By Maggie Fazeli Fard |

Pushups are a fitness staple, a part of most workout programs, and a tried-and-true test of upper-body strength and endurance. They also have a reputation as an especially punishing movement that can cause wrist, elbow, shoulder, and lower-back pain.

Learning proper form will help prevent pain and injury, and mastering a variety of variations can aid in pregressing your move.

Doing a pushup requires as much skill as strength. It’s a full-body exercise that calls for core stability as well as back, arm, and chest power. Your form will enable you to move painlessly through the full range of motion.

And, thanks to a nearly endless number of modifications to make them easier and more comfortable, they’re also within reach for most exercisers.

1. Assume a high-plank position, with hands slightly wider than shoulder width, arms extended (but not locked), and body straight from heels to the top of your head.

  1. Tip: Stay neutral: Don’t crane your neck up, drop your head toward the floor, or hunch your shoulders toward your ears.

2. Keeping your body straight and your head in a neutral position, engage your core and squeeze your glutes. Bend your arms and retract your shoulder blades to lower yourself until your arms form 90-degree angles.

  1. Tip: Aim elbows out about 45 degrees from your body, as if you’re pointing them to the back corners of the room.

3. Reverse the movement, pushing yourself back to the starting position without breaking the straight line from head to heels.

Learn four variations for making the standard pushup easier — or harder.    

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