Where Should Your Elbows Go When You Do Pushups?

Pushups may look easy, but they're actually one of the hardest dynamic exercises to perform and master. While pushups are considered a full body workout, they heavily target and rely on your core and upper body strength, using your own body weight as resistance (via Well and Good). Pushups can be even more difficult, however, if you don't have the proper form. That's why it's important to learn how to do a pushup correctly.

According to Shelby Smith, an exercise physiologist and health coach from Rhode Island, one of the most common mistakes people make when doing pushups is with their elbows. Often, there is a tendency to let the elbows flare outwards when descending, which can put too much stress on your shoulders. This can result in pain and injury.

That's why you should rely more on your pecs and triceps and keep your elbows at a 45-degree angle from your torso. "When lowering to the floor, imagine you're twisting a mason jar with the palm of your hands, twisting outwards, which helps lock your elbows in at 45 degrees and think about 'pulling down' toward the floor," Smith told Well and Good. "Then, when you push back up, think about pushing the floor away from you."

How to do modified pushups

However, if traditional pushups are still too difficult for your current skill level and capability, you can try doing modified pushups (via Prevention). Modified pushups are an easier version of traditional pushups that practice the same range of motion and maintain the same form while decreasing the amount of body weight supported by your arms and upper body.

"This will take some pressure off of the arms and help build strength to eventually perform push-ups on the toes," Tiffani Robbins, a NASM-certified trainer at obé Fitness, told Prevention. "Be sure the hips are staying forward, core is engaged, elbows are bent at 45 degrees, and the shoulders reach elbow height."

To do a modified pushup, kneel on the floor and put your hands in front of you shoulder-width apart. Keeping your back straight, lower your body to the ground, bending your elbows at a 45-degree angle. Then, lift yourself back up into the starting position with your arms fully extended.