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Tutorial: How To Do A Push-Up

When I was a kid around the age of 6-7, I remember my dad mocking me that I can’t do a push-up. I asked what’s that? He laughed, did 6 and got off the ground with a red face all proud of himself. I was in awe, I remember that this exercise looked almighty in […]


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When I was a kid around the age of 6-7, I remember my dad mocking me that I can’t do a push-up. I asked what’s that? He laughed, did 6 and got off the ground with a red face all proud of himself. I was in awe, I remember that this exercise looked almighty in my eyes. I tried a push-up after him but was unable to even lower myself down to the ground. I felt like I was lacking 98% of the strength needed for a push-up.

Almost a decade later, the push-up became the first exercise on my workout path. I was 14 when I decided I want to do something for my body’s physical state. I was at our village where I would typically spend my summer with my grandparents. Bored and determined that being at the beginning of my teenage hood I should start developing my body, I attempted a push-up. I remember that it was a wide-stance push-up. I managed to do just several, the form was terrible but I was happy. It was a start.

The push-up is a fantastic exercise to begin calisthenics and overall body weight training with. It’s one of the body weight compound exercises. Just how bench pressing, deadlifting and squatting make the foundation for powerlifting, the push-up, the chin-up/pull-up, the sit-up and the squat build the foundation for calisthenics. It’s what all professional gymnasts once started their career with. Mastering the push-up and its variations will develop a serious upper body pushing strength which you can further develop on the rings with exercises like the muscle-up, the iron cross or the inverted iron cross.

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

Exercise Involved Muscle Groups Aditional Skills Needed Difficulty Level
The Push-Up Chest, Shoulders, Triceps - AA

Before we move on with the tutorial I would like to give you couple hints. 1) Make sure you look forward, this will straighten your upper body. 2) Your palms should be below your shoulders, people often get their palms in front of their shoulders, which is incorrect and producing unnecessary stress for your wrists.  3) When you get into the push-up position make sure your body is in one line – you don’t want your butt sticking up in the air nor being below the line of your upper body. 4) Maintain a steady body, the only movement should be in your arms. Sometimes I see people who move their head in order to generate additional momentum. That’s cheating and might get your neck sore.

0. Warm up
Start with a warm-up to get your body ready for working out! Click here for a detailed warm up article.

 1. The Push-Up Progressions
These will be your direct exercises for this move. Your push-up’s workout should be divided of direct and assisting exercises. You should start with one of the progressions below(being your direct exercise) and once you are done with it continue with several assisting exercises.

Try all progressions below and find out which is the farthest progression you can go with performing it for 6 to 8 repetitions. Once you figure this out stick to it as your direct exercise. You will start each workout with this progression.

Your goal is to begin somewhere with one of the push-up progressions and continue from there. You will then start building strength and muscle mass and move on with the other progressions until you eventually reach a full push-up.

1.1. A Push-Up Against a Wall

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

This is probably the easiest push-up variation I can think of. Stand against the wall at a 45 degrees angle and perform a push-up. Go forward until your nose touches the wall, then push back to the initial position. Your goal is 8 to 10 repetitions. Once you reach 10 repetitions move on to the next progression.

Alternatively if you have a bar(at a convenient height) somewhere use it instead. A bar would be better than the wall because it will save you the tension in your wrists.

 1.2. The Chair Push-Up

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

If you feel that the wall push-up is too easy for you then try this variation next. It comes very close to the regular push-up but it’s fairly easy and will provide you with the feeling of what the actual push-up feels like. Get a chair in front of you, place your hands on it, keep your feet on the ground and straighten your back. Now go down until your chest is relatively close to the chair. Extend your arms back to the original position. Your goal is 8 to 10 repetitions. Once you reach 10 repetitions move on to the next progression.

 1.3. The Knee Push-Up

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

This is just like a normal push-up but however your back point of support is not on the toes of your feet but instead on your knees. Being on your knees shortens your body and thus decreasing the load that you will have to handle. Your goal is 8-10 repetitions. Once you reach 10 repetitions move on to the next progression from this tutorial.

