- How to Get Better at Push-Ups
- What Muscles Do Push-ups Work?
- How to Do a Push-Up
- How to Get Better at Push-Ups
- If you can’t do any push-ups, try incline push-ups and push-up static holds
- If you can do three to six push-ups, try low-rep sets and negative reps
- If you can do seven to 10 push-ups, try low-to-mid reps
- If you can do 15 or more push-ups, try decline push-ups, resistance band push-ups, spiderman push-ups, and plyo push-ups
- Can’t Do a Push-Up? Here’s How to Do the First One
- Step 1: Preparation with the Plank
- Step 2: Push-up Practice
- Final tips to help you do your first Push-up
- Before You Begin: Pushup Test Tips
- Assess Your Performance
- How to Become Better at Pushups
- Approach A: 3-day weighted pushes
- Approach B: Bend the barbell
- Approach C: Tempo pushups
- Approach D: 6-day timed workouts
- How to Improve Your Push Ups – An Easy Program to Add 200 Reps Per Day to Your Routine!
- Push Ups Improvement Program
- THE ISSUE: Weak Core
- THE ISSUE: Weak Quads
- THE ISSUE: Incorrect Hand Placement
- 10 Easy Exercises That Work Better Than Push-Ups
- 1. Bear crawls
- 2. Downward dog push-ups
- 3. Resistance band tricep extensions
- 4. Squat to shoulder press
- 5. Triceps dips
- 6. Dumbbell bench press
- 7. Standing punches
- 8. Forearm plank
- 9. Rotating plank
- 10. Wall push-ups
How to Get Better at Push-Ups
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In theory, push-ups seem simple enough – lower your body to the ground, then push it back up. Easy!
But we all know that’s far from the truth. Especially if you’re not naturally blessed with the strength to do strict-form push-ups, it can seem nearly impossible to do this move with perfect form.
Thankfully, there are a few exercises you can do to get better at push-ups.
For even more workouts that will help you get stronger, sign up for a FREE Openfit trial. Stream cardio workouts, strength training exercises, yoga classes, and more, wherever you are, on your own schedule.
What Muscles Do Push-ups Work?
It’s well worth your while to master this move and learn how to do more push-ups, even if it seems a little out of reach at first. That’s because the benefits of push-ups are numerous.
Push-ups work many key muscles of the upper body, including the arms, pectorals (chest), deltoids (shoulders), the triceps, and also the core.
Because of this, the push-up is an evergreen fitness movement that’s done everywhere from the gym to the army barracks, and it’s not going away any time soon.
If you’re struggling to even do a single push-up, all hope is not lost. With some time, effort, and a little creativity, you can push your way to success.
Follow the guide below to kick your push-up strength up to the next level, whether you’re a beginner or you just want to improve and build more strength.
How to Do a Push-Up
Before you can get better at push-ups, you first have to know how to do a proper strict form push-up (that’s just a normal push-up).
Follow these cues to learn how to do a push-up with perfect form:
- Your feet should be together and your hands should be slightly wider than shoulder width.
- Throughout the movement, your head and hips should be in alignment with your spine, and your body should form a straight line from the crown of your head to your heels. Clench your glutes and brace your core to lock your body into position.
- When you lower yourself down, keep your elbows tucked close to your body. They should form a 45-degree angle to your torso when viewed from above.
- In the lowest position of the move, your chest should be about a few inches from the floor.
- As you come up, your shoulders and torso shouldn’t twist, and the weight of your upper body should be evenly distributed between your two hands.
Once you’ve perfected the proper push-up form, the next step is to figure out what your push-up level is.
Drop down and knock out as many reps as you can using the proper form, then use your “max reps” score to determine your level.
Can’t do any? No problem – start at level one which is the first section below.
Managed to do a few? That’s great! You’ll find the most use out of the exercises described in levels two and three.
Feel like you could do an endless number of push-ups? Check out level four for some push-up variations that are sure to challenge you.
How to Get Better at Push-Ups
You don’t need to do push-ups every day to get results–start by performing these of these variations a few times a week on nonconsecutive days to help you get better at push-ups, and learn how to do more push-ups. Good luck!
If you can’t do any push-ups, try incline push-ups and push-up static holds
If you can’t do a single strict-form pushup, try the move with your hands elevated at least 12 inches on a sturdy bench, box, or table.
These are known as incline push-ups, and they’re a great type of push up for beginners. The higher the surface, the easier the move.
You can even do them with your hands braced against a wall. Perform three sets, resting a minute between sets. When you can do three sets of 10 reps at a given height, lower your hands and repeat the process.
Next, practice the straight-arm plank: After your workout, hold the top position of the pushup with perfect form as long as you can.
Work up to holding it for 30 seconds to one minute.
Once you can do three or more push-ups with your hands on the floor level and you can hold a straight-arm plank for at least 30 seconds, it’s time to move on to the next level.
If you can do three to six push-ups, try low-rep sets and negative reps
You’re getting stronger! Here’s what you should do to keep improving. On workout days, drop and bang out a few push-ups, stopping a couple of reps shy of your max (which might mean just doing one push-up each “set”).
Do this up to a dozen times, either in straight-set fashion (resting 30-60 seconds between sets), throughout your workout or during the day at random intervals.
On those same days, practice negative reps: Take 10 to 20 seconds to lower yourself from the top position of the movement to the floor, using perfect form.
Drop all the way down to the floor, come back up to the plank position, and repeat, for a total of three slow reps.
If you can do seven to 10 push-ups, try low-to-mid reps
Your push-up skills are getting impressive! What’s likely holding you back from higher numbers now is the “sticking point” at the bottom of the movement.
To fix it, do three sets of regular pushups, stopping a rep or two shy of failure.
Then do a set of low-to-mid reps, where you go repeatedly from the lowest position (chest a few inches from the floor) to the midpoint (chest halfway between the floor and the top of the position), again stopping a few reps shy of failure.
