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Side view of push-up
Push-up technique

The push-up (plural: pushups ), also: the push-ups (plural: pushups ), English push-up or press-up , is a sports bodyweight exercise to strengthen the muscles , especially here shoulder, arm and chest muscles. The stretched body is supported by the arms, the gaze is directed towards the floor.


The starting position of the push-up is the prone position, the body is stretched. The hands are on the floor a little over shoulder width apart. The fingers point forward, the thumbs inward. By tensing your arms at the same time, they are stretched and the upper body lifts off the floor. The weight is evenly distributed between the tips of the toes and hands. The head, neck, spine, buttocks and knees form a line and the abdominal muscles are tense. Now both arms are bent at the same time and the upper body is lowered until the tip of the nose almost touches the floor. The body remains stretched.


  • The head must be in line with the body when doing a push-up, keeping your eyes on the floor. The head must not be pulled back, otherwise strains threaten.
  • The buttocks should neither sag down nor be stretched far up. A hollow back is avoided by body tension .
  • In order to fully train the chest muscles, the exercise must be performed with the greatest possible range of motion. The lower the upper body is brought to the ground, the more intense the training effect.
  • Do not make jerky, but steady movements.
  • As shown in the video, the arms are fully stretched and the shoulders are tensed until they stop. Another concept is that the arms are not fully extended, but rather remain slightly bent in the highest position in order to keep the tension in the chest, shoulders and triceps constant.
  • Exhale as you push up, inhale as you descend.


Wall push-ups

The wall push-up is the lightest type of push-up and is therefore particularly suitable for beginners. The execution is the same as with normal push-ups, except that you stand upright about shoulder width from a wall and then support yourself with your arms on the wall. The difficulty can increase with increasing distance from the wall. Depending on your mobility, the soles of your feet can stay on the ground or you can walk on tiptoe.

Knee support

Push-ups are easier to do when your body is on your knees instead of your toes. One then speaks of knee supports . With this variant, around 50% of your own body weight rests on your arms, with conventional push-ups it is around 70%. The legs can be crossed or held next to each other.

Wide / tight push-ups

With wide push-ups, the hands are placed on the floor a little wider than shoulder width. This mainly stresses the chest muscles.

One-legged push-ups

A push-up on one leg only (the foot of the passive leg is placed on the heel of the active one). Since the body weight is only on three points and you also have to pay attention to your balance, this leads to increased body tension.

One-arm push-up

One-arm push-up

Push-ups can also be performed on one arm, but care must be taken to shift your balance.

High push-ups

For more weight on the arms, you can put your feet on a higher edge (e.g. sofa, bed, or as a partner exercise on their shoulders "hunter push-up").

In order to reach further down with the upper body, you can put your feet on a higher edge and also grab another higher edge with one hand in order to be able to lower the upper body in the space further than usual to the floor. The overstretching of the head also enables the whole body to be lowered deeper, which should then make contact with the ground in the lowest position, ideally with the chin, hips and toes, and thus ensure maximum lowering.

Variation of the hand position

Push-up grips

Push-ups do not necessarily have to be performed on the palms of the hands. It is still possible:

  • on the fingertips (a lot of hand strength is required. A good example of this type of push-up was Bruce Lee , who performed it on only two fingers.)
  • on the tense fists (to protect / strengthen the wrists, for a stronger training effect and to toughen up: It is important that this type is only practiced on the knuckles of the index and middle fingers and on a hard surface.)
  • on the back of the hand (an unhealthy variant that should be avoided)
  • on push-up handles


The dand, also known as the Hindu push-up. This is the most basic version, similar to Bruce Lee's, who called it cat stretch.

The dands are also called Hindu push-ups or Indian push-ups . The most basic form of dand begins with the downward dog yoga position and progresses to a cobra pose. It is common in Indian physical culture and martial arts, especially Pehlwani. Bruce Lee also used it in his exercise regimen, calling it cat stretch . It is an effective core strength exercise because both the front chain and the back chain are dynamically involved in a harmonious way. There are numerous variations of the Hindu push-up, although most involve the two postures used in the simplest version.

This variant creates a hollow back and it is controversial whether this can lead to health problems. In the starting position, the legs are spread in a V-shape, the buttocks are the highest point. The arms are extended and form an extension of the back. Then the upper body is lowered, as if you were diving through something. Then the hip is also lowered. Now the upper body is straightened up again until the arms are stretched. The head is put back. At the end, the hips are also pushed back up and the starting position is reached.

Tibetan push-ups

The Tibetan push-ups create a hollow back and it is controversial whether this can lead to health problems. Therefore this variant should only be carried out carefully. The starting position is identical to the dands. Then the hips are brought to the floor, the arms remain stretched. Then the upper body is straightened (stretching the abdomen) until the hips are lifted up again at the end.

Dive bomber push-ups

This variant should only be carried out carefully, as it results in a hollow back posture. At the beginning the legs are spread apart in a V-shape, the hands are below the shoulders on the floor. Then the buttocks are raised so that the arms are in a straight line with the back. The legs are kept as straight as possible. After that, the elbows are brought outward and the head is lowered to an imaginary point between the hands. Now the entire body is lowered until it is parallel to the floor. However, the body is not set down on the ground. While keeping your hips down, straighten your upper body until your arms are straight and lean your head back. Then you lower yourself back down and push your hips up again. This is repeated several times, so it's like rocking back and forth.

Diamond pushups

With the Diamond push-ups, the hands are placed directly next to each other on the floor. The thumb and index finger form a diamond. Keep your elbows close to your body when lowering. The fingers can be spread slightly to keep your balance better. This variant primarily trains the arm extensors ( triceps brachii muscle ).

