The Ultimate Push Up Guide: Build a Stronger Chest and Arms in 30 Days


Push ups are a simple exercise. Yet, they’re incredibly effective for building strength and muscle. Don’t underestimate this humble movement!

With good form, push ups can sculpt an impressively muscular chest and arms, along with strengthening your core and shoulders. Done regularly, push ups offer numerous health benefits.

This comprehensive guide will teach you how to master the push up. You’ll learn the proper technique to maximize results, and you’ll also discover push up variations to challenge yourself.

If you’re ready to get stronger and build more upper body strength then you’ve come to the right place. All you need is your body weight and this guide to get started.

Why Push Ups are So Effective

Why push ups are so effective
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Push ups are a complete upper body builder. They work your chest, shoulders and triceps. But that’s not all. Push ups also engage your core – great for building a great six pack!

This compound exercise is incredibly efficient. You’ll build functional strength useful in daily life. Unlike single-joint moves, push ups hit multiple muscle groups.

Another awesome benefit? Push ups are an anytime, anywhere exercise. No equipment needed. Just get down and pump them out!

Most people are always looking for a simple daily workout routine to follow. Push ups are the easiest exercise to build a routine, and can be done at any time during the day.

Building a strong, muscular physique is simple with push ups. It takes dedication and perfect form, but the payoff is huge.

Push ups allow you to go at your own pace. Begin with knee push ups if needed then gradually working up to full body weight push ups.

They’re also ideal for building workout density. Crank out push ups between sets of other lifts. The possibilities are endless!

Don’t dismiss the push up as too basic. It’s a foundational strength move. Master it for gains you can see and feel.

How To Do The Perfect Push Up

While push ups seem simple, there’s a right way and a wrong way to do them. Proper form is crucial for building maximum muscle and strength. It also prevents injury by keeping your body aligned. Follow these step-by-step tips to ensure you’re doing perfect push ups every time:

  • Hand Position: Place your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart. Spread your fingers for a solid base.
  • Body Position: Create a straight line from heels to head. Engage your core by tightening your abdominal muscles.
  • Keep Your Elbows Close: Point your elbows back at a 45-degree angle from your body. This engages your chest muscles.
  • Go Deep: Lower yourself until your chest nearly touches the floor. The further you descend, the more you’ll challenge your muscles.
  • Control the Movement: Take 2 seconds to lower down after each rep. Slow negatives optimize muscle overload.
  • Pause at the Bottom: Hold the deepest push up position for 1-2 seconds. This increases time under tension for better muscle activation.
  • Explode Up: Push through your palms to straighten your arms and squeeze your chest at the top.
  • Breathe Continuously: Don’t hold your breath. Exhale while you push up.
  • Keep Your Body Rigid: Don’t let your hips sag or pike up. Maintain a solid plank from head to toes.

Focus on these tips to master the push up.

10 Best Push Up Variations

Standard push ups are great. But after a while, your body adapts. That’s when it’s time to switch things up.

Incorporating push up variations targets your muscles in new ways. This leads to greater strength and muscle development. Plus, it keeps your workouts fun and engaging.

From beginner-friendly modifications to advanced moves, there’s a push up variation for everyone. Get ready to sculpt your chest, shoulders, and arms from every angle.

Here are the 10 best push up variations to take your upper body to the next level:

Standard Push Ups

How to Do a Standard Push Up

The standard push up is the gold standard for building upper body strength and muscle. It works multiple muscle groups in a compound movement. Master this variation first before progressing to more advanced push up styles.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start in a high plank position with hands directly under shoulders
  • Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels
  • Engage your core by bracing your abdominal muscles

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps
  • Secondary: Core


  • Go all the way down until your chest nearly touches the floor
  • Keep your elbows tucked at 45-degrees to really emphasize the chest
  • Push all the way through the floor to lockout at the top
  • Control the movement by taking 2 seconds to descend