If you can do 15 or more push-ups, try decline push-ups, resistance band push-ups, spiderman push-ups, and plyo push-ups
You’re a pro! But that doesn’t mean you should abandon this great move. Now it means that you should try to master different types of push-ups instead of just strict form.
Continue to improve and challenge yourself with these four push-up variations.
Feet-elevated push-up: Perform a push-up with your feet raised on a box, bench, or short table). The higher the surface, the more difficult the move. These are called decline push-ups.
Resistance band push-up: perform a push-up holding the ends of an resistance band, with the elastic looped across your back for added resistance.
Spiderman push-up: starting in a plank position, swing your right leg out sideways to bring your right knee to your right elbow as you bend your arms down so your chest is within a few inches of the floor.
Push back up as you return to the starting plank position and repeat with your left leg. Continue alternating.
Plyo push-up: keeping your elbows tucked, lower your torso until your chest is within a few inches of the floor.
Then, push up with enough force for your hands to leave the ground while keeping your body straight. Land softly, and transition immediately into your next rep.
Push-ups are one of those killer moves that elicit groans from even the most hardcore HIIT fanatics. And unfortunately, (ugh) the only way to perfect your form is to schedule the full-body burner into your workouts on a consistent basis until you get more comfortable with, you know, defying gravity.
If you’re game to become the reigning rep champion of your gym though, all you need is four weeks, 12 workouts, and tweaking your current form to match a “dead-stop push-up,” reports Men’s Health. Here’s exactly how to make it happen.
Step 1: Figure out your test number or baseline
Before kicking off the plan, you’ll first need to assess your current push-up abilities so that your sweat hindsight can be oh-so-sweet one month from now. To do that, drop down into proper push-up position with your feet together, your body parallel to the floor, and your hands a little wider than shoulder-width apart. Then, lower your body all the way to the ground, making sure to keep your core sucked in. Lift your hands off the ground, and place them back down to propel yourself back to the starting position. Count how many of these leveled-up push-ups you can do in 60 seconds, and—bam—you have your test number (AKA, your baseline).
Step 2: Decide what your #goals are
Next, determine where you want to go. According to the YMCA fitness test, the average amount of push-ups women can complete in under 60 seconds are as follows, but you can also get a pretty good idea of where you are using this calculator. Whether you’re trying to topple these goals or just up your current game, it can be a helpful guide.
•17 to 19 years: 11 to 20
• 20 to 29 years: 17 to 29
• 30 to 39 years: 13 to 24
• 40 to 49 years: 11 to 20
• 50 to 59 years: 9 to 17
• 60 to 65 years: 6 to 16
Step 3: Create your training plan
To reach your desired figure, add the dead-stop push-up to three of your weekly workouts for four total weeks, completing five sets on each of the 12 occasions.
Week 1: Do 40 percent of your test number. (For example, if your test number was 20, you’ll need to do five sets of eight push-ups during all three workouts of week one.)
Week 2: Do 40 percent of your test number again.
Week 3: Do 50 percent of your test number.
Week 4: Do 60 percent of your test number.
When you’ve made it through the first month, return to step one to see how you’ve improved. If you haven’t hit your desired rep count just yet, don’t fret—you can repeat the month cycle until you do. Just remember, this variety of push-up runs laps around the old school half-way-lower variety. So chances are, next time someone yells, “Drop and give me 20!” mid-training session, you’ll feel like you’re taking it easy.
Speaking of tough (but effective) workout moves, here’s how to modify your burpees, according to Kayla Itsines, and how to master the “gallop.”
Can’t Do a Push-Up? Here’s How to Do the First One
Do you struggle with Push-ups? Does it seem like you’ll never be able to do one? Don’t let Push-ups intimidate you. Push-ups are really tough when you first start trying to do them.
The following routine will help you succeed at your first Push-up. It can be combined with a workout plan or done separately.
Before you start
Make sure you know what a proper Push-up looks like – check out and avoid these mistakes.
This video shows you the correct Push-up form (elbows tucked, not flared; body straight from head to heels):
Correct hand position for Push-up
Place your hands under your shoulders with the index fingers pointing forward. For more stability, try to screw your palms into the floor, creating external rotation force or torque – it will stabilize your arms and shoulders.
Index fingers pointing forward.
Place your hands under your shoulders.
Step 1: Preparation with the Plank
Can you hold a 60 sec High Plank with good form?
Great! If not, build up to that first, before starting the Push-up routine below. You can practice the plank every day.
Step 2: Push-up Practice
The simplest way to progress to a full Push-up is to consistently train your body with Incline Push-ups.
Aren’t Knee Push-ups enough to build up to a full Push-up?
Knee Push-ups will build upper body strength, but the position greatly differs from the actual set-up of the Push-up (you are supporting yourself on your knees, not toes, which changes the load on your upper body). If you want to be able to do a full Push-up, you should practice Incline Push-ups, too (explained below).
The Incline Push-up
An Incline Push-up is a variation of the Push-up where your upper body is supported on a higher surface than your toes. It works the upper body muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps & back muscles) and requires core stability as well. Here are some examples:
Incline Push-up on a desk
Incline Push-up on a chair
Incline Push-up on a high stair
Incline Push-up on a low stair
How to do the Push-up routine
- Find an incline height – could be stairs (very practical to modify), a desk, or even the wall (Wall Push Off is a variation of the Incline Push-up) – at which you can perform more than one straight line Incline Push-up.
- Start by doing as many reps as you can with good form, rest for 2 minutes, repeat another 2 rounds. Do this workout 3 times per week.
- Work on this height until you can do 3 x 10 (3 sets of 10 repetitions) with good form – no sagging belly or chest, no sticking out your butt, no flared elbows.
- Progress to a lower height and repeat the same process again.
- Keep reducing the height until you reach the floor 🙂
This routine is enough to get you to your first Push-up. If you are eager to learn more, you can add the following exercise at the end of the routine.
