The Perfect Push-Up

Although there are many variations on the push-up, the basic principal remains the same:

Engage your upper back, shoulders, and arms to lift your body weight off the floor, then slowly lower it back down.

A huge mistake people make when doing a push-up is to try and take some of the stress off their arms by using other muscle groups to help lift their body, so they don't get the full benefits. Remember body weight should be lifted by your arms, and don't use your butt or stomach or the lower half of your body to pull you up.

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  • Minimize swaying of the hips as you go up and down.
  • Try keeping a straight line from your head down to your ankles when you're in the lifted position.
  • Don't let your chest actually touch the floor when you come down.
  • Keep making small changes in your routine, like angling your hands or changing how far apart they are. This will ensure that you keep gaining benefits.
  • Ask someone to watch the angle of your body. If that's not possible, do your push-ups next to a mirror where you can turn your head and catch a glimpse of your form.

If you're having trouble lifting the whole body in the proper alignment, you can do the same exercise on your knees.

There are a slew of push-up gadgets on the market, designed to put variety into your routine. Most are based on some of type of handle you hang on to during the exercise -- and it might surprise you to learn that experts say they can work.

They basically provide variation in your workout, plus the basic handle design is especially good for anyone who has an issue with keeping their wrists fully extended.

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Taking the handle concept a step further are devices like the one called the "Perfect Pushup," which incorporate a swiveling action. By rotating the arms while lifting the body, you may be able to increase your range of motion, which in turn increases benefits.

To build muscle mass in your upper arms and back, go for fewer reps with maximum weight load. Do push-ups with your legs straight out, and bring your chest no lower than 2 inches from the ground. Remember that while a push-up helps tone muscles body-wide, it doesn't offer much in the way of cardio benefits.