Wide Push Ups

How to do wide push ups

The wide hand position of this variation puts more emphasis on your chest, particularly the outer pec muscles. It also requires more shoulder mobility and stability. Go wide to build a bigger, more impressive chest.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start in a high plank position with hands placed wider than shoulder-width apart
  • Keep your body straight and core braced
  • Feet can be closer together for better balance

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Chest (emphasis on outer pecs)
  • Secondary: Shoulders, Triceps


  • Flare your elbows out to the sides at about 45 degrees
  • Go down until your chest nearly touches the floor between your hands
  • Push through your palms to engage your chest
  • Keep your hips and body from sagging or piking up

Narrow Push Ups

how to do narrow push ups

This push up variation shifts more emphasis to the triceps due to the narrow hand position. It’s an awesome triceps builder that still works the chest and shoulders. Go deep on these for maximum tricep growth.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start out in a high plank with your hands directly under your chest
  • Place your hands together forming a diamond shape with index fingers and thumbs
  • Keep your body in a straight line with your core braced

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Triceps
  • Secondary: Chest, Shoulders


  • Keep your elbows tucked extremely close to your body
  • Go all the way down until your chest nearly touches your thumbs
  • Focus on pushing through your palms to emphasize the triceps
  • Don’t let your hips sag or pike up as you fatigue

Staggered Push Ups

how to do staggered push ups

The staggered hand position makes this a unilateral exercise that works each side of your upper body independently. This forces your core and stabilizers to work harder. It also promotes muscle balance. Alternate hand positions to work both sides equally.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start in a normal push up position
  • Then stagger your hands by placing one hand several inches in front of the other
  • Keep your body in a straight line from head to heels
  • Brace your core by flexing your abs

Muscles Worked:

Primary: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (emphasis on working each side independently)

Secondary: Obliques, Core Stabilizers


  • Switch which hand is in front to work both sides evenly
  • Keep your staggered hand directly under your shoulder when in front
  • Go down until your chest is close to the ground at the lowest point
  • Focus on not letting your hips rotate or drop to maintain stability

Explosive Push Ups

how to do explosive push ups

The explosive push up is an advanced plyo variation that builds explosive pushing power. Generating maximum force to elevate your body trains your muscles for speed and power.

Start with little to no hand elevation at first. Once you build up that explosive strength, try to launch your hands as high as possible on each rep. Just be sure to maintain perfect form throughout.

Proper Set Up:

  • Begin in a standard push up position and lower to the bottom of the movement
  • Keep your body in a solid straight line from head to toes
  • Brace your core by flexing your abs

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (emphasizes explosive power)
  • Secondary: Core stabilizers, Legs to assist with explosive push


  • Explode powerfully off the floor, generating enough force to get both hands off the ground
  • Keep your body rigid without arching or piking at the hips
  • Land softly back in the starting push up position by absorbing the impact

Slow Eccentric Push Ups

How to do slow eccentric push ups

This push up variation emphasizes the eccentric (lowering) portion of the lift by having you descend in a slow, controlled manner. This increases time under tension and muscle overload. The slower eccentric forces your muscles to work harder.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start out in a standard push up position at the top of the movement
  • Keep your body in a straight line and engage your core
  • Brace yourself for a controlled descent, keeping your body solid as you lower

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (emphasizes eccentric/lowering portion)
  • Secondary: Core stabilizers


  • Take 3-5 seconds to lower yourself all the way down in a smooth motion
  • Go down until your chest nearly touches the floor for maximum stretch
  • Don’t use momentum – make the muscles do the work eccentrically
  • Explode back up to the top position without pausing at the bottom

Diamond Push Ups

how to do diamond push ups

The diamond push up is an excellent triceps exercise. Having your hands together in a diamond forces your triceps to work hard. This position also minimizes chest involvement.