For those who want more (optional): The turning point exercise
- Top down: Get in a High Plank position and start to slowly lower your body. Your goal is to find the lowest point at which you are still able to push yourself back up. This is your turning point. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
- Bottom up: Lie down and try to push yourself off from the ground (like you are about to do a Push-up). Push yourself as high as you can, even if it’s just 3 cm off the ground. Hold this position for 3-5 seconds.
Choose the variation that you like better and repeat it 5-10 times at the end of your routine.
Can the Push-up routine be combined with a workout plan?
Yes, you have 2 options:
- The routine as an added workout: If your workout plan doesn’t involve many Push-ups, add this routine to your workout 2-4 times per week. Do the routine on days when you didn’t work your upper body much in general and allow a rest day between two routines.
- Fitting the routine into your workout plan: if your workout plan includes Knee Push-ups/Push-ups, do Incline Push-ups instead. Whenever a set of Knee Push-ups or Push-ups comes up in your plan – first do the incline variation for as many solid reps as you can (on an incline as low as possible), then finish the set on a higher incline (easier) for as many reps as indicated in the plan.
Final tips to help you do your first Push-up
Ready to start? Here are some helpful tips:
- Be disciplined: You know you can’t manage the routine at least 3 times a week? Set a goal you can achieve, so you don’t get discouraged. Just stick to the plan. Remember, upper body strength is important for runners, too.
- Don’t give up: As you progress with the routine, you will feel stronger and closer to succeeding at your first Push-up.Try it during every workout if you like or once a week, as long as it’s before, not after the routine.
- Start with one: As soon as you can do one full Push-up, start your sets with the full Push-up (one or more) and then finish the set with an easier variation (Incline or Knee Push-up).
When you can do the full Push-up easily, it’s time to check out other Push-up variations and set yourself a new goal to work toward!
Spend a lot of time with some incredibly fit people and you discover something very quickly: You don’t have to lift a ton of weight to be considered strong.
Some of the most incredible feats of strength don’t even include any weight at all. (Whereas others certainly do; no matter what you think of powerlifting, watching someone move 700 or 800 pounds is simply amazing.)
For most of us, being strong starts at a different place: relative body strength. That is, your ability to move your own body within space. It’s why bodyweight movements like pushups and pullups can be a great initial test of strength, and even challenging for those who have been training for many years.
Years ago I worked with Martin Rooney on a pushup test. It was a 3-minute challenge that was incredible, but there was one flaw: most people I know couldn’t crank out pushups for 1-minute, let alone 3 minutes.
So over the last few years with clients, I’ve used different variations of this test as an assessment to determine baseline strength.
Test to see how you stack up, and then use the guidelines below to become better at pushups.
- Set a timer for 1-minute and then start performing pushups
- Stop counting when time is up, and record the number of reps you performed.
Pushup Rule #1
For a rep to count, you must go all the way down (chest 2 inches above the floor), pause, and you must lock out your elbows at the top. Also, you can’t let your hips sag or allow your knees to touch the floor.
Pushup Rule #2:
You can rest whenever you want, but the clock must keep running
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Before You Begin: Pushup Test Tips
You really have 2 options that will help you perform your best:
- Perform pushups at a rapid pace and do as many as you can until you hit failure
- Pace yourself and take mini breaks every 10-15 seconds, doing what you can to prolong failure.
In the initial test, Rooney recommended a 15-second break once you started to slow down. This was necessary with a 3-minute running clock. But with only 1-minute, the game is a little different.
If you’re a beginner and not as strong, resting every 10-15 seconds will be beneficial to you because fatigue will catch up quick.
If your pushing strength is good, you might be able to maintain a consistent pace for 30 to 45 seconds, and in that case it’s best to push as fast and as hard as you can, but stop 1 to 2 reps shy of failure, rest 5 seconds, and then sprint to the finish line.
Assess Your Performance
The following scores are based on the averages of my online coaching clients.
Below average: less than 15 pushups (Remember the rules above, for a legit rep it’s impossible to go any faster than 1 rep per second with the pause at the bottom and lockout at the top.)
Average: 20 pushups
Good: 30 to 35 pushups
Excellent: 40-45 pushups
Extraordinary: anything more than 50 pushups
How to Become Better at Pushups
If your pushup score is lower than you’d like, there’s a quick fix that will help make your upper body more powerful and explosive.
Follow this pushup protocol, trying to perform each rep as fast as possible, and after 8 workouts take the test again and see how you improved.
Week 1 (two workouts): Perform 10 sets of 8 repetitions of pushups. Rest two minutes between sets. If you can’t do 8 pushups, rest as needed following the same strategy used in the test.
Week 2 (two workouts): Complete 8 sets of 10 repetitions with 1 minute of rest between sets.
Week 3 (two workouts): Perform 6 sets of 15 repetitions with 1 minute of rest between sets.
Week 4 (two workouts): Do 4 sets of 20 repetitions with two minutes of rest between sets.
Take 5 days off from pushups, and then take the test again and see how you did.
Want to share your score? Use the hashtag #BeTheChange and let me know how you performed.
