Abs & Core Bodyweight Exercise Bodyweight TV Strength

The Perfect Pushup Technique

Written by Adam

Would you like to know what a perfect push up looks like? Below, you’ll find a VERY important video and message from a friend and colleague who I trust EXPLICITLY with your exercise technique. And I don’t take that lightly! But first…

Practice makes perfect, right?

Wrong…

Perfect practice makes perfect.

Unless you strive for technical perfection in your training, you’re dabbling in the unknown. Random execution of ad hoc exercise technique will yield unpredictable results at best, and injury at worst.

Without a notion of proper technique, you can’t judge the level of intensity you can and should pour into your workout. But if you have an ideal to shoot for — a perfect 10 on the technique scale — then you have something to measure against.

You may not achieve a 10. In fact, if you do maybe it’s time to add some motor sophistication to your mix. But you MUST shoot for an 8 on a scale of 1 to 10. And as long as you can maintain that 8 or higher you can — you must — keep pushing your intensity levels up.

Technique is your cup. Intensity is water in your cup. Pour your glass to the rim. Give yourself as much as your glass will hold, but no more…

We’re often asked about the push up. What’s the perfect technique to shoot for? Well there’s no one (and I mean no one) who I’d trust more than my friend Dr Kareem Samhouri to give you the answer.

I only met Dr K a few short months ago. But he’s quickly become one of my most trusted advisers when it comes to biomechanics and exercise technique. It’s an honour to have him here.

From Kareem…

Hey everybody,

First of all, Adam, thank you for having me.  Adam is a great friend and a true pro.  I’m honored to meet each one of you.

In case we’ve never met before, my name is Dr. K, or Dr. Kareem Samhouri.  It’s my job to help people just like you burn fat as fast as humanly possible.  I do this by combining Neuro Fat Loss techniques, my Triple M Method For Rapid Fat Loss, and helping people build strong, healthy joints.

In the video above, I describe the ‘Perfect Push Up,’ or all of the components of a ‘good’ push up.  A lot of people don’t realize how to judge proper form, what speed to do their push ups, the critical fatigue point, and the variety of muscle sections you can target simply by changing your alignment.  Adam and I will be back with more great videos this week – we’re really planning to hook you up here, and we’ve got some great stuff planned!

One favor, though, please take a moment and let Adam & I know what you thought of this video.

Basically, the more comments you leave, the better this is going to be for you – it’s a two-way street 🙂

Have a great day,

Kareem

PS – I’ll be stopping by to answer any questions you have along the way – feel free to list them below…

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Adam

117 Comments

    • Hey Margie,

      It’s our pleasure – glad you learned something that will help you reduce risk of injury & increase benefit at the same time 🙂

      have a great day,

      Kareem

  • I love the video Dr. K! Thanks Adam. I’m a true core philosopher and this video speaks to my soul. Also gives me great ways to communicate what I want to teach to my clients, thanks!

  • Hey DR. K. love your DEFL system, also your link in your e-mail for the upbove pushup video did not work, but have your friends as an fb fan/friend so went through their link. see ya..and thanks for all your advise.

    • Hey Pedro,

      Thanks for the heads up – that’s odd – worked on my side – anybody else experience this issue?

      I’m so glad that you love DEFL – it’s only so great b/c of people just like you being a part of it…. you’re very welcome. I appreciate you 🙂

  • Wow! Lots of great information on doing a correct pushup. This video is definitely a keeper for helping me perfect my form. I like the complete explanations of the various positions to target the different muscles. Thank you.

    • Hey Chris,

      You’re welcome!

      Totally stoked that you found all the details helpful – it’s all about creating a fitness passion with all that you do – keep up the great work 🙂

  • I really enjoyed this video, especially the emphasis on hand angle. I’ve always just kept my hands pointing straight forward, but now I’ll have to remember to shake it up a bit to work other tricep muscles.

    • Cool, Lake – yeah, that tip makes a big difference – for anyone with biceps tendonitis out there, avoid turning your fingers in, ok?

      I appreciate your feedback, Lake.

