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The key to perfecting your push-ups is in these 3 moves

different types of push-upsHere’s a common dilemma you may have encountered: You want to get better at push-ups and trainers keep telling you, “The best way to get better at push-ups is to do push-ups.” But then you try to do one—and you face plant, or have to drop to your knees.

Larry Twohig, a super smart trainer and owner of Chelsea’s cool functional training spot, Culture, gets it. Which is why he offers clients push-up variations that don’t require as much strength initially but help you work on your form and build strength before going for the real chest-to-floor thing.

More Reading: 3 smart, creative ways to do a deadlift

“These exercises show how you can modify training variables to either scale something up or down in difficulty,” he says. “You want to have the form be correct so that eventually, you can move up in skill level.”

Start with these three push-up variations that will help you build strength, and before you know it, you’ll be rocking the real thing. —Lisa Elaine Held

For more information, visit

(Photos: Lisa Elaine Held for Well+Good, model: Culture co-owner Lauren Gordon)


Get Started
different types of push-ups1. Straight Arm Scap Push-up 

Assume a full push-up position. Brace your midsection and pelvic floor while maintaining your normal breathing and a neutral spine. Keeping your elbows locked, allow your shoulder blades to retract and come towards each other, which moves the body down about 2–3 inches. This is the normal range of motion. Press back up by protracting the shoulder blades, allowing them to “wing out,” while allowing the tailbone to tuck under slightly and the mid-section to “hollow out.” Hold for a few seconds, then return to neutral, and repeat. (Note: This one is hard to see because the motion is small, but you’ll feel it right away if you focus on moving your shoulder blades and keeping arms straight.)


diferent types of push-ups2. Elbow-to-Knee Half Push-up

Assume a full push-up position. Keeping your back straight, lower into a half push-up while bringing one knee up to touch the same side elbow. Alternate sides.


different types of push-ups3. Slow Bear Crawl

Start in a table-top position, and then lift your knees so they’re just grazing the ground. Keep the spine neutral and slide forward slowly, with straight arms, your knees bending as you step.


Brynn Jinnet Refine MethodMore Reading
5 ab exercises that are better than crunches
5 kettlebell moves for a seriously strong core
3 smart, creative ways to do a deadlift


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