How to Build the Perfect Bodyweight Workout
The Tension Weightlifting Technique: How to Make Every Exercise More Effective
The Truth About the 7-Minute Workout
Even if you have no aspirations to join the Marines, you have to admit that knocking out a set of 100 pushups at a clip would be pretty heroic—not to mention giving you awesome upper-body strength and endurance. We asked some top coaches for a plan to get you there. Here’s what they said:
Approach A: 3-day weighted pushes
“Train three days a week. On Day 1, do 3–4 sets of weighted pushups for 12–15 reps. Day 2, bench-press for 3–4 sets of 8–10 reps. Day 3, do regular pushups for 2–3 sets of 20–25 or more reps. Each week, increase the load on the first two days and increase the reps on the third. You’ll get there in a few weeks to a few months.” — Kevin Neeld, Director at Endeavor Sports Performance in Sewell, New Jersey
Approach B: Bend the barbell
“One day, do the close-grip bench press and wide-grip seated row—4 sets of 8–12 for each, increasing the weight each set. Days later, do the same with the barbell overhead press and chinup. On two other days, do 10 sets of 10 pushups. Reduce your rest periods by fi ve seconds each week. So, Week 1, 30 seconds; Week 2, 25 seconds, and so on. In Week 5, go for one set of max pushups.” — Jim Smith, strength coach in Elmira, New York
Approach C: Tempo pushups
“Find your current pushup max. Perform a pushup and pause at the top for three seconds. Then do another rep. Repeat until you’ve done half your max number. Rest for three minutes, and repeat the process until you’ve completed twice your max number of reps in total.” — Mike Scialabba, Owner of Missoula Underground Strength Training in Missoula, Montana
Approach D: 6-day timed workouts
Monday, Wednesday, Friday: Workout 1
Perform four times your max number of reps, taking as long as you need to do so. It’s OK if subsequent sets have fewer reps than your max.
Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday: Workout 2
Set an alarm to go off five times throughout the day (every two to three hours is fine). Each time it sounds, hit the deck and do two sets of pushups. The first set should just be your max number. Rest 45 seconds, and then perform the second set, trying to reach your max again, resting as little as possible until you do.
— Jeff Decker
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How to Improve Your Push Ups – An Easy Program to Add 200 Reps Per Day to Your Routine!
There’s probably one thing that every military school, selection, law enforcement academy, and fitness event (i.e. GORUCK) has in common, can you guess what it is?
So let me ask…
Have you mastered this basic yet incredibly functional movement yet?
If you haven’t, why not?
I’ve probably gotten a thousand emails over the past couple years asking for simple, effective exercises that don’t require a ton of time or gym equipment and the push-up has got to be in my top 2-3 most recommended exercises (I love lunges and squats)…
Improving your push-up ability can do a lot more for you than just improve your PFT score so you may want to start paying more attention to this often overlooked movement.
If you’ve been through any military school or LEO academy you’ve probably heard the idiom “crawl-walk-run” when it came to training.
And that same concept is exactly how you should be approaching your strength training.
Yet, too many people want to jump right into the “run” phase because the exercises seem much cooler and they end up with poor mobility, improper movement patterns, and injury…
I know I’ve met probably 350 people over the past ten years who tell me about some sort of shoulder pain they get when benching…
How many people do you know that have shoulder pain when bench pressing?
Probably a bunch right?
Shoulder pain is one of the biggest complaints I get from guys in our profession (LEO/Military – especially if they are still hard-charging and over 30 years old) and most of the time it comes from poor mobility in the thoracic spine & shoulders and improper movement patterns.
Years of hauling around body armor, weapons, and ruck combined with poor posture and an emphasis on the bench press when they hit the gym is a recipe for disaster (or at least a lot of pain/problems).
Without that proper foundation of posture & mobility combined with a biomechanically efficient, strong, and safe range of motion you too may end up in shoulder pain purgatory.
Bottomline: They jumped past the “crawl-walk” phase and went right to the “run” (i.e. Loading up that barbell and pressing away!)
If you’re in that boat or looking to avoid it, there is a pretty simple solution that starts with a super simple exercise:
The push up
The push up, when performed correctly, has a pretty decent list of benefits:
- Improved core strength
- Improved pressing mechanics
- Improved upper body strength
- Improved muscular endurance
- Improved shoulder health
Not bad, eh?
So not only can the push-up improve your horizontal pushing mechanics, making you healthier and safer overall, but I’ve seen tons of people throw away the bench press entirely and actually still get stronger (and bigger).
For a freak example, see Herschel Walker a legendary football player who was rumored to have built and maintained his “brick shit house” physique and physical ability using only bodyweight exercises — Including hundreds of push-ups every single day.
While that dude is a genetic freak, he is definitely on to something that could help you overcome your training plateaus if you’re stuck or get your ass moving again after falling off the training path due to work, injuries, and life in general.
So, how do I improve?
Pretty simple huh?
Okay, so that isn’t very helpful because I’ve already said a ton of people still do push-ups “wrong” and end up burning out super fast or hurting themselves.
So here is a super basic instructional video on performing a push-up properly and avoiding the most common problem I see with people…
Like I said, super simple, but a ton of people get this small detail wrong and end up with shoulder problems and overall shitty looking push-ups.
So like I mentioned above, step one in improving your push-up is to start performing your push-ups correctly!
So, how do I do more push-ups?
If you watched that quick video and was like “Yea, I do my push ups like that and now that I’m trying them your way… I suck” then keep reading!
Wanna do more push ups?
Do more push-ups.
Again, the simplest solution is typically the best!
I’ve written about this before and the same simple idea I’ve written about before works for push ups:
You’ve got to ”Grease the Groove”
Which basically means, perform sub-maximal sets of push-ups throughout the day with the goal of performing as many perfect reps as possible each day.
So if you can do 30 “perfect” push-ups in one set before you break down (i.e. Funky arm flare, belly sagging towards floor, butt shooting up in the air, etc) then your goal would be to do 15-20 push ups each hour of the day (that you’re awake).
- Wake Up = 15-20 perfect push ups
- Eat Breakfast = Drop and give me 15-20 more
- Get to the office/work = 15-20 more!
- Every time you get up from your desk (or wherever you are) = 15-20 strict, awesome push ups
- Get home = 15-20!
- New episode of whatever Netflix show you’re watching starts = 15-20 more!
I think you get the idea here… If you add up those reps from above you’ll see that it will be pretty easy for you to start adding 100-200 push-ups PER DAY to your routine without ever breaking a sweat or taking yourself to muscle failure.
