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How to Master The Perfect Pushup, According to a Trainer

These 6 exercises can help you build strength and nail the proper form for this powerful upper body move.

One of the best upper body exercises you can do is the pushup. It works your triceps, shoulders, and core, you can do it anywhere without any equipment, and there are many variations you can try. The benefits are really endless for this bodyweight move.

Although it's a basic upper body exercise, you still need a fair amount of strength and stability to perform it with good form. For many people, doing a single pushup is a struggle, and they need to work on strengthening other muscles and getting their form down properly. Common mistakes when doing pushups are allowing your lower back to cave in, sticking your neck forward, and flaring out your elbows. All of these issues are compensating for a lack the strength and stability to keep your body in a straight line in order to lower down and back up.

Luckily, there are exercises you can perform to improve those areas in your quest to perform a proper pushup. What follows are a few you can include into your routine. And next, don't miss my Workout Plan That Will Keep You Lean Throughout the Holidays.

Incline Pushup

Incline Pushup
Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Place your palms shoulder-width apart on an exercise bench or elevated surface. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, lower yourself under control until your chest touches the pad. Drive through your palms to come back up, flexing your triceps and chest to finish.

As you're coming down and up, make sure that your neck stays straight, your chest reaches the pad before your chin, and your elbows are at 45 degrees. Do 3 rounds of 8-10 reps.

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Hand Release Pushups

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Get into a pushup position with your shoulders in line with your wrists and back straight. Keeping your core tight and glutes squeezed, lower yourself under control until your whole body is laying on the ground.

Once you've reached the bottom, take your hands off the ground, then place them back to push yourself up. Flex your triceps and chest at the top to finish before performing another rep. Do 3 rounds of 5-10 reps.

Related: Exercise Tricks for Getting Rid of Belly Fat, Trainer Says


Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Get into a pushup position with your shoulders in line with your wrists. Next, tuck your tailbone slightly while squeezing your glutes as hard as you can. Once you're stable and in a straight line, think about bringing your toes towards your elbows and tighten your core as hard as you can while focusing on full inhales and exhales. Stay here for 30 seconds, then rest and repeat twice more.

Related: Secret Effects of Lifting Weights Just Once Per Week, Science Says

Hollow Hold

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Lay flat on your back with your arms extended over your head and feet straight out and together. Pressing your lower back into the floor, slightly curl up, lifting your legs and arms above the air. Your body should be in the shape of a banana. Hold for the prescribed amount of time.

Be sure to keep tension in your core at all times and try not to compensate with your lower back. You can regress the exercise by raising both your legs and arms higher until you get the strength to have it lower. Do 3 sets at 20-30 seconds each.

Related: These 6 Arm Moves Burn Fat Fast, Trainer Says

Dumbbell Bench Press

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Start by laying your back flat on the bench with the dumbbells up and arms fully extended. Pull your shoulder blades back, then lower the dumbbells under control. Get a good chest stretch at the bottom, then drive the weights up, flexing your triceps and pecs to finish. Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

Dumbbell Triceps Extensions

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S.

Laying your back flat on a bench, press up the dumbbells so that the palms are facing each other. Keeping your shoulders completely straight, bend your elbows back so the dumbbells are coming down towards you. As soon as your forearms touch your biceps, reverse the motion, flexing your triceps to finish. Do 3 sets of 8-10 reps.

For more, check out Doing This One Thing While Strength Training Burns Twice as Many Calories, New Study Says.

Tim Liu, C.S.C.S., CSCS
Tim Liu, CSCS, is an online fitness and nutrition coach based in Los Angeles Read more about Tim