  • Hi Dr. K,

    Thanks for the push-up explanations. I’ve been maybe going 1-2 reps longer than I should have. I learned the various positions years ago, so I do alternate. However, I never really knew why – I mean, I figured it was for different parts of the tricep, but your explanations really helped clarify. Thank you!

  • This is so helpful! Now I know what proper push-up form looks like. You are always so specific and strategic with your instructions. Keep it coming:)

    • Hey Candace,

      Thanks for the helpful and thoughtful feedback. It’s great to know I’m helping you reach your fitness goals. Keep up the great work!

  • Hey, Dr. K!

    Thanks for dropping by to lay down the information. I knew that turning the hand in or out worked different areas, but I never knew specifically what they were or how to take advantage of that.

    Funny question, but how would form be adjusted if I were doing pushups with my feet elevated? I like to use the back of a chair, such that my feet are about level with my shoulders when fully pushed-up.

    –Bennett

    • Hey Bennett,

      You’re very welcome 🙂

      Yeah, it’s pretty cool when you figure out the ‘why’ – that’s a lot of what I do – it empowers you to take charge – makes a big difference…

      Actually, form would be very similar with your feet elevated, but it’s a great idea to change angles as often as possible. Based upon the obvious enthusiasm with today’s post, I’ll ask Adam if he’d be willing to shoot a video showing you some more push up variety that will help clarify this question.

      Adam, you game?

  • Awesome, detailed info…I have long done wide, close and regular pushups to work my chest in different spots, but I haven’t focused on hand position to target the 3 heads of the tricep…definitely going to do that with myself and clients…thanks for the info. Great video..thanks Dr. K and Adam!

    • It’s our pleasure, Janalyne. Very excited to hear that you’ll help others understand as well. Great job for already adding variety to your programs – keep up the excellent work!

  • Hi and thanks,
    I’ve done 1000″s of push-ups of all sorts and this is the first time I’ve had a clear , simple explanation of the tricep heads and effect of different positions. Thanks

  • Hi Dr K,

    Would you also say that the wide grip pushup should be/could be done with fingers facing inwards? Just thinking about when doing db-chest press and keeping palms facing the body in order to take stress away from the sholder joint. Is it different when its bodyweight only?

    • Hey Per,

      Great question!

      So long as you keep your shoulder angle less than 90 degrees, you’re safe… but definitely go on comfort. If you feel any discomfort, I wouldn’t push….

  • This is a perfect example of the importance of technique not just for the pressup but for all exercises. keep up the good work and thank you for sharing your knowledge with us. michael from England. I prefer to be called English rather than British or someone from Britain.

  • Great clip! As someone recovering from rotator cuff problems, the bit where he says keep your shoulderblades down and back is absolutely key and I would urge people who care about their shoulder health to follow this advice.

    • Glad you enjoyed it Mike!

      Thanks for the reinforcement – I’ve been there too, in the past… no fun, so please watch your form.

  • I especially liked how low you went. I can’t do it, but I know it’s supposed to be done that way. I hear or read that the person should go to about 2″ off the floor, but I see so many people doing extremely shallow pushups. It’s more like they go down 2″! I can’t imagine they’re doing much good to engage so little of the muscle.

    As a way to work up, I vary working from my knees and from my toes, but just lowering myself. It’s basically an isometric exercise to try to raise myself up without letting my hips dip. But better than nothing!

    • Hey Oolala53,

      Really great comment!

      Thanks for being a part of all this 🙂

      yep, actually should be assessed based upon strain on your anterior capsule of your shoulder. If there’s pressure on the shoulder capsule, you’ve gone too far… that said, normal ROM would include this range.

      I like your progression/regression strategy.

      You’re very right about partial ROM being a waste of time…. people would get so much more out of so much less if they just worked the entire muscle 🙂

  • Nice video guys. Perhaps a bit too much info for some people to take in but I really like the emphasis on keeping a stable, neutral lower back and learning to engage your core. Your guidance on timing and tempo is good too. As an aside I have to add that I treat a lot of people whose ability to activate their core muscles is practically non existent! In these cases attempting a full push up only makes the matter worse as the larger more responsive muscles take over from the inhibited core and the person carries out what I might call “unprotected” push ups!