Another hidden benefit of this method, that most people don’t think about, is that you are practicing perfect, strict, awesome push-ups over and over again which is always going to benefit you more than hitting that near maximal number and turning into some sort of sloppy, floor humping weirdo as you reach failure.
I’m sure you’ve heard some coach in your high school glory days say ”Practice Makes Perfect” but I like the saying ”Practice Makes Permanent”
So if you’re practicing perfect push-ups, you’re teaching your body to only perform perfect push-ups.
Increasing Reps (i.e. Progression)
Once you get the hang of this and get into the habit of cranking out push-ups like a machine every day than we can gradually start increasing reps in your sets.
Let’s keep this progression simple and try just adding one rep each week.
So if week 1 had you knocking out 15 reps each set and you didn’t run into any fatigue problems later in the day then start week two off with 16 reps per set and see how that goes.
Like I said above, pretty simple.
As with all success, the magic is in your discipline and consistency
So if you want to max out your PT test, knock out 100 push ups without stopping, or conquer just about any other goal you need to master your own habits.
So get out there and give this simple push up program a shot.
Start right now and find out how many “perfect” push-ups you can do before you start to break down and write that number down somewhere.
Then, start off by cutting that number in half and getting after those sub-maximal sets throughout each day for the next few weeks.
Then just retest your max every 3 – 4 weeks and let me know how much you improved!
Push Ups Improvement Program
How to Do More Push Ups
Pushups are an integral part of military and law enforcement physical fitness. This exercise is a part of military service’s physical fitness test including the US Army, Air Force, and Navy. It is universally seen as a test of your upper body strength and is a mainstay in most physical fitness programs. Additionally, Special Operations Forces (SOF) take pride in performing challenging versions of the push up to put their bodies to the test, such as core training with push ups. Training to increase your push up performance is important – whether you are a US Army soldier preparing for your Physical Fitness Test, or a trainee conditioning before Basic Training, or someone preparing for the FBI Academy. If you expect to succeed in advanced elite training such as Army Ranger School or Airborne School , make sure you are able to accomplish a lot of push ups – because you will be tested!
To increase your ability to do push ups and to increase your strength, you will need to vary your workouts. With any exercise, whether you’re using your own body weight, free weights or machines, if the resistance doesn’t increase, your muscles won’t be overloaded and the stimulus these fibers need to grow in size will be missing. Think about it: if you work up to three or four sets of 25 push-ups, how hard can each repetition be? You’d build local muscular endurance, but you wouldn’t be any stronger. Say a person doing bicep curls can do three sets of 20 reps with 15 pounds: wouldn’t you think they could probably do one set of 10 reps with 20 pounds? That’s what they would need to do to make their biceps grow stronger and bigger. However, there are a few ways you can increase the resistance of your push-ups.
Are you motivated? Learn about Army Special Forces.
Got What it takes? Check out the Special Forces Qualification Course
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One way to increase the resistance is to elevate your feet while doing push-ups. Start with your feet on a step at the bottom of a stair or a low step stool. Raising your feet higher will make you work against gravity, thereby increasing the resistance. Work up to the point where you can do your push-ups with your feet on a chair. Note: The higher your feet, the more you’ll work your shoulders, so mix in some flat push-ups to make sure your chest gets a workout, too.
Push-ups must be practiced at least three to five times per week to ensure progress. If they are practiced too often, the muscles may not have enough time to recuperate and become stronger. Below are some variations that will help you improve your strength and muscular endurance. When practicing push ups, perform your exercises just as if you were working out with free weights – perform your pushups in sets and remember that repetition and increase in resistance and/or frequency are the best ways to challenge yourself. Doing one big set of 80 push ups is not as effective as 4x sets of twenty pushups with 30 seconds rest between each set… then increase to 4x sets of twenty five… then decrease the rest period.
Push Up Improvement Video
Push Ups Tips
Tips: Kneel down on the floor and place your hands flat on the floor and slightly wider than shoulder width apart. With your shoulders directly over your hands, straighten your arms. Move your feet back, placing your toes on the floor, so that your knees are off the floor and your legs are straight. At this point, your body should form a straight line from your shoulders to your ankles. Your body should remain straight throughout this exercise. Keep your head and neck in line with your body so that your are looking down toward the floor. This is the starting position. In a controlled fashion, lower your body down toward the floor, bending your elbows, until your body is nearly touching the floor. Now, push your body up away from the floor, straightening your arms, until you have returned to the starting position. If you need to reduce the intensity of this exercise you can perform the pushup from your knees.
Help! I Can’t do Push Ups!
Not everyone can do push ups. Believe it or not, even some large-framed individuals that seem like the body-builder types have trouble doing push ups. Don’t fret if this is you – you can train your body to increase the number of push ups you can do. However, some people have problems doing push ups because of an injury such as a shoulder or arm injury. If you are experiencing pain or restriction in your freedom of joint movemement, please consult with your physician before you engage in a rigorous push up improvement workout. With a little bit of hard work, determination, and targeted workout (blasting your chest and triceps), you should be able to increase your push ups. For service members in the military, this could mean eventually maxing the PFT at last!
Check out these great resources for help with push ups!
Push Ups Workout
To increase your push ups, you should incorporate some sort of weight lifting workout. Increase the strength of your chest (pectoral) and triceps muscles will allow you to do more push ups. It is a myth that you can only train for push ups by doing push ups. You should supplement your push up variations workout by doing bench press (with a barbell or dumbbells) and triceps exercises such as pull downs or kick backs. Remember, a strong chest and strong triceps will give you strength in push ups.
Training only on push-ups and/or bench presses can lead to a strength imbalance. Pull-ups or some type of rowing work should be done with resistance or training partner.
When training, pay attention to proper form. Keep your body straight and rigid. Lower yourself or the weight in a controlled manner so that you can gain a training effect. During the test itself, however, to conserve energy and improve your performance, you should work at a much more rapid pace. When being tested, try to do as many repetitions as possible during the first 45 to 60 seconds.
