Push-ups help sculpt your shoulders, pecs, and arms. Doing push-ups on your toes also builds incredible full-body strength that carries over into other lifts, injury prevention, and rocking other activities. A more subtle benefit of achieving that level of strength is confidence and pride. You achieved a difficult goal that required consistency and tenacity.
Push-ups primarily use your pectorals, triceps, and anterior and medial deltoids to push your upper body up from the floor. However, your entire body is engaged, including your core, rhomboids, quads, and glutes. So push-ups are a full-body exercise and a good test of upper-body endurance and strength.
There’s no reason you shouldn’t be able to master full push-ups (barring injury or carrying a lot of extra weight). If you haven’t yet, it’s probably because you haven’t been training correctly. And if you can already do full push-ups, it’s time to bring them to the next level. So in this article I’ll show you how to progress, no matter what your level.
As a personal trainer, I see firsthand that very few women can do full push-ups. Yet I think all would like to. So let’s go about seeing how you can attain that in short order.
Training For Push-ups
How long it will take will depend on your current level of fitness. If you’re carrying extra weight and haven’t been training your upper body at all, you might need 10 to 12 weeks. If you’re relatively fit but lack upper-body strength, if might take 6 to 8 weeks. Set a realistic goal and train your chest 1 to 2 times per week with at least 2 to 3 rest days in between.
You have to train for push-ups and being systematic about it will increase your success.
- Start at your level. The progression for push-ups, from least to most difficult, is hands on wall -> hands on bench -> hands on floor, on knees -> hands on floor, on toes. There are shades of gray between each of these and you should use them.
- Know proper push-up form. The most common form mistakes are sagging torso and head and elbows at 90 degrees. If you can’t keep your body in a straight line you need to work on your core and pectoral strength first. Also, do not let your elbows flare out! Elbows should be tucked at about 45 degrees. See this for form tips and progressions.
- Ensure you can do a straight-arm plank for at least 30 seconds. If you can’t, you don’t have the proper trunk stability to do a push-up correctly yet. Practice this until you can.
- Set small goals and have patience. If you’re doing push-ups with your hands elevated on a bench or bar, aim to lower your hands a little each session. Aim to do one more per week or every few weeks or increase the difficulty another way.
- Do bench presses and incline presses. If you’ve been doing chest presses with the same weight or just slightly more weight for months (years?), this partially explains why you still can’t do full push-ups. Aim to get progressively stronger each week.
- Do isometric or eccentric push-ups. Hold push-up positions at different points or lower your body very slowly to the ground to build endurance and strength.
Be forewarned that if you stop push-ups training, you’ll be back on your knees in no time!
Once you can do 10 push-ups on your toes, it’s time to add in different variations, which I’ll discuss next.
Take it Up a Notch
Figuring out new ways to make push-ups harder is one of my favorite past times (I know, I’m peculiar). If you can already do push-ups, commit to going to the next level. If you’re still doing only traditional push-ups on the floor then your body has adapted and needs additional challenge to progress.
There’s value in being able to do many push-ups because you’re increasing your endurance. But if you want to increase your strength and size you need to increase the difficulty. More difficult versions rely on different angles of the muscles and use more of your own strength.
TIP: Don’t stop doing traditional push-ups. Integrate these into your training a few times a month to maintain your endurance.
Killer Push-up Variations
[See demos for the first four exercises here.]
- Leg swing
- Resistance band
- Feet elevated
- One hand elevated
- Push-up with rotation
Keep me posted on your progress! I want to hear how you’re crushing it.
This article originally appeared on www.workoutnirvana.com.