Luke Zocci nailing a tricep push-up.
Luke Zocchi

Your ultimate push-up workout guide

Luke Zocchi

Push-ups may be a classic exercise, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy.

Get this bodyweight move right, and you’ve unlocked a great home workout for your chest, shoulders, triceps and core. Get it wrong, and you could be risking injury.

Maybe you think you already have this move nailed, but what about some of the best push-up variations: how’s your archer push-up form, or your diamond or incline push-up form?

With this push-up form guide, I’ll take you back to basics, then challenge you to bring it all together with my push-up workout challenge.

What are the benefits of push-ups?

From my HIIT workouts to our muscle-building programs Centr Power and Power Shred, push-ups are a staple on Centr. Why? Firstly, you don’t need any equipment to do a classic push-up. Secondly, they’re just one of those great resistance exercises that will benefit your routine whether you’re trying to lose body fat or gain muscle.

Let’s take a look at some of the big benefits of push-ups.

  • Push-ups engage multiple muscles at once: your chest, triceps, shoulders and core. I love compound exercises like this, because they’re super efficient, helping you to work more muscle groups in less time. More advanced push-up variations can help you turn up the burn in different target areas, too, for instance, a wide push-up will put more emphasis on your chest. More on that below.
  • Push-ups can improve your posture: a stronger back and chest helps to draw your shoulders back and down. A strong core is also going to help hold your torso upright, and you’ll be engaging those deep core muscles to stabilize your body throughout the push-up movement.
  • Push-ups could improve your heart health: No, really! Any regular exercise – including cardio and strength training – will reduce your risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death for adults in the US and Australia. The ability to perform push-ups is even sometimes used as a test of someone’s cardiovascular risk: one study found that men who could do 40 push-ups had a significantly lower risk of heart problems compared to those who completed fewer than 10 push-ups.

How to nail your push-up form

Hit the floor and let’s get your classic push-up technique into gear.

  • Set up with your hands shoulder-width apart, directly under your shoulders.

  • Push your shoulder blades back and make sure your elbows are not flared out to the side.

  • Step one foot back, then activate your core.

  • Step the other foot back, so both feet are close together. You should now be in a plank position – forming a straight line from your head down to your feet.

  • Keep your head neutral (that means in line with your spine).

  • Bend at the elbows to lower your chest down toward the floor with control.

  • Remember, you don’t need to lower yourself all the way to the ground – imagine a can of drink under your chest and only go that far.

  • Now push away from the floor to raise your chest back up, until your arms are fully extended.

That right there is one push-up rep. How many reps should you do in one set? That will depend on your current level of fitness and strength. As a general strength training rule, the aim is to do as many reps as you can with good form, until your muscles become fatigued.

My tip is to keep two reps in reserve: that means when you feel your muscles getting tired and you only feel like you have a couple more quality reps in you, it’s time to stop.

How to make push-ups easier

Push-ups are hard. If they weren't, we wouldn’t need this guide! There’s nothing wrong with modifying an exercise to learn, build strength and control, and get it done.

Knee push-up: Set up your form the same as a standard push-up, but place your knees on the ground. The further back your knees are from your torso, the harder the move will be.

Incline push-up: Maintain the classic push-up position, but place your hands on a raised surface, like a bench.

Once you build strength and control with these modifications, you can try progressing to the standard push-up.

How to make push-ups harder

Want to push your push-up boundaries for a bigger challenge? Once you’re nailing the classic technique, there are a couple of different approaches you can take to up the difficulty.

Add resistance: When your body is pushing against added resistance (not just gravity) you’re going to get a tougher workout. Try adding resistance bands (stretched across your back and secured under your hands), a weighted vest, or even a weight plate on your back – just make sure you ask a buddy to help you with that one. I’ve seen Centr members get it done with kids sitting on their back, too!

Add negatives: Once you can easily crush 10 push-ups, add some 5-second negatives to your routine. That’s where you lower to the ground slowly (for a controlled count of 5) before driving back up. This increases your time under tension, giving you a bodyweight chest exercise you can do at home for even bigger results.

The other way to get more out of your training is with push-up variations. Read on…

What are the best push-up variations?

A slight change of position can change the target of a push-up and get different muscles working harder, too.

