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How To Get Better At Pushups – The Definitive Guide

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Don't sag your back, spread your weight over your palms, tighten your abs, glutes, and back muscles, form a plank. Progress through pushup styles: wall, incline, knee, decline, dive bomber, handstand pushups. Be regular, track and increase your reps gradually. Lose weight, and strengthen your back muscles with pull ups to avoid bad posture and muscle imbalance.

We’ve all done (attempted to do) pushups at some point in life.

Unfortunately, not everyone can perform this basic upper body exercise. Some folks, especially women, can’t do a single pushup and others are stuck on the 1-5 range. This article will help you perform your first pushup and show you how to double or quadruple your reps, even when you’ve hit a pushups plateau.

In fact, you’ll get in shape without much effort if you consistently work on getting better at pushups. And, you’ll build the strength needed to do challenging exercises like pull ups and dips.

When done properly, pushups work the chest, triceps, shoulders and core muscles. But, most folks don’t perform this exercise properly. Below is the proper technique for pushups.

How To Perform Pushups Properly

    • Start in a straight arm plank position – keep the neck, torso, hips and legs aligned in a straight line.
    • The hands should be directly below the shoulders and fingers facing forward.
    • Lower the body until the chest slightly touches the floor.
    • Then, rise until you lock elbows (arms are straight) and repeat.

Now, the above techniques alone won’t guarantee a perfect pushup. Here are a few tips to help avoid common pushups mistakes and get the most out of each rep.

1. Keep Your Core Tight

Most body-weight exercises require you to keep the core tight to maintain proper form. And, pushups are no exception. What does keeping the core tight mean? Basically, it’s tightening the abdominal muscles, squeezing the glute and back muscles. This helps keep the spine in its neutral position and prevents hips from sinking, thus, reducing the risk of lower back pain and bad posture.

2. Distribute Weight On The Entire Palm

Spread weight on the entire palm instead of pushing through the heel of the palm. Do this by spreading the fingers apart and position the thumbs facing each other. This creates tension on the arms and lats, and helps engage the muscles more. On a side note, the elbows should point backwards when you lower yourself and not sideways. Start changing hand grip variations once you become stronger.

3. Perform Pushups Slowly

It’s hard to maintain proper form if you perform an exercise fast. Perform pushups slowly and do full range of motion. One pushup rep should take about 3 seconds to execute.

4. Other Tips

  • Keep your feet together.
  • Inhale going down and exhale when pushing yourself up.
  • Don’t lower the head – keep the neck in its neutral position.

Franky, it’s hard to tell if you’re performing an exercise properly. So, ask a friend to check your form or video record yourself and criticize your form later.

Now that you know how to perform pushups properly, here are different types of pushups you can try out.

Types Of Pushups You Can Perform

Follow these progression exercises to build the strength needed to perform full range of motion pushups. There’s no answer to how long it’ll take to perform a single pushup. It’ll depend on your effort and consistency. For some it may take two weeks and for others, a month or more. Your effort will determine your results. You may skip the exercises you find too easy.

1. Wall Pushups

This is the simplest pushup variation. It’ll strengthen the arms and shoulder muscles. Do at least 5 sets of wall pushups every day. Once you can do 15-20 reps non-stop, progress to the next exercise.

    • Stand two steps from the wall, then lean over and place hands on the wall – at shoulder-width grip.
    • Keep the body aligned in a straight line.
    • Bend your elbows and lean towards the wall until, your chin touches the wall.
    • Then push back until you lock elbows and repeat.
    • Stand further from the wall to make this exercise more challenging.

2. Incline Pushups

Incline pushups are more challenging than the wall pushups. Do at least 5 sets of incline pushups every day. Then, advance once you can do 15-20 reps non-stop. You can spread 5 sets through the day. You don’t have to do them all at once.

    • Place your arms on a high platform and do pushups from that position – and don’t sink your hips. The higher the platform the easier the exercise will be.
    • Use a table that’s about your hip-height for a start. And once you can do 15-20 reps per set, start using a lower platform like a chair or a bench.