If regular push ups aren’t giving you the triceps burn you want, diamonds are the answer. Prepare to feel the pump! Expect your triceps to be extremely sore after sets of these. Control the eccentric for maximum overload.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start in a push up position with your hands together under your chest
  • Form a diamond shape with your index fingers and thumbs
  • Keep your body in a straight line and core braced

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Triceps (with an extreme emphasis)
  • Secondary: Chest, Shoulders


  • Lower yourself until your chest nearly touches your thumbs
  • Keep your elbows extremely tight to your body
  • Push through your palms to fully contract your triceps at lockout
  • Go down until you feel an intense stretch in your triceps

Spider Push Ups

how to do spider push ups

The spider push up combines a regular push up with a side mountain climber movement on the descent. This adds an anti-rotation core component to challenge your obliques and hip flexors.

As you lower into each push up, concentrate on keeping your hips and shoulders square as you bring one knee out towards your elbow. Don’t twist your body. This variation burns out your pushing muscles while sculpting your midsection.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start out in a standard high plank push up position
  • Keep your body in a straight line as you descend
  • As you lower down, bring one knee out towards the same side elbow

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (like a normal push up)
  • Secondary: Obliques, Hip Flexors


  • Don’t let your hips rotate as you bring your knee out
  • Keep your foot pointed back and leg straight in the spider position
  • Push back to the start and repeat with the opposite leg
  • Go slow and controlled on both the push up and leg movement

Reverse Grip Push Ups

how to do reverse grip push ups

The reverse grip changes the muscle involvement slightly compared to a standard push up. Your forearms have to work harder to support you with this grip.

This variation still trains your pushing muscles effectively. Use it periodically to add variety and work some additional forearm strength. The awkward grip positioning makes this more challenging overall.

Proper Set Up:

  • Begin in a push up position but with your hands turned in reverse (fingers pointing towards your feet)
  • Keep your body in a straight line from head to toes
  • Brace your core by flexing your abdominal muscles

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (similar emphasis as standard push up)
  • Secondary: Forearms due to reverse grip position


  • Having a reverse grip will feel awkward at first, but you’ll get used to it
  • Go all the way down until your chest nearly touches the floor
  • Lead with your chest and keep your elbows tucked at 45 degrees
  • Strengthen your forearm muscles by squeezing the reverse grip hard

Push Up Pulses

how to do push up pulses or push up partials

Push-up pulses keep your muscles under constant tension in the most difficult portion of the push up range. There’s no rest at the top or bottom.

By pulsing just a few inches up and down, you create brutal (but good) muscle damage. Your stabilizers also have to work overtime to maintain the rigid plank position.

Start with higher reps like 20-30 pulses per set. As you get stronger, do lower reps with a pause at the bottom to increase the burn.

Proper Set Up:

  • Start in the bottom push up position with your chest nearly touching the floor
  • Keep your body in a straight line and core braced
  • Place your hands directly under your shoulders

Muscles Worked:

  • Primary: Chest, Shoulders, Triceps (constant tension overload)
  • Secondary: Core stabilizers to maintain rigid position


  • From the bottom, do small controlled pushes of just 1-2 inches up and down
  • Never lock out or come all the way up – stay in the low push up position
  • Pulse up and down in a fast but controlled manner
  • Brace your core and don’t let your hips sag as you get tired

The Most Common Push Up Mistakes

Performing push ups with poor form can limit your results and even lead to injury. Watch out for these common push up mistakes:

Not Going Deep Enough; Too Little Range of Motion

  • Many people do push ups with a short range of motion
  • This limits the stretch and muscular overload through a full rep
  • The deeper you can go, the more you’ll engage and overload the pushing muscles
  • Lack of depth prevents you from maximizing hypertrophy and strength gains

By cutting the range of motion short, you’re not working the muscles through their full potential. Performing push ups with a shallow depth reduces the stretch under tension. This stretch is a key component for stimulating muscle growth and strength development.