    • Hey Phil,

      Great feedback!

      ..and you’re very welcome 🙂

      That’s a good point, but why not decrease the intensity by moving to an incline push up or push up on knees and strengthen the full ROM… even if you do it with progressive isometrics and a close spot?

      make sense?

  • I recently found Dr. K through a site I subscribe to and out of all the so called experts out there trying to sell me some workout that will make me lose fat FAST, I have more faith and trust in what Dr. K has to say. I am a massage therapist so I know a little about Kinesiology and what Dr. K teaches makes a lot of sense. I’m glad I found him and I look forward to the videos to come.

  • Good reminders on both position and tempo. I am amazed at the many variations that there are in push-ups and how difficult some are relative to others (not even bringing in one-handed variations). I always start out with conventional push-ups and then when I start to fatigue, I add as many more reps as I can from my knees, but always being certain to keep myself spine neutral.

    • Hey Bob,

      Cool, very cool. I like that you’re doing burnouts – that’s great!

      Also, keep in mind doing strength-based push up sets – doesn’t always have to have a fast-twitch, endurance component to it… sometimes increasing the level of difficulty and dropping to 6 reps may be a great option 🙂

  • Great video Dr. K! I run a women’s gym and most of my ladies are 40+. Many want to start their push-ups in the box position. I can now let them know you’re in my corner about elongating their body and still be on their knees. It’s always good to have backup!
    Ginette

    • You’re welcome, Ginette.

      That’s great you run a women’s gym – how cool!

      …I’m glad that I can reinforce what you teach. Please keep us posted as to how they respond.

  • How do you progress so you can get down so low???? I can’t seem to get that low unless I keep knees on the ground.

    • Hey Debbie,

      Great question!

      Ever try progressive isometrics? (10 second hold in multiple positions) – you can get 10 degrees of carryover by doing this, so you can actually lower to where you are stable, then hold and you’ll progress more quickly.

      Also, super slow reps on knees could be helpful… but you’ve got me thinking – might just have to give more details on this if there’s more interest… teaching people how to break through plateaus seems like powerful and important information.

      you guys and gals want this?

      • Yes, please! If I’m brutally honest with myself, I admit I can only do 1 or 2 with perfect, or near perfect, form. The rest are fudged one way or another… ahem. It’s a little discouraging to do so few, so it would be great to have some detailed instruction for building core and upper body strength. Thanks for the clear and detailed video!

      • yes please !!! i got up to 10, sort of, on my toes and 3 fingers (for my black belt test at age 65) — but now i’ve slacked off, and my low-back starts cramping if i do more than 2 or 3, and i have discovered it’s because i’m falling into a “cobra”, not keeping a tight core —
        and the other girls in my group are having THEIR various problems… this is cool information to share !!!!

  • Thanks Dr.K very good video . It shows me i need to work on my form.
    with that being said maybe i will get small amount of fat from my mid-section. also thank you Adam. Peace

  • Thanks guys for this video! The clear and concise description and your demonstration of the technique really does help and clear up a lot of things! Keep up the great work! I loved it!

  • Great video! I know I have had issues with doing a proper pushup, now I know it’s due to a weak core. This will help me improve not only my core but eventually my pushup (want to graduate from doing them on my knees). Thanks!

  • Great video! I was amazed how fast you could talk, without a single hesitation or flaw; clearly the sign of someone who knows their stuff! This was very helpful!

  • Thanks for the great information. You have clearly clarified what should be go on in a push up. Thanks a lot.

  • Kareem,
    Love your videos. Helpful info on the triceps. I love having firmer arms and especially liked the turkey wing comment.

    • Hey Kathy,

      You’re welcome.

      So glad you enjoy my videos – I enjoy having you be a part of all this…

      hehe… the turkey wings – most people have a love/hate relationship with this part 🙂

  • Great video… Dr. K has a good knowledge of kinesiology from what I saw in the video. I would like to know what exercise he would recommend to target the area of the chest that intersects the anterior deltoid just below the collar bone. I can get a good anterior deltoid size but this leaves a depression where the upper attachments of the pectorals meet the lower portion of the anterior deltoids. Tried overhead dumbell flys in various planes, directly overhead and 10 and 20 degrees to the front. I can feel the lactic acid build up in the area somewhat but the desired results of filling in the depressed area have not come yet.

