Push-up and Incline Push-Up

How To Do A Push up And Incline Push up
By Alli McKeeMarch 1, 2016

Push-Up And Incline Push-Up Exercise

The push-up is a great bodyweight exercise that will help you strengthen the chest, shoulders, arms, and the anterior core. It should be a staple in your workout program. Many people perform this effective and versatile bodyweight exercise very incorrectly. Contrary to what you might have heard, there is no such thing as a "girl push-up." This is an extremely outdated, sexist, and limiting term. The correct name for elevated push-ups is modified, or hands-elevated push-ups.

Equipment needed:

You just need your bodyweight to perform this exercise. If you are performing incline push-ups, you will need a bench, or a barbell that is set up in a squat rack, or a Smith machine.

Ability level:


Beginners might want to start with incline push-ups as this exercise is how to get better at push-ups before you progress to doing them from the ground. Once they have developed the requisite levels of strength, stability, and proper form, they can progress to performing push-ups at a lower level, and can eventually progress to performing them on the floor. If this is still too challenging, you can perform the incline push-ups with band assistance.


Intermediate lifters can perform push-ups from the ground. If you’re doing a full-body workout, you can pair the push-up with a lower body exercise as part of a superset, or with an upper body pulling exercise. If you are performing a pushing workout, you can do it after a heavier pushing exercise and really challenge your muscles that way. You can also make it part of a metabolic conditioning circuit. Intermediate lifters might perform 2-4 sets of 8-15 push-ups.


Women of an advanced fitness level can perform push-ups the same way as described for intermediate lifters. You can also make the exercise more challenging by performing negative reps and lowering slowly, taking 3-5 seconds, or by performing explosive clapping push-ups. You can also perform weighted push-ups, feet elevated push-ups, deficit push-ups, and finally single arm push-ups. These are just a few of many great push-up variations you can do.

Benefits of Push-Ups:

How a woman chooses to use a push-up is highly dependent on her overall technical ability and experience, how much assistance is being used (if performing incline or band assisted push-ups), the set/rep scheme used, where it falls in the workout, what it’s paired with, and what the rest periods are. In general push-ups can be used to do any or all of the following:

  • increasing upper body strength, primarily in the chest, shoulders, arms, and core
  • building muscle
  • fat loss (if your diet and exercise routines are conducive to fat loss)
  • conditioning (if used as part of conditioning circuits)
  • versatile, and require no equipment so they can be performed anywhere, anytime
  • These are some of many push-up benefits

How to perform a Push-Up:

  • Position your body in a straight line from your head to heels.
  • If you are performing incline push-ups, place your hands on a bench, or barbell that is set up in a squat rack, or use the Smith machine. If you are performing regular push-ups, you will start on the floor.
  • Your hands should be approximately shoulder width apart.
  • Don’t let your neck or hips collapse, or lower back arch. Your eyes should be looking straight down, at the same spot on the floor the entire time, which would indicate that your neck has remained in the proper position.
  • Before you descend, take a deep breath into your belly (360 degrees of air around the spine), brace your core (think about blocking a soccer ball with your stomach), gently tuck your rib cage towards your hips (close the space in your midsection), and squeeze your glutes. This will help keep your body stable and properly aligned.
  • Keep your shoulders packed (arms in the sockets).
  • As you are lowering your body down by bending your elbows, your shoulder blades should protract (spread apart but not cave in). When you are pushing back up, your shoulder blades should move together and down (towards the opposite back pocket in your pants). Your shoulder blades are meant to move, not remain in a fixed position. This is a mistake that many people make.
  • Your whole body should travel in a vertical line throughout the entire movement. Imagine there is a giant wall right ahead and behind you. Don’t let your head or feet hit the wall.
  • At the top of the push-up, your shoulders, elbows, and wrists should be in a straight line stacked on top of each other.
  • At the bottom position of the push-up, your elbows should remain over the wrists.
  • During the lowering portion of the push-up, your elbows should not flare out. They should be kept closer to the body, and at about a 20- to 40-degree angle.
  • A good visual to have is that your body and arms should resemble an arrow, not a T. This ''T'' would indicate that your elbows have flared.
  • At the bottom of the push-up, your elbows should bend to at least 90 degrees.
  • Reset before each rep.

Video Transcription: 

I am going to be demonstrating some different variations of the push-up. The push-up is a staple exercise that is including in tons of programs but unfortunately a lot of people don't do it correctly. A couple of main things that I am going to want you to make sure you are doing, is that your hands are about shoulder width apart.  Especially for females, being out a little too wide can be a little bit difficult on the shoulders. Being in too narrow, while it is not usually a problem, is a little bit more tricep dominant than a regular push-up. So hands about shoulder width apart, if you want to bring them a little bit closer to target the tricep that's fine.

We like to tuck the elbows somewhere around 30-45 degrees. Again that's a much better position for the shoulder. We see a lot of women who were taught to do push-ups with their elbows out at 90 degrees, and that's not a good position for the shoulder. You also want to make sure that your shoulder blades come all the way together and in the bottom and drive all the way apart at the top. You make sure the core is braced, glutes are tight, you want your ribs and your pelvis towards each other. You don't want your hips or core to sag and glutes are nice and tight. You want your whole body to move like a unit. We see a lot of people that do a push-up and their upper body comes up first or their butt comes up first, make sure your whole body is moving as a unit.

When I was first taught how to do a push-up correctly, I went from doing 16 push-ups with a 45lb plate on my back and my feet elevated - probably the hardest variation of push-up - to not being allowed to do a bodyweight push-up on the ground. I was regressed all the way to an elevated push-up. So I am going to show first the elevated push-up, than a push-up on the ground and leave it up to you to kind of come up with some of your own variations.

An elevated push-up you can do in a squat rack with a barbell or a bench. You just want your upper body to be elevated. Hands are in line with your shoulders, as I come down everything is going to be nice and tight, elbows are tucked, shoulder blades are coming together, and then I drive my shoulder blades apart at the top. If there was a broomstick on my back, it should touch 3 points of contact: my tailbone, my upper back, and the back of my head, that's how we know my spine is neutral. If you want to make it more difficult, it's a little bit easier to do a squat rack but, just to move it down a little bit. This is not an adjustable bench. You can always move it down a little bit or elevate yourself less.

The next variation is going to be on the ground, just a regular push-up. Same exact thing, hands underneath the shoulders, body in a nice straight line, whole body moves as a unit. Don't let your hips sag. In the walkout video I showed you all kinds of variations of shuffles, and turn and reach the roof, and things of that nature.  You can add them to your push-up, you can also add a chain, you can also attach yourself to a band or on a squat rack to make it more difficult. There are all kinds of things you can do, you can elevate your feet, just make sure you master the basic push-up first. So thats a basic push-up and a few of its variations.


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About the author:  Alli McKee

Alli is a certified strength and conditioning specialist. She's contributed to and modeled for a number of major publications including Oxygen magazine and the New Rules of Lifting: Supercharged. You can find out more about Alli on her personal blog at www.allimckee.com.

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