How to Do a Perfect Push-Up (Plus, 5 Next-Level Variations)

How to do a push-up

Just like building a house, when it comes to shaping your body, you’ll want to forge a strong foundation first. And there’s no better brick than a classic move to help fortify your muscles and your technique for any other exercises to come.

Once you master the classics, you’ll be able to mix and match them along with their variations for better workouts and a stronger you. Here’s how to do a push-up.

The Move: Push-Up

how to do a push-up


Push-ups are one of the best foundational moves for your body. For starters, you can do them virtually anywhere using only your bodyweight. And while they are known for strengthening and toning the chest, shoulders, and arms, they’ll also give your core stability a boost.


Get into plank position with your feet hip-distance apart, abs pulled in toward your spine, and hands directly beneath your shoulders. Your spine should be in a flat, neutral position. Slowly lower your body toward the floor, and then press back up to start. Keep your core tight throughout the movement to prevent your hips from dipping down or rising up. Perform 5 to 25 reps.

Mix It Up: 5 Push-Up Variations

On-The-Knees Push-Up

How to do a modified push-up

As with any move, form is key if you want to reap the biggest benefits. Performing push-ups on your knees takes the difficulty down a notch and makes it easier to keep your back flat throughout the exercise.

Get into plank position, but instead of resting your toes on the floor, place your knees on the floor. Bring your body slightly forward to take the pressure off your kneecaps. (You can also perform these with your knees on a mat.) Slowly lower to the floor and press back to start. Perform 10 reps. Once you can do these perfectly, straighten your legs and get up on your toes to progress to regular push-ups.

Incline Push-Up

How to do an incline push-up

While push-ups target your entire chest, this move hits the top part of the pectoral muscles even more. Generally speaking, it’s good to add variety to your workouts to challenge muscles in different ways, as you’ll always be using them in different ways. An added bonus to this move is that you can keep changing it up by changing the incline level: Perform it on a step at the gym, while holding a sturdy park bench, or even against a wall.

Get into plank position, and place your hands on a step with your hands beneath your shoulders. Lower your body down and press up. Perform 10 reps. If this is too challenging, try doing them on your knees.

Decline Push-Up

How to do a decline push-up

Like the name implies, this move challenges your body in the opposite direction and targets the lower portion of your pectoral muscles. Decline push-ups are versatile like their cousins, as you can do them outside with your feet up on a step.

Get into plank position with your toes on a step and hands beneath your shoulders. Pull your abs in toward your spine, and lower your body toward the floor. Press up to start. Perform 8 to 10 reps. Note: Decline push-ups are slightly more advanced and challenging, so save them for when you’re more comfortable.

Triangle Push-Ups

How to do a triangle push-up

This variation targets your triceps and adds a little spice to your push-up routine.

Get into plank position, and walk your hands toward your chest to form a triangle with your fingers. You may want to start on your knees, as these are more difficult than a typical push-up. Lower your body in a controlled manner to the floor and press back up to start. Perform 6 to 10 reps.


How to do a walking push-up

While not technically a push-up, this move works similar muscles with an added focus on core stability. It’s also just plain fun.

Get into plank position to the right of a gym step with your shoulders next to the narrow edge of the step. Keeping your body still, place your left hand on the step. Lower your body toward the floor and then press yourself back up and place your right hand next to your left hand on the step. Remove your left hand and place it on the floor to the left of the step. Lower your body toward the floor and then press yourself back up. Repeat by “walking” back to start. That’s one rep. Perform 10 to 12 complete reps.

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