1.4. The Straddled Push-Up

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

This variation comes super close to the standard push-up already but is still somewhat easier. Get on your palms and toes but straddle your legs as much as you can. This way, again, you are shortening your body and decreasing the difficulty level of the push-up. Once you reach 10 repetitions move on to the next progression.

1.5. The Regular Push-Up

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

Eventually you will get to the regular, standard push-up relatively fast. However remember the hints I gave you at the beginning of the article and maintain a proper form with your push-up. When younger I had reached 200 push-ups at a time but then I thought of checking my form. I realised I had focused too much on setting a record for myself rather than working on the look of my push-ups. I was not going all the way down and not going all the way up, my butt was slightly below the line of my upper body. I decided it looks ugly and imperfect and fixed it. I also decreased the average speed per push-up. As a result the overall number of push-ups lowered but however I optimized the results of my push-up workouts. 10 perfect shaped push-ups will work your upper body much better than 30 push-ups with improper form. Always focus on your form, it should be a top priority when studying a new move!

2. Assisting Exercises
The muscle groups involved in the push-up are your chest, shoulders and triceps. That’s why I will give you several assisting exercises that will work these muscle groups in particular.

2.1. Chest Press

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

This exercise works your shoulders, chest and triceps very similarly to how the push-up does. You should pay additional  attention to it! Execute the exercise for 3 sets of 8 repetitions. The rubber band from this exercise you can get from http://www.ironwoodyfitness.com on a very good price and great quality.

2.2. Shoulder Press

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

Stand tall and make sure your back is straight. Keeping your arms close to your head extend them all the way up. Do this exercise for 3 sets of 8 repetitions.

2.3. Chest Flies

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

This exercise is perfect for the inner side of your chest. Keep the elbows slightly bend and pull the band for as much as your hand’s movement allows you to. Using rubber bands for this exercise allows you to expand the movement, weights limit it to the point where your arms are above your body shoulder width apart.

2.4.1. Triceps Extensions (Type I)

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

For this variation you will have to attach the bands above your head. It targets the outer part of your triceps and thus will greatly help you develop strength in your triceps, something which is needed for the push-ups.

2.4.2. Triceps Extensions (Type II)

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

Attach your bands to something in front of you and bend forward so that they will come at you almost at chest height. Grab the bands and pull them backwards keeping your elbows close to your body. Actually the whole movement should be in your elbows, the rest of your body and arms should be static and not moving. You target the triceps, remember! Do this exercise for 3 sets of 8 repetitions.

 

Push-Up Training Chart

Exercises Repetitions Days
1. a) Wide Grip Push-Up Progression 3 x 8-10 Monday, Friday
1. b) Narrow Grip Push-Up Progression 3 x 8-10 Wednesday, Sunday
2. Chest Press 3 x 8 Monday, Wednesday, Sunday
3. Shoulder Press 3 x 8 Wednesday, Friday
4. Chest Flies 3 x 8 Monday, Friday, Sunday
5. а) Triceps Extensions (Type I) 3 x 8 Monday, Friday
5. b) Triceps Extensions (Type II) 3 x 8 Wednesday, Sunday

Notice the presence of a) and b) for certain number of the exercises. It means that you have to choose between a) or b) for your workout and never do both in the same workout. Refer to the “Days” row of the table, it indicates on which days you have to perform a) and on which days you have to perform b). NB! The rest intervals between each set and each exercise should be kept in the 1-3 minute interval. 

 

3. Rest days

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

Your rest days are going to be Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. This means that you will be having 4 workout days and 3 rest days. However I want you active on the days that you are not working out. On your rest days you should at least go for a couple hours walk outside, go swimming, biking or something similar. The body must always go through physical activity even on the days that you rest. You can read more regarding the rest days here.

4. Nutrition

Tutorial: How To Do A Push Up

I will give you just several quick tips here. Keep the animal protein products high – meat, eggs, milk, cheese, fish are just several to mention. Add fruits and vegetables to your eating plan. Avoid the mass consumption of bread, instead consume rice and potatoes. Boil or roast your food, no frying allowed. Forget about all junk food such as sweets and chips from the stores. Instead replace them with raw nuts! For more information you can read more about the nutrition gymnasts need here.

 

 

A video to the article:

Good luck,
-Arthlete