    • Hey Mark,

      You’re welcome, Mark. And thank you for the kind words.

      Personally, I believe this comes down to the recruitment of your pecs above all else. That said, adding internal rotation to incline presses helps a lot, so long as you pre-stretch beforehand and externally rotate your upper arms in the bottom of the range.

      This is a very common, and great, question.

      Excellent input, Mark 🙂

  • Thanks for the video Dr. K, very informative and inspiring. In the future if you slow down your delivery just a tad, your knowledge will transmit even better. Peace-chris

    • Hey Chris,

      You’re welcome.

      …and thanks for the constructive criticism – yeah, I get a bit excited when I interact with all of you 🙂

      guilty as charged….

  • good stuff i enjoy listening to Dr. K he is very knowledgeable. Do you think that office workers should really be focusing on pushups? since they are in a compromised postion for most of their day?
    thanks,

    • Hey Daniel,

      You’re welcome.

      …and thank you for your kind words. I’m blown away by all of you – wow! I should post more on people’s blogs – although… my head may just explode 😉

      Actually, yes. But it would make sense for people in the office to perform specific mobility exercises to counteract this position – a few minutes a day can make a big difference!

  • Dr. K,

    Always good information! Love to see info on exercises that don’t require equipment. I’ll use it while I’m camping!

    rj

    • Hey Rylee Jo,

      Great to hear from you!

      You’re very welcome – hope you have an awesome time camping!

      Personally, I love to get out in the woods and spend some time in nature… enjoy 🙂

  • Great video, really useful to see a proper push-up and not just the push-up I learned at school.
    You mentioned the tempo, different speeds etc – I’d love to find out a bit more about those and how they work too.

  • Hey Adam,

    Thanks for posting that great video by Dr. K. I have been following his advice for a while now, and the guy really knows his stuff!

    I’m looking forward to more videos from you both…not only with more push-up variations, but also with other commone bodyweight exercises that most people have a tendancy to do wrong leading to injuries.

    Best wishes,

    Pete
    .-= Pete´s last blog -> Can Eating Fat Really Make You Fat? =-.

  • Hey there!
    As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words…and the video speaks volumes. Thanks for taking the time to show as well as explain the technique. I look forward to more!

    • Hey Angela,

      You’re very welcome. So glad to know you found the video to be really helpful – also gives me a chance to interact with each of you, personally. I really like that aspect as well.

  • Thanks for the excellent video. Very informative and I am now aware of where I am going wrong. Could you please expand on the effects of the various tempos.

    • You’re very welcome 🙂

      Sure thing, Steph. I actually teach a lot about tempo in DEFL, but we’re happy to comment some more on this in future videos. Thanks for the feedback.

      Here are the main 3 counts:

      2, 1, 4
      10s/10s
      1, 0.5, 2

  • Awesome video to learn proper technique!! I want to ask you something I have read about pushups. It says that one should try to grip the floor, try to rotate the hands while on the floor (they dont actually move) and tense up the entire body (biceps, triceps, pecs, lats and shoulders) in order to become stronger and be able to do more reps. I have also read that one should avoid failure, stopping with 1 or 2 reps on the tank.
    Thanks for everything, the info you gave was great

    • You’re welcome, Federico 🙂

      You’re referring to isometrics, which can be useful in the beginning… especially with co-contraction, as you specified (multiple muscle tense) – this build joint stability and teases the muscle into becoming stronger…

      As for avoiding failure, sorry, but I whole-heartedly disagree. If you’d like to read more on this, please google ‘overload principle’ – that’s a great start for reading 🙂

      I appreciate you.

  • Nicely done. I appreciate not only the excellent form, which we all strive for, but the information regarding the hand positions and what the variations allow us to target. I thought we were doing well with the 4 seconds down and 2 up – then you throw the 10 seconds each way out there – NEW GOAL!
    Thank you

  • Hi Kareem!

