps them rebuild those same muscles stronger than before.
  • If you can do 4 sets of 20-25 perfect form push ups no sweat, then it’s time to start looking into push up variations to keep things interesting.
  • Build up your core with planks – this will help keep your core strong so that it’s not the weakest link in your proper form push ups.

Push Up Variations

Basic push ups can get boring…

Fortunately there are dozens upon dozens of variations to make things more difficult for you.

Once you’re cranking out perfect form push ups like it’s your job, try some of these variations on for size.

Click on each for a video demonstration (these are some of the push-up variations pulled from The NF Academy):

One-legged Push-ups: introducing some variety and balance by removing one of your legs for less stabilization:

Decline push ups – these work your shoulders and triceps more so than normal push ups.

Diamond push ups – keep your arms tight at your side, rotate your hands outward, and keep your elbows tight as you lower your body. Works your triceps like crazy.

Dive-bomber push ups – funky, difficult, but oh so fun.  I’d explain it, but just watch the video

Plyometric Push ups – these are brutal and will wear you out just after a few repetitions.  Just don’t hurt yourself!

What’s Your strength building plan?

It makes me sad when we get emails from people who struggle and try and work hard to get healthier, and to better at push-ups, and just can’t seem to make any progress.

If that’s you, you’re not alone!

It’s why we built our 1-on-1 Online Coaching Program: to help busy people cut through the noise and just get results.

You’ll have your own coach that checks your form (via video) on exercises to make sure you’re doing them correctly, they’ll help you with your nutrition, and also build a workout program for you based on your specific body type, goals, and experience.

You can schedule a free call with Team NF over on our coaching page by clicking on the link below, maybe we’re a good fit for each other!

That’s all for today: go home, set up a camera or grab a friend and have them film you, and check your form on your push ups.

I hope you’ll find that your form is as good as you expected, but it’s okay if it’s not, it’ll give you something to work on.

Go do some push-ups, and work on getting better with them every day.


PS: If you’re looking for a workout to help you do more push-ups, you can follow our free Beginner Bodyweight Routine and download our free Beginner Bodyweight Worksheet when you sign up in the box below!


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