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How to Do a Push-Up Plank [Build Core, Chest, and Triceps]

7 min read
a man is performing a push up plank
Jonathan Valdez post Reviewer Jonathan Valdez post Reviewer
Verified by Jonathan Valdez
Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Dietitian/Nutritionist in NYC, Certified Diabetes Care and Education Specialist

Table of Contents

For beginners seeking to find new and engaging exercises to incorporate into their daily/weekly exercise regimen, a few movements come to mind. As a beginner, however, it’s important to stick to the basics: pushups, sit-ups, squats, and planks are some of the more common examples…

Did you know that you can combine these standard movements to make a new, engaging, and largely more effective movement? One such example of this is, you guessed it, the plank push-up! 

Whether you’re looking for ways to increase the level of difficulty or you’re simply looking to make your exercises more interesting, the push-up plank is a great place to begin.

Here’s how to master the seamless transition from plank to push-up.

How to Do a Push-Up Plank

While the execution of a plank is largely static (i.e. it requires no movement once the position has been assumed), and because the push-up is one of the, if not the most, well-known exercises out there, the explanation of a push-up plank should be quite simple, right?!

To a degree, it’s much the same, however, as a whole, complexities enter the equation. This becomes especially true for beginners and those who may lack coordination or strength.

The good news? Plank push-ups can be scaled to the degree of your current ability and fitness capacity. In other words, you can make the exercise easier or harder depending on what’s required. 

Relevant article: How to Do the Copenhagen Plank: Technique and Popular Progressions

With that said, below is a simple step-by-step guide on how to execute the perfect push-up plank position: 

Phase One

  • Beginning with your forearms and the balls of your feet on the ground, maintain a neutral spine throughout by engaging your core, tucking in your butt, and squeezing your glutes. This is the starting position, otherwise known as a plank.
  • Ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart, your forearms are parallel, and your hips are NOT sinking or rising. 
  • To begin the transition from plank to push-up, shift your weight to one side (i.e. your left or right), placing the palm of the opposite side on the ground neatly under that shoulder.
  • While ensuring your spine is remaining neutral, begin to then shift to the other side, placing the other palm on the ground under that shoulder. This will bring you to the high push-up position. 

Now, you might presume that you then execute a standard push-up, however, think again. In this movement, there is no push-up. Instead, we now reverse the last two steps to return to the plank position. Here’s how…

Phase Two

  • From the high push-up position, begin to lower one forearm so it’s parallel to the ground. Following, lower your other forearm to the same position. Again, ensure your spine is remaining neutral. Your movement should be controlled and steady.  
  • Upon returning to the starting plank position, you’ve just completed one total rep. It’s now time to repeat the movement with as many reps as prescribed. Note that each rep should be executed in an alternating fashion. In other words, if you begin with your right side during the first rep, begin with the left side during the second rep. 

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The Benefits of Plank Push-Ups

Because the plank-to-push-up exercise combines two movements in unison, the benefits that derive from each exercise independently can, logically, be experienced simultaneously! 

Planks primarily target the core and abdominal region while strengthening the entirety of the posterior chain as well. Similarly, the push-up primarily targets the chest, shoulders, and triceps, while requiring a varying level of core strength too. [1], [2]

To suggest then that the push-up plank improves the strength of all of the muscles mentioned would be true. As a result of such strength gains, lean muscular growth will also be achieved. 

Finally, because of the continuous movement pattern that’s involved in the plank push-up, stabilization, mobility, and balance improvements are also likely to be experienced. 

The best part? No matter your current exercise level, whether you need to scale the exercise toward an easier or more difficult standard, the same benefits will be realized. It’s up to you, however, to remain consistent. 

To summarize, the following are the many benefits of adding plank push-ups to your regular workout routine: 

  • Strength gains for the chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps, abdominals, & back
  • Muscular size increases 
  • Stabilization and balance 
  • Caloric burn and fat loss (depending on duration & intensity) 

It goes without saying, this exercise is also quite engaging, thus increasing the level of enjoyment of the workout in its entirety.

The Most Common Mistakes to Avoid

As discussed, the plank push-up is a great implement for any exercise regimen at any exercise or fitness level. However, in order to reap all of its potential benefits, it’s important to perfect the movement and avoid the most common mistakes.

To help prevent you from making the most common mistakes, we’ve outlined the most prevalent ones below so that you can both educate yourself and ensure that when you’re performing the movement, you’re correcting your form to avoid said mistakes!

  • Arched/Rounded Back

As you’ve likely recognized throughout this step-by-step guide, it’s imperative that you ensure you’re remaining neutral throughout the movement (i.e. staying parallel to the ground while keeping your back completely straight).

Failure to do so will result in ineffectiveness and an increased risk of injury. So, avoid arching or rounding your back and neck.

  • Rocking Hips

One of the main components of the plank push-up is balance and stability. This is achieved by remaining in control of the movement. Too often, however, people allow their hips to rock from side to side uncontrollably and without strength. 

To avoid this, aim to squeeze your glutes, tighten your core, and move in a slower, more controlled fashion. 

  • Dropping the Hips

Similar to the mistake of having an arched or rounded back, dropping your hips is an impediment to the requirement of remaining neutral. However, it still remains to be the most commonly made mistake during the execution of this exercise. 

  • Looking Up or Down

It would be best if you kept your head aligned with your spine. Your head shouldn’t be tucked in, nor should it be looking up. Looking up usually occurs if you have a mirror in front of you.

Not only does dropping the hips place strain on the spine but it also eliminates the ability to strengthen and stabilize the core/abs. To combat this, ensure that your hips are always in line with the shoulders and back.

Final Words

The plank push-up is a great exercise for all walks of life. Control, however, is the key. In other words, by following the outlined step-by-step guide and ensuring that you avoid the most common aforementioned mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to reaping the many benefits of this engaging movement. 

As one of the more effective full-body exercises, what are you waiting for? Incorporate it into your workout regimen today… Oh, and don’t forget to warm up first! 

Disclaimer This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!

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