Place your hands at shoulder width with your fingers pointing forward and slightly outward. Keep your heels and toes together. Do not forget to breathe during both training and testing. Change position of hands to a narrower or wider position after you are tired, then try to do some more push-ups.
Our push up improvement program is aimed at increasing your endurance and your strength at the same time. You are probably leading a pretty hectic life while also trying to improve your physical fitness. Now is when it is most important to consume an adequate supply of the necessary nutrients and stay hydrated. Help build solid muscle mass, supplement your diet with Whey Protein. Check out the latest offer: HUGE 25% OFF SALE at Bodybuilding.com – Act Fast! Save on a gazillion products!
There is no doubt that determination and the exercises listed on this page will help you increase your physical fitness test scores, however, doing this rigorous program requires commitment and discipline. The exercises are simple – they involve no sophisticated movements or machines. For maximum performance, check out Bodybuilding.com’s TOP 50 selling products. You can’t always control what you eat – especially if you are deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan – but, you can stack the odds in your favor by supplementing your diet with the right nutritional supplements.
For normal push-ups, the start position begins with the hands shoulder width apart, elbows fully extended, BODY straight and the feet together or up to 12 inches apart.
To complete a repetition, the trainee lowers his/her BODY , maintaining a straight back, until the upper arm is parallel with the ground, then returns to the start position. Once the two-minute push-up period has started, trainees may not lift their arms or legs off the ground. They may rest in the “start” position. They may also bend at the waist and the knees to relax the back, always maintaining 4-point contact with the ground. Before resuming push-ups, they must return to the start position.
Modified Push Ups Training
Modified Push Ups — Hands on an Object
POSITION. Keep your body straight. The balls of your feet should be on the ground, and your hands should be on a wall, a desk, or steps of a staircase. You can gradually increase the difficulty of the exercise by first placing your hands on the wall, later on a desk, then on a chair (or by progressing to lower stairs on a staircase). By progressing to lower levels of hand placement, you increase the intensity of the exercise and your muscle strength. By performing non-traditional push-ups such as these two modified push ups exercises, you are challenging your stabilizer muscles and training to a higher standard.
ACTION. This exercise involves the same action as the regular push-up. For instance, if your goal is 50 push-ups, do 40 modified push-ups; wait, do another 40; wait and do another 40. When this becomes easy, raise your sights and score.
Modified Push-Ups — Feet On An Object
POSITION. Keep your body straight with your hands on the ground and your feet on the chair, steps, or some object. Progressively elevate your feet to higher levels to increase the intensity. You may also increase the difficulty, hence your strength, by doing push-ups between chairs with your feet elevated and lowering yourself as far as your can between them. Do sets and repetitions as above. A lot of people will plant their feet on a flat bench in the gym – to increase the difficulty of this exercise and really work out your stabilizer muscles, try laying your feet on top of a Swiss Ball (inflatable exercise ball) in the gym.
ACTION. This exercise involves the same action as the regular push-up. Strive for three sets of 80% of your goal.
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The Perfect Push Up
The Perfect Push Up puts a new spin on one of the oldest exercises, the pushup. Invented by someone who knows a lot about pushups, former U.S. Navy SEAL, Alden Mills, the Perfect Pushup’s rotating handles allow your arms to rotate naturally when you do pushups the same way they do when you throw a punch or press up a dumb bell. This unique feature accelerates results by engaging more muscles in the arms, chest, shoulders, and back. It also helps reduce strain on wrists and elbows, and helps to stabilize and strengthen the shoulder joint by engaging the scapular and rotator cuff muscles. You will notice the comfort and effectiveness of the Perfect Pushup on the very first try! Includes free instructional DVD and full color poster that show perfect form along with a customizable 21 day workout planner based in SEAL 2 minute drills that works for any fitness level – from beginner through Olympic athlete.
Just as you will find that you won’t be able to use quite as much poundage doing a twisting DB bench press rather than a non-twisting linear DB press, so with these twisting pushup bars you will find yourself being able to do fewer repetitions than with normal fixed push-up bars. That is really the main advantage of these “Perfect Pushup” devices: you don’t need to crank out as many reps to get to the same level of exhaustion. I normally can do around 30-40 reps per set with normal pushup bars, 50 reps per set with no bars just the ground, and only about 20-25 reps per set with these “perfect pushup” bars. This means you get a faster, more efficient workout. And if you are prone to rotator cuff issues, also a safer workout as long as you don’t space these bars too far apart. They work best at shoulder width and especially, closer in—which makes perfect sense, since if you were doing a twisting DB bench press you would hold the DBs much closer together than if you were doing a barbell bench press.
Find out more about the Perfect Push Up.
Other Push-Up Variations
Lie facedown on the ground. Put your legs together. Place your hands on the ground, palms down, fingers pointed forward. Balance your weight on your palms and your toes. Your hands should be shoulder width apart. Keeping your body straight, lower your body by bending your elbows. Go down until your chest almost touches the ground. Return to starting position.
Elevated Push Ups
Same as the standard push-up, except you place your feet on a chair or Swiss ball or elevated surface. This allows you to hit your upper pecs more. Lower yourself until your chest almost touches the floor as you inhale. Using your pectoral muscles, press your upper body back up to the starting position and squeeze your chest. Breathe out as you perform this step. After a second pause at the contracted position, repeat the movement for the prescribed amount of repetitions.
Wide Push Ups
Same as the standard push-up, except hands are placed wider than shoulder width. This helps bring out your outer pectorals. Augment this chest-blasting exercise by adding barbell or dumb bell bench press or chest flyes. A lot of people neglect their chest workout when trying to increase their push ups.
Diamond Push Ups
Same as the standard push-up, except hands are positioned under the middle of your chest. Put your hands together so there looks like there is a diamond in between them (Index fingers touch each other and thumbs touch each other). This helps develop your inner pecs and your triceps.