    Always great to get direction from THE e\Expert!! Thanks for the awesome info.! Push ups are such an excellent all-around great exercise, thanks for covering all the bases!

  • Hey Dr. K.
    Great information (as usual) that I can immediately put to use. I always look forward to your videos because you usually explain things is such wonderful and explicit detail. Hope you continue to do this great work and talk to you soon.
    .-= Bill S.´s last blog -> The Perfect Pushup Technique =-.

  • Hi Dr K
    Thank you, It was so easy to understand what you were saying, and demostrating, I will deffiently take that into account when doing my puch up now, Im in the process of doing the 100 pushups., test.
    Thanks again and lookforward to more video about other exercises.
    Kind regards
    Betina Down Under

  • Hey, Dr. K.

    Thank you; you have put together an AMAZING video.

    I always believe that people who dispense fitness advice should not only be fit themselves (which you are), but also have medical training (which you do). Otherwise, what may happen is that someone with good genetics can give advice to someone with bad genetics, which can lead to disappoitment and failure on the part of the person with bad genetics.
    It is only a medically trained professional who can truly dispense advice grounded not only in personal experience, but in science and, therefore, in truth.

    As for the video itslef, I agree completely: A lot of people don’t realize that the push-up is not ONLY an arms exercise; it is really a full-body exercise that targets many muscle groups (including the rectus abdominis) when done correctly.

    The very act of suspending yourself in the air only with the support of your hands and feet puts tremendous pressure on the core, the part of your body responsible for stability. (The push-up position essentially requires you to suspend, or hold, your entire bodyweight on your arms.) So, the push-up — and even the push-up position — destabilizes the rectus abdominis muscles, engaging the core and putting extra pressure on it, which is GREAT(!) for developing it.

    Now, I’d like to issue a small challenge to Dr. K. Please read on.

    Several weeks ago, I received an e-mail with the subject line “The Toughest Push-up You will ever do.” I would like to share two links from that e-mail here.
    (You may have to type them into your browser if the links don’t work.)

    The first link is this:
    http://www.naturalbodybuildingtips.com/blog/best-bodyweight-exercise-chest/#comments.

    The second link is to a video I found online:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YvbLSgWMJec.

    [The only thing is, turn down your volume/ speakers as you’re watching the video because there’s some off-color music playing in the background.]

    I don’t know who the guy doing the demonstration in the video is, but I think he is AMAZING!!

    You should watch the entire video whenever you get a chance because the last exercise is a very interesting one. With all due respect, I bet you won’t be able to knock out 5 reps without having to take a break*. Watch it, try it, and let me know.

    *Above, I mentioned the pressure exerted on the core (i.e., the abs) when one supports himself only on his hands and feet. Well, not to give away the last exercise in the video, but let’s just say that it requires you to keep your feet ENTIRELY IN THE AIR AT ALL TIMES. Hence, the challenge.

    Again, please let me know how you did with it.

    Very best regards,
    Mike

  • Dr. K, quick follow-up to my previous post.

    I checked the first link and, for some reason, it opens in the middle of the page.
    Please be sure to scroll up to read the article itself; the comments aren’t so interesting.

    I must have included some extra text in the URL; sorry about that.

    Best,
    Mike

  • Hey guys,

    thanks for the info and the demo
    it is really quite interesting and gosh it look s so easy when you do that, Kareem!
    And thanks also to the duck family that just swam by in the end of the video! too cute!

  • I need serious advise on getting my arms back into shape. I’ve been working out every other day with hand weights and pushups. Learning the 4 up/2 down with hand position changes will be new for me…thanks! Guess I’m just not sure how many reps to do. I’ve been doing 8 reps for 3 sets of about 6 or so different arm exercises. Then for pushups…3 sets of 20. (I just started back this week)

    I would like to see videos on how to get sexy, sculpted, amazing arms for women. 😉

  • Wow! Thank you, Dr K for explaining push ups for us. I never felt like I was doing them quite right or getting full benefit from them. Now I have a much clearer idea of what I’m doing and how to do them knowing I’m doing it correctly and actually targeting certain muscles. This information is priceless to me!!!!!

  • Hi Dr. K.,

    Thanks for posting the videos, I like this one and also the Lunge video.