To truly overload the pecs, delts and triceps, you need to descend until your chest nearly touches the floor on each rep. The greater the range of motion, the more you’ll fatigue and break down those pushing muscles. Aim to get deep for optimal results.

Flared Out Elbows

  • Having your elbows flared out wide is a common push up mistake
  • This moves the emphasis away from the chest and onto the shoulders
  • Keeping elbows tucked at a 45-degree angle primarily works the pecs
  • Flared elbows increases stress and impingement through the shoulder joints

With flared out elbows, you turn the push up into more of a shoulder exercise. The further your elbows wing out to the sides, the less you engage your chest muscles.

Instead, think about driving your elbows back towards your hips. This elbow positioning puts the focus primarily on your pecs while minimizing delts involvement.

Additionally, the extreme elbow flare creates poor shoulder biomechanics. When combined with the push up’s loaded position, flared elbows can lead to impingement issues over time.

To maximally work your chest and avoid joint stress, keep those elbows tucked at around 45-degrees relative to your torso. This adjustment instantly improves your push up form.

incorrect push up position sagging hips

Sagging Hips

  • Allowing your hips to sag or dip is one of the most common push up form flaws
  • This puts your body in a compromised position instead of a rigid plank
  • With sagging hips, you lose core engagement and stability
  • It reduces push up effectiveness while increasing injury risk

Maintaining a straight, rigid plank position is crucial when doing push ups. Any sagging or dipping at the hips completely breaks this posture.

When your hips sag, it removes tension from your core muscles. Your abdominal and low back muscles are no longer braced and engaged to provide stability. This makes the push up a less effective full body exercise.

When your hips are not in proper alignment you put your lower back in a compromised position under load. Over time, this repetitive movement can lead to disc issues or muscle strains.

The fix is simple – actively think about keeping your entire body in a straight, rigid line. Tighten your core as if you’re preparing to take a punch. Don’t let your body sag or pike. Maintain this tension from start to finish of each rep.

incorrect push up position pike hips

Piked Hips

  • The opposite of sagging hips, piking is where your butt sticks up in an excessive arch
  • This throws your body out of the ideal straight plank line
  • Piking puts excessive arching stress through your lower back
  • It’s often caused by poor core engagement and body positioning

While sagging hips are a common flaw, lots of people also make the mistake of piking their hips up. This excessively arched lower back position is just as problematic.

Like sagging, a piked hip position means your body is out of the ideal straight plank alignment. But instead of dipping down, your pelvis is pointed up and your butt is raised towards the ceiling.

Over time, the repetitive arching can lead to muscle strains, disc bulges, or other lower back issues.

Piking usually stems from a lack of full body tension and bracing. If your core isn’t engaged to maintain a rigid plank, your hips will naturally pike up as a compensation pattern.

The fix is the same as avoiding sag – actively brace your entire core and focus on keeping your body in a straight line. Think about forming a rigid pillar from head to toes without any arching or dipping.

bad push up form poor head and neck position

Head Position Issues

  • Proper head positioning is often overlooked when doing push ups
  • Looking up or down takes your cervical spine out of neutral alignment
  • This creates excessive strain and repetitive injuries for the neck muscles
  • Over time, poor head positioning can lead to chronic neck pain or injury

Your head should remain in a neutral position inline with the rest of your spine during push ups. Don’t lift your neck up to look forward or let your head drop too low.

Looking upwards goes into cervical extension, while dropping your head puts you in flexion. Both positions take your neck out of its optimal alignment under load.

With each push up rep, the muscles of your neck have to work isometrically to hold that compromised head angle. The compounded effect of thousands of reps performed this way leads to excessive wear and tear.

Many people develop chronic neck tightness, pain, or even disc issues from repeatedly putting their necks in these poor positions during push ups and other exercises.