Three-Point Push Up
Same as the standard push-up, except you put one foot on top of the other. So your points of contact are: 1.) left hand, 2.) right hand, and 3.) one foot while the other foot rests on its heel.
Deep Push Ups
Same as the standard push-up, except you need three chairs. Place the chairs so your feet are resting on one and your hands are on the others. Now you can go down farther than you could when doing push ups on the floor.
Plyometric Push Ups
Stretch-Shortening Push-Ups – Drop yourself off a raised platform in a push-up position … to a pushup with a narrow hand position. You can also do explosive pushups by pushing yourself off the ground, landing, then repeating — or you can push up then clap your hands together as your body reaches its peak. Or have your partner push down on your back to increase resistance as you do your push up.
Special Ops Workout
Mike Mejia and Stew Smith put together a comprehensive book detailing what it takes to be apart of the Special Forces community. Together, their knowledge, know-how, and grit lay the foundation for what it takes, physically and mentally, to screen for the Navy Seals, Army Special Forces and Air Force Special Forces. The exercises and workouts contained within give the reader a glimpse of what tools and abilities are needed to succeed and become a part of our Special Forces. I for one have used this book and another of Stew Smiths book while serving in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. All the workouts allow me to stay in shape, keep the edge and ward off any boredom that creeps up in between missions and operations. This book is a must have, read, and heed for any individual wishing to become a part of America’s Special Forces.
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“Body For Life” is the most approachable, motivational, and effective fitness program I have encountered. Several of my male friends were getting in extremely buff while following this program, and their wives were getting into great shape, so I had to toss my skepticism aside and give it a try. Sure enough, even after 6 weeks, people were noticing that I looked “physically fit.” The book explains the workout process and the eating process in a clear, informative, and motivating manner, not only explaining how to work out and eat correctly, but WHY it must be done correctly. The book also contains many photographs demonstrating proper workout techniques, as well as lists of “proper” foods, and even some recipes!
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This book will prepare a recruit, mentally and physically, for basic training in the U.S. Army. It offers practical and unique solutions to challenges encountered by new recruits. Inside you’ll find an 8-week fitness program specifically designed to improve your fitness test scores, study guides, an instructional “How to…” chapter, a list of what to bring (and not to bring) to basic training, tips for success, and much more.
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Pushups are a great upper-body workout, touted for their ability to develop a strong, muscular chest, cannonball shoulders, and arms worthy of recognition. However, there are many other things that pushups do for the body, and falling behind in one area can render pushups ineffective, leading to disappointment and, in more serious cases, injuries. Next time you go to do pushups, keep these issues in mind.
THE ISSUE: Weak Core
Exercises such as the plank improve core endurance, which are critical for stability during a pushup. The ability to hold that classic pushup position is directly correlated to how long you can hold a plank and is an indicator of overall core strength. A weak core can lead to a “sag” in the lower back that changes the angle of the shoulder joints and how the muscles are being worked. Changing this angle, or positioning, can lead to serious injury and diminished results. Work planks into your routine 1-2 days per week for 3-4 sets of maximum holds.
Body-Weight Workout: Six-Pack Plank Variations>>>
THE ISSUE: Weak Quads
Yes, believe it or not, quads impact your pushups. If you have weak quads, it’s hard to hold your knees in the fully extended position that a pushup requires. An inability to do this will cause the knees to fully lock out, which is great for the end of a squat. Holding those knees fully extended leads to two things: decreased blood flow to the muscles that need it (the blood sits in the legs) leading to decreased muscle activation and therefore decreased results; and raised, posteriorly tilted hips, leading to rounding of the lower back and possible disk injury. Be sure to work squats into your routine 1-2 days per week for 3-5 sets of 8-10 repetitions.
Seven Reasons to Never Neglect Squats>>>
THE ISSUE: Incorrect Hand Placement
Luckily, this one’s an easy fix. Start out by getting down on your hands and knees, and make sure your hands are directly under your shoulders. Shoot your legs back, get into a pushup position and hold it—your hands should still be under your shoulders. That’s a good start, but there’s one extra part that can be a difficult concept to grasp. Imagine your hands are on top of a big pile of sand or rice and try to grab on to the ground. This will activate all the muscles of the lower arm and hand, increasing your ability to push yourself up. A good way to prep for this is by wrapping a rubber band around your fingers then pushing them as far away from each other as possible, holding for a second, then returning to the start.
Proper Exercise Form and Posture>>>
Crank Out More Pull Ups>>>
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10 Easy Exercises That Work Better Than Push-Ups
Fitness websites and trainers love to tout the amazing effects of push-ups. The simple movement hits some of your body’s major muscle groups. It strengthens your chest as you prepare for the movement from the starting plank position and your arms and back as you go down and come back up. But there’s a catch: They have to be done correctly and carefully. If you compromise your form, you can strain the upper body muscles you were working to strengthen. Even if you have great form for the first few push-ups, the moment your form starts to lag, you lose the benefits of the exercise.
Luckily, push-ups aren’t the only exercise that delivers results. These moves hit the same (and in some cases, more) muscle groups and are easier to do. You’ll feel the burn and get the results without having to worry about injuring yourself.
1. Bear crawls
Bear crawls are just as effective as push-ups. | iStock.com
For this exercise, you’ll need a large, open space. Head to the park or find an unused corner of the gym or your home. Start in plank position checking to make sure your shoulders are stacked over your wrists. Keep your hips low as you crawl forward reaching with your left hand as you step forward with your right foot before stepping forward with your right hand and left foot, coordinating the opposing foot and hand, much like how a bear walks on all fours. Crawl across the room, then reverse and crawl backwards. Do this for 45 to 60 seconds straight, take a limited rest, and then repeat for a total of three sets.
