The push up is one of the most important exercises that a newcomer to fitness can do, but it can be difficult for many people. So, how many push ups can you do? Is your answer zero? (C’mon, be honest. You have to know your starting point so you can brag about how many you can do a month from now.) You really can do more push ups than you think you can do and I’m here to help you. You can get stronger. It just takes practice and a plan.
I know some of you think the idea of being able to do 50 push ups seems as likely as spotting a UFO, but it’s not as hard as you think. If you are new to push ups, I will give you a quick progression to build up your strength. (If you are already proficient in your push up regimen check out my past blog on push up variations.)
Why you should do ‘em: Push ups are one of the best body weight exercises ever invented, they require zero equipment, build strength in all of the right places, have many variations to keep things fresh, and are easy to modify and track progress. You can burn calories working multiple muscle groups and shape your body at the same time. Push-ups make you strong.
How to do a push up: When it comes to push ups, your form is crucial. Each push up needs to be a full range of motion. If you only go half way down or push your butt up in the air for several reps, you shouldn’t count them. Sounds harsh? Well, cheating never gets you ahead. Here’s how to get set up to do a push up:
• Set your hands slightly wider than shoulder-width apart, hands facing forward.
• Set your feet directly behind you at a comfortable position (together or slightly separated). The further apart your feet are, the more stable you will be until you are able to build your balance up enough to put your feet together.
• Make your body into on straight line from the top of your head down through your heels. Your butt should stay in line with your legs and back, never up in the air. Your abs engaged and your shoulders over your wrists. (Basically a full body plank position.) Keep your neck neutral, don’t drop your head or crank it back.
• With your arms straight, glutes and abs contracted, slowly lower your body until your chest touches the ground, or arms are at approx. a 90-degree angle, and push yourself back into your starting position. Try to keep your core body steady. Don’t sag through the low back or push your butt way up in the air.
Congratulations, that is a proper push up! Do as many as you can until you start to feel your form slip. Only count good form and STOP when your form begins to cave. Write down how many you did and aim for 1 or 2 more the next time. Keep track of your improvement from day to day and week to week. Work your way up to 50 in a day. Why? Because it makes you strong and it’s a fun goal to set. You can do 5 sets of 10 with a few seconds of rest in between each set, but good form is a MUST!
OKAY … but if you are saying: I need to start a little slower than that Chris … here is your progression to work up to a full push up:
Start with Wall Push Ups: Set your hands on a wall at a width that’s wider than shoulder-width apart. Walk backwards with your feet away from the wall until your arms are fully extended and you are leaning into the wall. Keeping the rest of your body in a straight line, steadily lower yourself towards the wall until your nose almost touches the wall, and push back up to the starting position. Add a few repetitions each day for a week or two. Once you are up to 50 in a row with good form, move to the elevated push up.
Elevated Push Ups: Place your hands onto a sturdy table, chair or bench. If you start out with something as tall as a kitchen table, keep decreasing the incline every few days moving down to a chair or a step. Following the regular push up form (full body plank on an inclined surface) do as many in a row as you can with good form. Practice for a week or two adding a few reps each time. Once you can do 30-50 of these, progress to the modified push up.
Try a Modified Push Up: Begin with hands on the floor, wrists below your shoulders, glutes and abs engaged, knees on floor. Do a full range of motion with your chest coming down to the floor and then push back up. Again, add a few everyday and once you are up to doing at least 30-50 in a day, you are ready to attempt the full push up on your toes!
Alright, try these tips and let me know how you are doing with your push ups a month from now. Remember – YES YOU CAN!