The fix is simple – keep your head in line with your spine by picking a spot on the floor to focus your gaze. Avoid excessive flexion or extension through your cervical spine. This neutral head position will help to prevent chronic neck issues.

correct push up form lock out at the top for full range of motion

Lock Out Properly

  • Many people skip the lockout portion of the push up by not fully straightening their arms
  • This limits the push up’s range of motion and reduces muscle engagement
  • You miss out on peak contraction of the chest, shoulders, and triceps
  • Failing to lock out also reduces joint stability and control under load

The top of the push up is just as important as the bottom. Not locking out by fully extending your elbows is a common mistake that limits results.

When you cut the push up short by not straightening your arms, you reduce the exercise’s total range of motion. This means less overall muscle tension and growth stimulus.

You also miss out on achieving peak contraction of the pushing muscles. That lockout is where you squeeze your chest, shoulders and triceps for maximum growth. Skipping it leaves gains on the table.

Additionally, not locking out can create elbow instability over time. The transition from flexion to extension helps strengthen the joints and builds resilience.

So instead of cutting your reps short, focus on fully locking out each push up. Press through your palms to achieve complete elbow extension. Squeeze your chest muscles hard at the top before smoothly descending into the next rep.

This lockout focus will help you build more muscle, strength, and joint integrity in the long run. It’s a small tweak that makes a big difference.

Push Up Workout Challenges

Following a structured push up plan is the best way to ensure steady progress. Having a schedule keeps you accountable and consistent. This leads to better gains over time.

We have created unique 30 day push up challenges for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. They incorporate a variety of push up variations to target different muscle groups and keep the workouts engaging and fun.

The plans gradually increase in difficulty, allowing your body to adapt and grow stronger. They also include built-in rest days for optimal recovery.

To access these FREE push up plans, simply enter your name and email below. You’ll receive a downloadable PDF with the full 30 day schedule tailored to your level.

By sticking to a well-designed plan, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your push up strength and overall upper body development improves.

Download our FREE 30 Day Push Up Challenge PDFs for All Fitness Levels

The Best Follow Along Push Up Workout

Looking for a quick and effective push up workout you can do anywhere? Look no further! We’ve created a 12 minute follow-along push up workout video to help you build a bigger chest and stronger arms.

This intense workout incorporates 11 different push up variations to target your chest, shoulders, and triceps from every angle. From standard push ups to challenging explosive and spider push ups, this workout will push your upper body to the limit.

The workout is broken down into 5 rounds, each targeting different muscle fibers and keeping your body guessing. You’ll perform each variation for 20 seconds, with a brief rest between exercises. The final round is a burnout where you’ll push yourself to failure.

No equipment is needed for this workout, just your own body weight and some space to move. Whether you’re a beginner or advanced, this workout will challenge you and help you build a stronger, more defined upper body.

So what are you waiting for? Roll out your mat, press play, and get ready to feel the burn!

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the benefits of push ups?

Push ups are a great bodyweight exercise that builds upper body strength, improves muscular endurance, and boosts your overall fitness. They engage multiple muscle groups simultaneously, making them a highly efficient movement. Regular push ups can also enhance joint stability, improve posture, and increase core strength.

What do push ups target the most?

Push ups primarily target the chest (pectorals), shoulders (deltoids), and arms (triceps). However, they also engage the core muscles, including the abs and lower back, as well as the serratus anterior, which is essential for shoulder blade stability.

Is it bad to look down when doing push ups?

Yes, looking down during push ups can strain your neck and compromise your form. To maintain proper alignment, keep your head in a neutral position, with your eyes focused slightly ahead of you. This will help you maintain a straight line from head to heels.

What is the easiest push up?

Wall push ups and incline push ups (with hands elevated on a bench or step) are generally considered the easiest variations. These modifications reduce the amount of body weight you’re lifting, making the movement more accessible for beginners or those with limited upper body strength.

What is the most difficult push up?

One-arm push ups, planche push ups, and clap push ups are among the most difficult push up variations. These advanced movements require significant strength, control, and balance. It’s essential to master the basic push up form before progressing to these difficult variations.

