The versatile push-up is a full-body exercise you can do anywhere, anytime, which is why it’s a favorite of many trainers. It’s also incredibly satisfying: Moving your body up and down like a board makes you feel powerfully in control.
If you’re trying to expand your push-up repertoire, one way you can take it up a notch is by playing with the tempo of the movement. Rather than raising and lowering yourself for the same length of time, you can lower yourself down slowly, then push up quickly and with power, which will challenge your strength and control.
“Tempo push-ups are great if you’re working on building strength,” Kat Atienza, a trainer and the founder of Session in Brooklyn, says. “You’re moving a little bit slower to really build that strength to press away from the floor.”
The reason changing the tempo adds a new dimension to a strength-building move like a push-up is that it increases your muscles’ time under tension, which is the amount of time your muscle is actively lengthening or contracting. Going more slowly will also enforce good form, which will ensure you’re doing the exercise correctly and getting the most out of it.
But in order to execute this kind of push-up with good form, you have to know the correct way to perform this move, and the common pitfalls to avoid. Luckily, Atienza is here to break it down.
Here’s how to do a tempo push-up
1. Start in a plank pose
Make sure your hands are directly underneath your shoulders, not too far forward.
2. Lower down for three seconds
As you lower, bend your elbows at a 45-degree angle to your body, which should put them by your rib cage (rather than directly out to the sides).
3. Push back up in one second
Keep your hips in line with your shoulders, moving as one whole unit. Don’t raise your chest up before you’re able to raise your hips. If this is too challenging, place your knees on the ground once you reach the bottom of the move, which will still allow you to push up in one piece.
Watch Atienza demonstrate all this in the video above to make sure you’re doing your tempo push-ups the right way.