How to Do Press Ups Properly

Ahh the famous Press Up. A hallmark of physical strength for years, it is a great test and showing of upper body strength and, when done correctly, works the chest, shoulders, triceps and core muscles.

But, the problem is the ‘when done correctly’ bit about that last sentence. Far too often I see gym goers in workouts, classes and (God forbid) PT sessions doing Press Ups all to wrong which isn’t good for progress and can lead to pain and injuries in certain areas.

Well never fear because today I, your friendly neighbourhood trainer, am here to teach you how exactly to do a Press Up properly.

Drop and Give me 10

There are two things that we really need to be thinking about when it comes to Press Ups:

  1. Body position
  2. Elbow position

First off let’s look at body position.

Chest Up, Shoulder Back

Now the first thing we need to remember when thinking about overall body position in a press up is that we want to start off with our hands on the floor and the rest of our body is acting as if it is standing up in perfect posture so chest out, shoulders back and no sagging in the hips or over-curving of the lower back.

We want to keep this position throughout the entire movement and make sure that we drive through the hands and keeping the hips strong and not sagging.

Below, one of my favourite fitness experts, Dr Joel Seedman, demonstrates correct positioning in a Press Up (Although he calls it a Push Up – bloody Americans.)


Notice the strong posture and no sagging of the hips and the bottom of the movement which can prevent lower back pain that is commonly seen in people who do Press Ups with a curved lower back.

Tuck Them In

Secondly is elbow position. Usually this is the hardest thing for people to master but it is crucial if we want to be working the right muscles and do the exercises properly.

The common mistake is that people will flare their elbows out during the movement and even position the hands facing inwards (The horror!!) to accentuate this. This can lead to pain in the shoulder joint and will mean a reduced range of motion which mean you’re cheating yourself out of a good part of each rep.

Below Dr Joel Seedman helps us out again and shows the difference in elbow positions.


Notice how the first position is what i was talking about above. The second and third positions are much, much better.

Now a lot of people will struggle to keep their elbows in throughout their whole set as they get tired and a good cue for this is to squeeze your lats and this will help keep things tight.

It’s Too Hard

If I had a pound for everytime I heard that I would, well, I’d have a hell of a lot of pounds!

If you’re not currently strong enough to do a Press Up on the ground then put your hands on a box or bench and then as you get stronger use a lower box or bench (Or put your feet on something) to make the exercises harder.


So there you have it, your easy guide to doing a Press Up correctly!

Need more help with your Press Ups or other parts of your training? Email for details on Personal Training and Programmes!

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