    Do you know of a specific set of exercises or modifications that are suitable for recuperating from AC-joint surgery? Every push up variant I’ve tried is excruciatingly painful, so I’m looking for things that will help the shoulder to regain mobility and strength as quickly as possible.

  • Hey Dr.K… inside a circuit I’m doing olympic ring push ups followed immediately by wide fingers in bw push ups? Is this a good combination, should I leave the BW push ups out? Tnx for any input.

  • Hi, Dr K

    I’m 50 and love fitness workout ,my performance after this video is 100% better, thanks a lot.
    Havea nice day.

  • HI DR K
    you refer in your video to ”contracting the outer pec, rather than the midpec ” or something along this line. how is it possible to do this if a muscle anchored at 2 points contract along its length, rather than in a partcular segment only. would this mean your inner pec is relaxed while doing the wide grip? sounds a bit weird.

  • Dr. K,

    Any suggestions for doing push-ups after having a broken wrist? I really do love push-ups, but I cannot do very many of them because I have had a broken wrist and have a bone graft in my left navicular bone. People have suggested wall push ups, but I just don’t feel they are as effective. It is the easiest if I have my hands in fists, but I worry that can’t be good for my finger joints, either. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

  • I have been an exercise teacher for many decades-I specialise in weights-and I find your site quite exceptionally good.I really think that I learn something worthwhile every time that I visit .I also appreciate the fact that you seem to be open minded and not condemning of other exercise systems other than the type that you so well promote.I like this very much as I have never been able to find a place in my heart for closed minded ignorant zealotry that seems to infect so much{so called} exercise information that you find on the net.As for body-building forums, don’t get me started, as so many are a complete embarrassment that only serve to reinforce peoples stereotypes.Once again thank you so much for what is transparently such a very good site.

    • Ed,
      Thank you so much. You’ve almost perfectly described what we’re striving for here in BodyweightCoach World. It’s really gratifying that you see it like that. And we’ve got lots of cool stuff coming over the next few months, so stay tuned… 🙂
      Cheers,
      Adam

  • Thanks Adam.You understand me perfectly.Your site is one of a handful{teaching a variety of exercises traditions}that I believe represent something that the present exercise world desperately needs-a return to sanity,basics and the understanding that a lot can be achieved with the body alone or with basic equipment of a variety of simple sorts,depending on the exercise type being done.I have nothing against machines{after all some types have been around since the 19th century}however the present dependence on warehouse sized health clubs and the latest fitness technology strikes me as disempoweringly conveying the suggestion that nothing can be done unless one has access to such resources.Such is not the case and whilst some pieces of equipment are ingenious and worthwhile others seem to be sledgehammers to crack the proverbial nut.Additionally I observe that some pieces of equipment still impose patterns of movement upon the human body by effectively locking it into patterns that it would otherwise be unable to sustain without the support given by the equipment.They also encourage a parts approach to training that when taken to excess ignores the integration of movement with too much of emphasis on isolation.

    It is not so long ago historically when body-building for example was called PC{physical culture}and as of the fifties at shows weight trainers might commonly display athleticism with handstands,back flips,push-ups contests etc..Such would not be the case today when just retaining consciousness on stage might be a struggle.Credible,achievable and above all healthy and sustainable bodies were also the result.This is far from being the case today.

    BodyweightCoach for me represents something that I sense happening- one of the first green shoots of change{the sanity and basics stuff etc}that the exercise world so desperately needs.Once again thank you.

  • This is a very helpful video. I have been learning Kung Fu for 4 years. We always do pushups in class during the conditioning part and I feel that I have no idea what I’m doing. I look around the room and everyone is doing all kinds of different things. I’m overweight so I do knee pushups, but I believe I can develop the strength to push up my full bodyweight. I do full body planks in preparation for that day, while at the same time working on my knee pushups.

    I feel that just doing pushups one way keeps me so busy I can’t imagine being able to work out with all the different kinds. (Lol, maybe someday I’ll love them so much I’ll want to do every kind all day long.) If someone was only going to do one kind of pushups, which would be the best — the ones shown in the video?

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