2. Downward dog push-ups
Yoga class can build serious arm strength. |
Downward dog is one of the most accessible yoga poses out there. So, perhaps it’s no surprise that it serves as the backbone for an easy alternative to doing push-ups. This is a simple, two-step exercise that can be found in yoga routines and various exercises. Plus, it goes beyond toning your arms to target the abdominals, lats, and back.
PopSugar explains this exercise starts in the down dog position but with the weight on the forearms instead of the hands. Exhale as you push through your palms as you raise up onto your hands, lifting your hips towards the ceiling and into the conventional downward dog position. Inhale as you relax then push off your palms and lower your elbows back to the ground, for one repetition.
3. Resistance band tricep extensions
Resistance bands make basic punches harder. | iStock/Demid Borodin
When it comes to full-body workouts, incorporating resistance training a la resistance bands is a win-win. And when it comes to working your upper-body without doing a single push-up, it’s good to have this piece of exercise equipment handy. Get Healthy U shows the triceps extension exercise, which requires as little prep as stabilizing resistance bands under your foot, and extending your arms over your head.
4. Squat to shoulder press
Add squats and weights to raise your heart rate. | iStock.com/Lunamarina
This movement does more than just strengthen your arms. It incorporates squats and full-body motion to burn more calories and raise your heart rate.
Grab two dumbbells and begin with your feet hip-width apart. Bring the dumbbells near your shoulders, palms facing each other. Bend your knees and hips to lower your body down until you come into a front squat position with your thighs parallel to the floor. From here, quickly push back to standing and press the dumbbells overhead. With control, return the dumbbells to the starting position to complete your first rep. Do a total of 10 reps and rest for 30 seconds before repeating for three to five complete sets.
5. Triceps dips
Not surprisingly, this move works your triceps. | iStock/emiliozv
Naturally, with the triceps being a focal point, this exercise is a welcome alternative to the schoolyard push-up. Many sites will say that push-ups are the easier exercise, since they require less shoulder mobility and less equipment. In fact, doing triceps dips on a floor mat is both effective and not too strenuous on your shoulders.
For this exercise, sit on the floor with your legs bent in front of you, hands on the floor behind your hips with your fingers pointed toward your body. Lift your hips up off the ground, into starting position. Bend elbows and use upper-body strength to lower your hips back toward the ground, then extend back up to starting position for one rep. If you are looking to up the difficulty, try this version of the triceps dip from PopSugar.
6. Dumbbell bench press
Dumbbell bench presses tone your shoulders and chest. | iStock.com
This exercise is comparable to the push-up in movement and does a great job at toning your shoulders, chest, and triceps. Grab a pair of dumbbells and lay on your back on a bench. Hold the weights on either side of your chest, keeping your elbows bent at 90 degrees. When you’re ready, press the dumbbells up over your chest as you squeeze your pectoral muscles, per Livestrong.com’s suggestion. With control, lower the weights back down to 90 degrees. This is one rep. Complete 10 or more reps, rest, and repeat for a total of three sets. Be careful not to let your elbows drop below the horizontal line of your body as it can strain your shoulders.
7. Standing punches
Try standing punches instead of push-ups. | iStock.com/InnerVisionPRO
This great arm exercise can be done anywhere you have room for a little “shadow-boxing.” As Cosmopolitan explains, simply stand with feet about hip-width apart and have a little bend in your knees so you have a good base. Next, bend your elbows and hold clenched fists up around your chin — like a boxer protecting their face. Keep your core engaged as you twist your torso and alternate punching your right and left fists forward. Start with alternating punches for 60 seconds, and add time as you become more comfortable. Looking to up the intensity? If you have light free weights, you can hold onto them as you punch for a bit of resistance.
8. Forearm plank
Planks are easier on your wrists, but still work your core. | iStock/capdesign
One of the biggest drawbacks to doing standard push-ups is the stress they put on your wrists. (Especially if the proper form isn’t achieved ahead of time.) An easy fix to that problem is to give yourself a wider base and lower onto your forearms. Like with your stereotypical plank position, you will want to engage your abdominals by pulling your bellybutton back towards your spine. Simultaneously contract your thighs and glute muscles to keep your hips lifted and your body in a straight line. Aim to be able to hold the plank for one minute, then increase your time by 10 seconds as the exercise becomes more comfortable.
According to an IDEA Health & Fitness Association question-and-answer forum, forearm planks won’t work the triceps the same as the elevated plank. It compensates, however, by working your core harder since your center of gravity is closer to the ground. To up the workload on your tri’s, incorporate these tricep plank push-ups from Well + Good.
9. Rotating plank
Try out these rotating planks. | iStock.com
As the Body by Wright Blog summarizes, this exercise doesn’t just work the triceps and back. Adding the rotation to the plank works the core, back, and legs. And this exercise can be done in upright plank position, or from the forearm plank position to alleviate pressure on the wrists.
From the starting position, engage your core muscles as you balance on your right hand — or forearm — and raise your left arm into the air with your fingers pointing to the ceiling. Keep your muscles engaged as you lower your right arm back to the starting position, for one rep. Fitwirr recommends doing 10 to 12 reps of this exercise — maybe do five for starters and work your way up.
10. Wall push-ups
Take the average push-up and rotate it upward against your wall. | iStock.com
A push-up that doesn’t require you to get down on the floor? Sign us up! Take a cue from Well + Good and try the diamond cutter wall push-ups, guaranteed to make your triceps work overtime. The only caveat here is that this easy alternative is also pretty easy to screw up. The key is to start off standing just a shade further away from the wall than arms length — so when you lean forward onto your hands in the starting position, it should look like you are doing a plank against the wall. Make sure to keep your body rigid and to put your full weight on your upper-body. (You won’t see results if you don’t put all of your weight into the exercise.)
Now, follow standard push-up protocol, inhaling as you engage your upper body and bend your elbows, drawing you towards the wall as if you were drawing yourself to the ground in a regular push-up. Exhale as you push back from the wall and return to starting position for one repetition. Start with a set of 10.