3. Knee Pushups

This variation is optional. Skip it if you’ll be ready to do regular pushups. To perform knee pushups, support the body with the knees and arms, keep the torso aligned with the thighs and do pushups from that position. Do at least 5 sets of knee pushups every day and work on increasing the reps in each set.

4. Decline Pushups

Decline pushups are more challenging than the classic pushups since they increase the amount of weight you’re pushing. And, you’ll start doing less reps when you switch to do decline pushups. Use higher platforms to make the exercise harder.

    • Place your feet on a chair or a table and place hands in the floor – shoulder-width apart.
    • Lower yourself until the chin slightly touches the floor, and then push yourself up slowly.

5. Dive Bomber Pushups

This is my favorite pushup variation and one of the hardest to execute. It will build shoulders, triceps, traps, chest muscles. By the time you can do 20 dive bomber pushups, you’ll have extraordinary strength.

    • Stand with feet apart then bend and place hands on the floor at a grip wider than shoulder-width. The angle between torso and thighs should be at 90 degrees (butt up)– keep the feet and back straight.
    • Then bend your arms as you slide forward.
    • Once the head is between the arms, start straightening the arms as you slide forward. In the final position, the hips should be sunk, arms straight and head facing upwards.
    • Now, reverse the movement by sliding back to starting position and repeat.

6. Handstand Pushups

This is another advanced push exercise. The handstand pushups are great for strengthening the shoulders. First, get used to being upside down before you try this one.

    • Face the wall then bend and place your hands on the floor about 10 inches from the wall.
    • Use your legs to kick the body up into an upside down position, with feet against the wall.
    • Now, lower yourself until the head touches the floor.
    • Then rise until you straighten the arms and repeat.

How To Increase Pushups Reps

1. Do Pushups Every Day

The best way to get better at pushups is to do them frequently. Do as many sets of pushups in a day as you can. By the way, it only takes less than 3 minutes to do 40 pushups. So, time shouldn’t be a barrier on this one. In fact, you can do sets at different times of the day. Just set reminders on your phone to make sure you don’t forget. Now, pushups are not a high impact exercise. So, you can do them every day and not worry about over-training.

2. Track Your Reps

Tracking workouts is one of the best ways to make maximum gains. Use a workout log write down the number of reps you do in each set, every day.

3. Add One Or Two Reps Each Day

To do this accurately, you’ll have to track your reps. Do one or two extra reps after every workout. It may not be possible to add reps every day, but make sure you don’t do less reps than the previous workout.

4. Do Weighted Pushups

Wearing a backpack or weight vest when doing pushups will increase resistance and build strength and muscles fast. Note that adding too much weight can cause injuries. Add about 20% of your weight.

5. Do Different Pushups Variations

Different pushups variations target different muscle groups. For instance, decline pushups target the upper chest more than classic pushups. Diamond pushups target triceps more than wide grip pushups. Here are the muscles targeted by different pushups variations:

  • Wide grip pushups – chest and shoulders
  • Narrow pushups – triceps
  • Decline pushups –upper chest and shoulders
  • Incline pushups – triceps

6. Lose Weight

Generally, lighter folks can do more pushups than heavier ones. Even big muscular guys can’t do as many pushups as leaner folks. Losing weight will make you lighter and it’ll be easier to push yourself up.

Don’t Focus On Pushups Only

I made this mistake when I started exercising. I did a pushups marathon for many months. This resulted to muscle imbalances and bad posture. You see, opposing muscles should have the same amount of strength. The back muscles are the opposing muscle to the chest. When a muscle is stronger than its opposing muscle, it distorts posture. So, train back muscles as well, to avoid muscle imbalances and bad posture. Pull ups are the best exercise for strengthening back muscles. If you can’t do pull ups, do horizontal pull ups – they’re effective and easier to perform.

Final Word

Pushups are the most basic body-weight exercise and they’re great for increasing muscle and strength. Once you apply these tips, you’ll get better at pushups and even lose a few pounds.

Brian Syuki

Brian Syuki is a fitness expert who teaches people how to get leaner and healthier using bodyweight exercises and proper nutrition.

Brian Syuki

Brian Syuki is a fitness expert who teaches people how to get leaner and healthier using bodyweight exercises and proper nutrition.

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