"Lateral twist" support

With the "Lateral Twist" push-ups (also oblique push-ups ), the upper body is rotated to one side when lowering and to the other side when pushing up. This movement also trains the mobility of the shoulder.

Horse gait

Push-ups can also be trained while riding on horseback: You use your arms as front legs, your legs as back legs, and walk on all fours, as it were, doing a push-up after every step.

Staggered push-ups

With the staggered push-ups (also oblique push-ups ), one arm is placed in front of the shoulder in the longitudinal direction of the body and one arm behind the shoulder. Above all, the triceps are trained here.

Static push-ups

In addition to the dynamic variants, push-ups can also be trained statically, i.e. isometrically . You go into the same position as with a classic push-up. Now the body is lowered so that the elbows are bent at a 90 ° angle. This position is held as long as it is technically possible.

Push-ups with additional weight

As soon as the number of possible push-ups exceeds twelve repetitions with a total tension time of 1.5 minutes, the exercise is primarily effective for strength endurance, but not for maximum strength and muscle building. In order to increase the load in this situation, you can train with a weight vest. The right technique plays a key role here, as the musculoskeletal system is heavily stressed due to the additional weight.

Mountain climber

In the mountain climber , the legs are alternately pulled forward from the push-up position.

Muscles involved

The chest, arm, shoulder, stomach, back, buttocks and leg muscles are generally trained.

Mainly trained muscles:

Muscles mainly involved in stabilization:

Orthopedic problems

The sharply bent hands can cause pain in the wrists due to overuse of ligaments and tendons. Here you can use push-up grips as an aid or bench press as an alternative exercise . In addition, push-ups can also be performed on the fists with a soft pad to protect the wrist.


armed forces

US Marines doing push-ups

In the Bundeswehr , a special form of push-up was carried out as part of the earlier Physical Fitness Test (PFT) , which was replaced by the Basic Fitness Test (BFT) in 2010 :

  1. The performer lies on his stomach, hands touch on his back.
  2. Now both hands are placed on the floor next to the shoulders and the arms are stretched until the body forms a straight line.
  3. One hand releases from the floor and touches the opposite forearm.
  4. Return to the starting position.


Push-ups are a compulsory exercise that is required in vaulting in performance class A. The vaulting man places his legs one after the other from the bench flag with the instep on the horse's croup . The legs must be closed and the body should form a straight line from the instep to the head. The exercise reduction takes place after four gallop jumps: By shifting his weight more onto his arms and at the same time bending his hips, he pulls his straight legs towards the vaulting harness. After the maximum height of the center of gravity is reached, the legs are opened and slide smoothly along the horse to the seat.

Exercise and floor exercises

The push-up is a basic posture in physical exercise and floor exercise. A distinction is made between push-ups forwards (looking towards the floor) and push-ups backwards (looking away from the floor).

See also

further reading

  • X. García-Massó, JC Colado et al. a .: Myoelectric activation and kinetics of different plyometric push-up exercises. In: Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. Volume 25, Number 7, July 2011, pp. 2040-2047, ISSN  1533-4287 . doi : 10.1519 / JSC.0b013e3181e4f7ce . PMID 21701289 .
  • JW Youdas, BD Budach u. a .: Comparison of muscle activation patterns during the conventional push-up and perfect push-up? exercises. In: Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. Volume 24, Number 12, December 2010, pp. 3352-3362, ISSN  1533-4287 . doi : 10.1519 / JSC.0b013e3181cc23b0 . PMID 20664364 .
  • DN Suprak, J. Dawes, MD Stephenson: The effect of position on the percentage of body mass supported during traditional and modified push-up variants. In: Journal of strength and conditioning research / National Strength & Conditioning Association. Volume 25, Number 2, February 2011, pp. 497-503, ISSN  1533-4287 . doi : 10.1519 / JSC.0b013e3181bde2cf . PMID 20179649 .
  • B. Chuckpaiwong, T. Harnroongroj: Palmar pressure distribution during push-up exercise. In: Singapore medical journal. Volume 50, Number 7, July 2009, pp. 702-704, ISSN  0037-5675 . PMID 19644626 .

Web links

Commons : Pushups  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: push-ups  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Cf. the corpus of the written language (Cosmas II) of the Institute for the German Language in Mannheim.
  2. a b c The Sport Brockhaus . 5th edition. Brockhaus, Mannheim 1989, ISBN 3-7653-0392-5 , pp. 310 .
  3. a b c d e f g h i j k l Ariana Röthlisberger: Pushups. Accessed March 31, 2020 .
  4. a b c d e f Thorsten Tschirner: 8 minutes are enough! Gräfe and Unzer, Munich 2003, ISBN 3-7742-6044-3 , p. 100 .
  5. a b c d e f g h i j k Klaus Zimmermann: Self-programmed fitness . Sportverlag, Berlin 1992, ISBN 3-328-00522-6 , p. 24-25 .
  6. Mujumdar DC, The Encyclopedia of Indian Physical Culture , 1950, p.460, plate 131
  7. ^ Lee, Bruce, 'Preliminaries' in The Tao of Jeet Kune Do , California: Ohara Publications, 1975, p.29
  8. Push-up documentation at the Judo Association Rhineland (PDF; 2.0 MB).
  9. ^ Deutsche Reiterliche Vereinigung eV (FN): Vaulting exercise book (2008 edition). Requirements and criteria in German tournament sports acc. LPO (National Tasks). Warendorf 2007, ISBN 978-3-88542-442-0 .