Do push ups get easier?

Yes, push ups get easier with consistent practice and progression. As you build strength and endurance, you’ll be able to perform more repetitions with better form. However, it’s important to continue challenging yourself by incorporating new variations or increasing the number of sets and reps to avoid plateaus.

How many push ups should I do in a day?

The number of push ups you should do daily depends on your current fitness level and goals. Beginners may start with 3-4 sets of 6-10 repetitions, while more advanced individuals can aim for 3-4 sets of 20-25 reps or more. Focus on quality over quantity, and allow adequate rest between workouts to help with recovery and to prevent overuse injuries.

I’ve reached a plateau and can’t do any more pushups. What happened?

Plateaus are common in strength training and can occur due to a lack of progression, inadequate rest, or poor nutrition. To break through a plateau, try varying your push up routine by incorporating different variations, increasing your sets and reps gradually, or adjusting your rest periods. Ensure you’re getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet to support your training.

My wrists hurt while doing push ups. What should I do?

Wrist pain during push ups is often due to poor form or inadequate wrist strength. To alleviate discomfort, try using push up handles or perform push ups on your knuckles to keep your wrists in a neutral position. You can also perform wrist stretches and strengthening exercises to improve wrist stability and flexibility.

Should my chest touch the floor on the down phase of the pushup?

While it’s not necessary for your chest to touch the floor, aim to lower yourself until your chest is a few inches from the ground. This ensures you’re achieving a full range of motion and effectively engaging your muscles. Maintain control throughout the movement and avoid letting your hips sag or pike up.

How fast should I do push ups?

Perform push ups at a controlled, steady pace. Aim for a tempo of 2 seconds down (eccentric phase) and 1-2 seconds up (concentric phase). This tempo allows for proper muscle engagement and reduces the risk of using momentum or compromising form.

What is the correct method for breathing during pushups?

Maintain a steady breathing pattern throughout your push ups. Inhale as you lower yourself towards the ground, and exhale as you push back up to the starting position. Avoid holding your breath, as this can cause a buildup of abdominal pressure and lead to dizziness or lightheadedness.

What is the correct head position when doing push ups?

Keep your head in a neutral position, aligned with your spine. Avoid craning your neck up or tucking your chin down. A good reminder is to imagine holding a small ball between your chin and chest. This head position helps maintain a straight line from head to heels, promoting proper form and reducing neck strain.

Can I pause between pushups if I begin to tire?

Yes, it’s okay to pause briefly between repetitions if needed. However, aim to minimize rest times to maintain the intensity of your workout. If you find yourself needing extended breaks, consider reducing the number of reps or modifying the push up variation to a more manageable level.

Will I lose weight from doing pushups?

While push ups alone may not lead to significant weight loss, they can contribute to a well-rounded fitness routine that supports fat loss. To lose weight, focus on creating a calorie deficit through a combination of a balanced diet and regular exercise, including cardio and strength training. Push ups can help build lean muscle mass, which can boost your metabolism and aid in overall weight management.


Push ups are a powerful bodyweight exercise that can transform your upper body strength. By incorporating various push up variations and following a structured plan, you can target different muscle groups, break through plateaus, and achieve your fitness goals.

Remember, consistency and proper form are key to making progress and avoiding injury. Start at a level that challenges you but allows you to maintain good technique, and gradually increase the difficulty as you grow stronger.

To help you stay on track and maximize your results, we’ve created FREE 30 day push up plans for beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels. These plans are designed to keep your workouts engaging, progressive, and effective.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to take your push up game to the next level. Enter your name and email below to download your 30 day push up plan now!

Download our FREE 30 Day Push Up Challenge PDFs for All Fitness Levels

With dedication and the right plan, you’ll be amazed at how quickly you can build a stronger, more impressive upper body. So, grab your free plan, hit the ground, and start pushing your way to success!