Q&A: How can i get better at push ups?

Push-ups are one of the quintessential exercises; many people look at them as one of the defining characteristics of fitness. Men will brag (often annoyingly) about how many they can do and women almost always worry (wrongly) that they’ll never be able to bang out multiple “real” push-ups like the guys. Really, there’s no difference between developing a great push-up and developing any other skill: figure out a way to practice the skill to your best abilities, and you’ll eventually learn the skill itself. Anyone – male or female – can go from zero push-ups to 10 push-ups in a couple weeks.

First, what is a good push-up?

  1. Start by laying face down on the ground, and place your hands palm down next to your shoulders.
  2. Flex your ankles so your toes are resting on the floor.
  3. Tighten your abs and lower back so your body straightens into a plank, press your hands into the floor like you’re pushing the floor away.
  4. Push until your arms are locked out straight; at the top you will be resting only on your hands and toes.
  5. Repeat by lowering until your chest taps the floor, and then immediately push back up.

Do Not bend your back   |   Arms must bend at least 90 degrees for the rep to count   |   Do Not rest at the bottom; tap and push

OK, so how do you go from 0 push-ups to 10 push-ups in 4 weeks?

The secret to many new moves is a technique called “negatives”. A negative is a truncated version of a given exercise that only makes you work through the eccentric motion, which is the part that takes the least muscle power, but still maintains some of the stress that helps build strength. The negative portion of a push-up is where you lower yourself towards the ground, and the concentric (“positive”) phase is when you’re pushing up. Basically, doing the negative phase to start lets you build the strength necessary to do the positive phase later. I’ve used this method to teach many movements, and now I’m going to use it to teach you to do solid push-ups!

Methods and Rules:

  • You will workout every other day for 4 weeks. If you can, start TODAY.
    • Rule #1: Procrastination does not create good fitness, it creates excuses for bad fitness.
  • You will not rest more than ONE day between workouts for the first month; this will help with rapid acquisition.
    • Rule #2: Consistent and Attentive work are what separate Healthy and Unhealthy.
  • Do NOT do any modified push-ups, also known as “knee push-ups” or in some cases “girly push-ups” – girls can do real push-ups, so lets stop pretending they can’t.

    • Rule #3: Don’t sell yourself short; strength of all kinds comes from pushing your boundaries frequently.
  • Week 1:
    • Perform 4 sets of 10 negatives
    • Rest 1 minute between sets
    • At the start of each set, try to do ONE full push-up. Start in the top position, perform the negative portion (lowering) of the rep, and then push as hard as you can for as long as you can to try to return to the top position.
    • By the last day, you should be able to get at least ONE full push-up in the first couple sets
  • Week 2:
    • Perform 5 sets of 10 negatives
    • At the end of each set, hold the “up” position in good form for as long as you can. Arms should be locked.
    • Rest 1 minute between sets
    • By the end of this week, you should be able to do one full-push at the start of each set, even if you need to finish the rest with negatives
    • By the last day, you should be trying for TWO full push-ups at the start of your sets
  • Week 3:
    • Perform 3 sets of (max push-ups) + (negatives)
    • As in week 2, after each set hold the “up” position in good form for as long as you can
    • Rest 1 minute between sets
    • Every set, you will do as many full push-ups as you can in a row with good form, then finish the set with negatives
    • For every full push-up you do, continue lowering yourself slowly, but try to push back up quickly.
  • Week 4:
    • Repeat the workout from week 3
    • After each “up” position hold, add in a “down” position hold. In the down position, your arms are bent 90 degrees but your chest/stomach are not touching the floor. Hold this as long as you can with good form.

At the beginning of what would be week 5, see how many full push-ups you can do. I have seen numerous times where men and women can do a full, good ten push-ups are this progression without too much difficulty.

Happy pushing!