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Proper push-up form

This is an excerpt from Fitness: Steps to Success by Nancy Naternicola.

Most Common Exercises

Some of the most popular exercises can be performed with or without equipment. Upper-body exercises include the push-up or bench press, dumbbell row or pull-up, overhead press, biceps curl, and dip. Lower-body exercises include the squat, lunge, and calf raise. Common exercises of the core include the crunch and back extension.


The pectoralis muscles fan over the chest area. Although the main purpose of the chest muscles is to push, they are also responsible for moving the shoulder joint and flexing and rotating the arm above the elbow. You use your chest to push a lawn mower, lift a child, arm-wrestle, and clap your hands. One of the best exercises for the chest is the push-up demonstrated in figures 5.1 and 5.2. You can perform this exercise anywhere. You can start in a modified position on your knees or in a regular push-up position on your toes.

Figures 5.1 and 5.2 Push-Up

Proper push-up form.

Modified proper push-up form.


  1. Lie facedown on the floor with your weight either on your knees (modified position) or on your toes.
  2. Place your hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart. Your elbows should be pointed toward your toes.
  3. Pull the navel toward the spine and relax the shoulders back and down.


  1. Exhale and slowly push up until your arms reach full range but not the locked position.
  2. Your weight should be supported on your hands and knees (modified position) or toes.
  3. Your spine should be in neutral alignment with your head and neck; look at the floor.
  4. Inhale and lower within 4 inches of the floor, keeping your elbows close to your sides, then push back up.

Note: Varying your hand position will affect the workout. Wider hands engage more chest muscle and closer hands engage more triceps.


Lower back sags.


Tighten your abdominal and glute muscles.


Head drops down.


Lift your head until the back of the head is in line with the shoulders.

Learn more about Fitness: Steps to Success.

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