Push-ups are one of the best bodyweight exercises that you can perform to strengthen your body. When you complete a push-up, you activate muscles in your arms, shoulders, chest, back, core—and even legs.
But it’s hard to reap the benefits when the exercise isn’t performed correctly. In this article, we explain the 3 necessary steps to get you to completing your first push-up.
Note: If you can already perform a push-up or multiple sets, the strategies we present will help you increase your push-up proficiency.
It takes a significant amount of upper body strength to perform one push-up. In fact, with a simple calculation you can find out how much weight you need to be able to press with your upper body.
Push-ups require you to press about 70 percent of your body weight, since your legs are on the ground, you are not completely supporting the weight of your body. Interestingly, the downward movement (when you descend in the push-up position) requires you to support 75 percent of your body weight.
For example, if I weigh 200 pounds then I would need to be able to press 140 pounds (200 x .70 = 140) to push my body upward. An easy way to test this is to see if you can perform a chest press with 140 pounds.
If you can perform multiple sets up push-ups proficiently, you may want to consider adding weight to your body to ensure your strength increases. One way to add weight to your body is to use a weighted vest.
If that seems like a lot or performing chest press exercises is not something you include in your workout program, it might be a good idea to start incorporating it.
Second, you must use progressions, easier exercises that work up to a push-up. While having good upper body strength is key, it is necessary to train your body to be ready for the push up movement. But how can you work the muscles need for a push-up without doing push-ups? Simple, find an elevated surface to place your hands on so you can put your self in a good position to perform a push-up while reducing the amount of weight needed to complete the repetitions.
Think about your desk at work or your bed at home. Each has a raised surface that enable you to engage all the same muscle as a regular push-up. This way as you get stronger, your core, and legs are also being trainer to activate properly. If you still can’t complete a push-up on your desk or bed, start by placing your hands on a wall just below your shoulder height and slowly progress to a lower hand position on your bed or a workout bench.
Finally, you must build your core strength. If your core is weak, you will not be able to hold a tight position in your abs and back to complete a push-up with good form. A weak core will cause your back to arch towards the ground and could increase your risk for injury in the low back. Prone planks are a great exercise activate core muscles that are needed for push-ups.