When it comes to doing exercise, lots of people learned how to do a push up properly at an earlier age and take this exercise for granted. It's a staple upper-body movement found in lots of different fitness classes, and because it works so many muscle groups – your chest, your core, your shoulders and triceps – it remains one of the best calisthenics exercises to build muscle, alongside the much harder pull-ups and dips.
However, many people don't currently have the upper-body strength to do one full push-up. If you're just coming to fitness for the first time, or returning after a long absence, or even suffering from severe joint pain, push-ups in a full-plank position or resting on your knees are sometimes too difficult to execute. [Note: If joint pain is an issue for you, check out our list of the best supplements for joints]
TikToker and YouTuber HybridCalisthenics, whose real name is Hampton, posted a video to his TikTok a couple of weeks ago, showing how to go from being unable to do a kneeling press-up, to doing your first press-up in full plank position. Check out the video below:
Watch the video and learn how to do your first push up here:
In the video above, Hampton recommends trying push ups upright against a wall until your muscles are comfortable with the motions. Once you've mastered a few sets of 50, Hampton recommends doing them on progressively lower surfaces, such as a railing or bench. Eventually, you'll be able to do sets of 20 on your knees, at which point you can progress to push ups in a full plank position.
The video got over 125,000 "upvotes" on Reddit, one of the internet's most popular content sites, shooting to the top of its front page, /r/all, where Hampton was praised for making this simple fitness move accessible to all. In his video, he says "fitness is a journey, and we all start somewhere," a message which has really resonated online.
'This is the type of "fitness nut" that society needs,' said one commenter. 'No shaming. No bullshit. Just "Hey, here are some tips. Anyone can be in shape, and I believe in you."'
'This is the kind of positivity i need in exercise' says another. 'My whole life experience with exercise has been people pushing me to the point of suffering as if that’s the goal. And I’ve always hated it. This is the outlook i need to work on so i can get back into it.'
Why do push ups?
The push up works well as an all-around measure of fitness and health. The Journal of the American Medical Association found people who could complete at least 40 push-ups within 30 seconds had a low risk of heart attack, or other cardiovascular issues, over the next 10 years of their life.
Knowing how to do a push up properly correctly helps work your pectoral or chest muscles, triceps, shoulders and core, making it a good technique to help you tone build muscle and lose weight on your arms. However, because it works lots of muscles at the same time, it can also boost your metabolism, helping you to lose weight on your stomach, too.
How to do a push up
- First, get into the starting plank position. Keep your legs together, with the balls of your feet and toes planted firmly on the floor. Your arms should be straight, with your hands placed just wider than shoulder width apart.
- In this starting position, your fingers should be spread out and pointed forwards. Most importantly, your body should form a straight line from your heels to your shoulders, with your head up.
- Start lowering yourself down towards the floor, concentrating on maintaining your straight body position. If you pull in your glutes (they’re the muscles in your backside) and your abs, this will help you maintain a rigid body position throughout.
- Keep lowering yourself until your chest almost touches the floor. Pause before pushing back up until your arms are straight. That’s one repetition – you should be doing at least 10 in a set. Go slowly at first, concentrating on perfecting the correct body position.
Get the Fit&Well Newsletter
Start your week with achievable workout ideas, health tips and wellbeing advice in your inbox.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and is currently Fitness and Wellbeing Editor at TechRadar, covering all things exercise and nutrition on Fit&Well's tech-focused sister site. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
You don’t need weights to build strength—try this coach’s seven-move bodyweight workout instead
Workout Strengthen your muscles, bones, joints and muscles while boosting your metabolism with this strength training workout
By Harry Bullmore Published
Strengthen your arms and shoulders in minutes with this three-move kettlebell workout that's perfect for beginners
Lower body Train your upper body with this three-move kettlebell workout
By Lou Mudge Published