At first glance, pushups are an easy exercise. They require no equipment -- just a basic up and down motion. When done properly, however, pushups challenge most of the muscles of your arms, core and back. Begin with several modified pushup variations to build strength and gradually work your way up to the standard position exercise.
Warm up with a series of dynamic exercises. Five to ten minutes spent warming up with activities such as jumping rope, jumping jacks and arm circles will increase the blood flow to your muscles and help prevent injuries according to the American College of Sports Medicine.
Assume the position for a bent-knee pushup. Your hands should be directly under your shoulders with your knees on the floor. Walk your hands forward slightly so that your body forms a straight line from head to knees; lift your feet up off the ground so your knees are bent at a 90-degree angle. This is your start position. Begin with your arms fully extended, then slowly lower your body to the floor by bending your elbows. Engage your core and keep your elbows tucked in to your sides. Continue the downward motion until your chest touches the floor, then slowly push back up to the start position.
Do halfway bent-knee pushups. Get into the starting position for a bent-knee pushup. Bring your chest to the floor, then push halfway up. Hold the halfway position for one count, then lower your chest to the floor. Extend your arms to return to the start position. Do several halfway bent-knee pushups. Then if you'd like to increase your workout, alternate between halfway and complete pushups.
Do a T pushup. Begin in the bent-knee position, then rotate your torso to bring your left arm off the floor. Continue to rotate until your left hand points at the ceiling. Hold the T position for two counts, then return to the bent knee position and do a complete pushup. Repeat on the opposite side.
Perform 12 to 15 repetitions of the modified pushups on two to three nonconsecutive days of the week. Over several weeks, work your way up to two to three sets of modified pushups, then attempt a standard pushup.
Begin a standard pushup in a hands and knees position. Step back into plank position so your legs are straight and you are on the balls of your feet. Engage your core and elongate your spine. Slowly lower your chest to the floor by bending your elbows. Don't sag at the waist or arch your buttocks. Hold the downward position for one count, then return to the start position by extending your arms.
Perform two to three sets of 12 to 15 repetitions of pushups as part of a total body strength training routine. Strength train on two to three nonconsecutive days of the week.
Cool down after each strength training session with 10 minutes of light cardiovascular activity such as walking. Stretch each muscle group to complete your workout.