At a first glance, military pushups are the same as regular pushups. Both variations train your chest, shoulder and arm muscles, along with providing a core workout to keep your body flat from head to heels. Military pushups are done at a faster tempo than regular pushups though. And rather than aiming for a specific number of repetitions, you aim to do as many as possible within a timed interval.
The specifics of where you can place your hands vary somewhat between branches of the military, but in general, military pushup form is the same as for regular pushups. You position yourself face down on the floor, balanced on your palms and toes, with your hands lined up beneath your chest and slightly wider apart than your shoulders. Keep your core tight so your body is straight from head to heels.
Range of Motion
To do regular pushups, you bend your arms and lower your chest until it breaks the plane of your elbows. Military pushups require a full range of motion: Marines must touch their chests to the floor for every pushup, while the other branches must come close to the floor -- usually within a fist-width of touching.
Speed and Pacing
For general strength training -- which includes regular pushups -- the American Council on Exercise recommends lifting the weight to a count of two and lowering it to a count of three or four. For pushups, that translates to a count of three or four on the way down, then a count of two on the way up.
When you do pushups for a personal fitness test or readiness test in the military, you instead are graded on how many pushups you do within a set time limit. You should train the same way you'll be scored: Doing pushups as fast as possible, for the same length of time you're allowed on the test.
Warm up before any strength-training workout, especially with an exercise like military pushups, which emphasizes speed as much as strength. Warm up with active stretches, such as arm swings, and five to 10 minutes of cardio that involves your chest muscles, such as shadow boxing or using the moving handlebars on an elliptical trainer.
Because range of motion is important for this exercise, you should also stretch your chest muscles after your workout. Try standing in a doorway with a forearm on each side of the doorjamb, elbows level with or slightly below your shoulders; lean forward slightly until you feel a stretch across your chest.