The Difference Between Standard Pushups and Military Pushups

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The military uses the pushup exercise, which targets the chest, triceps and front shoulder muscles, to increase upper-body stamina, strength and endurance. The exercise form of a military pushup is the same as that of a standard pushup. But different branches of the military have varying requirements regarding the range of motion and body position.

Exercise Form

For both the military and the standard pushup, your body should be in a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Your hips are in line with your torso and legs, not piked or sagged. Your body moves up and down as one unit; one body part should not lift or lower faster than another body part. Your neck is in a neutral position with your spine, and your eyes look down at the floor.

Hand and Feet Position

The standard and military pushups have similar hand and feet positioning, although the military pushup varies among branches. For the standard pushup, position your hands directly below or just slightly wider than your shoulders. The Marines must position their hands directly under their shoulders, but the Army allows soldiers to place their hands where they are comfortable. The Air Force dictates the hands must be slightly outside of the shoulders. For the standard pushup, position your feet together or slightly apart. Depending on the specific branch of the military, your feet should be together or up to 12 inches, but no farther, apart.


The stopping point at the bottom of the movement for a standard pushup depends on several factors, including your arm length and shoulder flexibility. The general rule is to lower your body at least to the point that the upper arms are parallel to the floor and to touch your chin or chest to the floor if possible. Each branch of the military offers different stopping instructions. Marines are required to touch the chest to the floor or the repetition doesn't count. The Army only requires soldiers to drop until the upper arms are parallel to the floor. The chest can touch the floor, but cannot be used to create momentum and bounce out of the bottom of the pushup. The Navy forbids sailors from touching the chest to the floor. For all styles of the pushup, press back up until your elbows are fully extended.


Military pushups are typically performed at a rapid pace as most branches include a timed pushup test as part of the physical fitness test -- complete as many pushup repetitions as possible in a specified time. Regardless of the pace of the exercise, always perform the military or standard pushup with good form and proper technique. During the pushup test, repetitions that do not follow the military guidelines for a correct pushup are not counted toward your total score.