Push-ups are a great exercise for strength and stability and building muscles for good posture. They work the back, your chest and your core. Having strength in these areas helps with overall stability, balance and injury prevention. But it is important that you do not “fake” your way through a push-up. You want to look at different modifications so you can build that strength over time to get to a full push-up with good form.

While the whole body has to be fired up and engaged for push-ups, the powerhouse strength comes from your upper body. Push-ups target the muscles in your chest (your pectorals), arms (particularly the triceps), and the shoulders (particularly the stabilizing muscles). There are several variations you can do depending on your strength and level of activity. But the most important thing in all these variations is form. You have to have good form with a push-up to avoid injuring your lower back or shoulders.

Variations on a Push-up

Many women shy away from push-ups because they think they are too hard, or they do not have the upper body strength, or they have been told for years to modify to a “girl push-up”. If you can’t do a full push-up right away, don’t give up! These are a complete, full body engaging exercise and you may have to build up the strength to do them.

If you are new to the exercise or don’t have enough strength yet to do a full push-up, start with a wall push-up. You will want to get into a very straight line with your core engaged and then lower in one straight line towards the wall. Keep your finger tips lower than your shoulder and check to make sure your middle finger tip is no higher than the shoulder as you lower down. If you can do five to 15 of those with really good form, then move to the mat.

On the floor, start with a modified push-up on your knees. Turn your arms out and then lower down, holding your core really tight. When that feels good and strong, you can come down on your knees and then raise your knees so you are in a plank, and then push up. You can also use a mini band around your arms to support the chest as you come down, so there is no break in the spine. Once you feel really strong in these variations, then you can go into a full push-up.