To try these variations, set up in the classic push-up position we worked on above, then make the form adjustments listed for each move. I’ve included video tutorials for two of my personal favorites: the diamond push-up and the decline push-up. But keep reading to learn the correct form for even more variations.

Diamond push-up

This variation will get your triceps, and smaller stabilizing muscles, working harder.

How to do it:

  • Place your hands together directly under the center of your chest, touching your index fingers and thumbs together to form a diamond shape.

  • Keeping your elbows close to your sides, lower your torso down until your chest meets your hands.

  • Then push back up.

Decline push-up

While an incline can make push-ups easier, a decline is going to dial the difficulty up.

How to do it:

  • Elevate your feet by planting your toes on a bench or box. The higher your feet, the bigger the challenge.

  • You can also switch the bench for a physio ball to make your core work harder.

Wide push-up

The wide hand position places more emphasis on your chest. You’ll also get great activation of the serratus anterior muscle which fans out from under your shoulder blades to your ribs – it’s known as the boxer’s muscle as it helps you pack real power into a punch.

How to do it:

  • Place your hands on the floor wider than shoulder-width apart.

  • Your fingers should be pointing forward, or slightly outward.

Archer push-up

The archer variation delivers big intensity for a stronger back and arms – and will help you build up to one-arm push-ups.

How to do it:

  • Set up with your hands around double shoulder-width apart (in other words, super wide).

  • Bend your right elbow to begin lowering your chest toward your right hand. As you do this, rotate your left hand outward to allow your left arm to fully straighten.

  • Push into the ground to rise back up, then lower down toward your left hand.

  • Continue alternating sides.

One-arm push-up

This is going to isolate your arm muscles, activate your obliques, and seriously test your upper-body strength and stability. Just don’t get into ego reps territory! (More on that below.)

How to do it:

  • Keep your hands in the classic push-up position underneath your shoulders, and splay your legs out wide – this will help keep you balanced.

  • Bring your left hand up and place it on your back, out of the way.

  • As you bend your right elbow to lower yourself down, think about screwing your right hand and shoulder inward so your chest is moving away from your grounded hand.

  • Complete 1 to 5 reps on your right side (or as many as you can) before switching to your left side.

Wrist pain during push-ups? The cushioned grip on Centr Push-up Handles will reduce strain and provide support so you can focus on nailing your form.

Common push-up mistakes & how to fix them

If you notice any of these habits creeping into your form, it’s time for a reset. At best, poor form will seriously limit your gains. At worst, you’re putting yourself at risk of injury.

Drooping head: Don’t look at the ground directly below you, look at the ground a few feet in front of you – this will help keep your head and neck in line with your spine.

Hands too far forward: If your arms are extended out in front of your body, you won’t be working your core and could be putting strain on your joints. Bring those hands back safely underneath your shoulders.

Elbows pointing out: If your elbows are spreading out like wings when you lower yourself down, you’re again missing core control and putting stress on your shoulders. Keep those triceps positioned at roughly a 45-degree angle from your shoulders.

You’re doing the worm: We’re not breakdancing here, people! Your body needs to remain one solid line during the push-up, which requires great core strength. If you can’t keep your body in a solid ‘plank’ position during the exercise, modify and do the move on your knees or on an incline.

Ego push-ups: You know the person – the one obsessed with smashing out reps as fast as they can to prove how awesome they are, even though their form is trash. Don’t be that person.

Remember, the best way to check your form is to video yourself doing push-ups. Then you can make any adjustments and keep on pushing for more.

Try Luke’s push-up challenge workout

Alright, are you ready to put all this push-up know-how to the test? I’ve packed this workout with 5 different variations – I’m challenging you to deliver 10 reps of each with good form. It’s okay if you need to work up to it. You can build your push-up strength and come back to this workout at any time.


Do 30 secs of each movement.

  • Wrist circles

  • Arm circles

  • Arm hugs


Do 10 x reps of each variation without stopping. Rest 30 seconds between each variation.

  • Push-up

  • Wide push-up

  • Decline push-up

  • Diamond push-up

  • Archer push-up

Luke Zocchi

Chris Hemsworth may wield the hammer, but it’s his personal trainer Luke Zocchi who cracks the whip. A certified personal trainer, Luke is renowned for his fast and efficient training methods, using weights and bodyweight to get maximum results in minimum time. He’ll also show you how to fuel your training with quick, easy and healthy recipes.

Luke Zocchi

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