How to Do the Perfect Pushup

This common exercise works the entire body, but chances are you’re not doing it correctly.

By now we all know Michelle Obama is a pushup queen. She’s done (and won!) pushup challenges against everyone from Ellen Degeneres to Desmond Tutu to Jimmy Fallon.

And while some critique the First Lady’s form (“Her hands are too far apart!”), what’s so great about the pushup is that there so many ways to do it, depending on each person’s fitness goal, says Mint head trainer Lance Breger.

“There’s no right or wrong position for hands or elbows,” he says. “It’s more about the variation and what you are trying to achieve.”

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By changing the position of your elbows from bending out versus keeping them close to your body, you’re going to activate different muscles, he explains. For example, the closer you keep your elbows to your body as you lower yourself down, the more emphasis will be put on your chest and tricep muscles.

Breger recommends starting with your hands directly underneath your shoulders with your feet positioned slightly more than hip-width apart. Your entire body should be in a straight line, so keep that rear down and don’t let it dip when you’re lowering your body. Activate your quads by straightening your knees, tighten your glutes, draw in your bellybutton, and be conscious of your shoulder blades.

Once you master the correct form, you’ll reap the benefits of the exercise. Pushups “can be a total body exercise if done mindfully,” says Breger.

Watch this video of Breger performing the perfect pushup.