How to Effectively Progress Pushups

Can’t do pushups? Don’t feel bad, most of the population can’t do a correct pushup, and that includes athletes. Walk into a high school football workout and you’ll see about twenty different variations of pushups: half pushups, quarter pushups, seal pushups with hips on the floor, the butt-in-the-air pushup, the push-with-your-dominant-arm pushup and maybe….if you’re lucky….the rarely seen correct pushup. And the problem isn’t that these athletes (or any adult population for that matter) aren’t strong enough…..heck, I know guys who can bench 400lbs and not do a proper pushup….how does that even make sense?!? The problem is they didn’t learn to control the rest of their body first.


You see, the pushup is glorified in high school for a good exercise to get your chest pumped up. Getting ready to head out on the beach? Rep out some pushups first, then you’ll be good to go! But this exercise is about more than getting puffy pecs, it’s about body control. As a matter of fact, it’s more about body control than it is about getting a big chest. How’s that you ask? Well, if you break down the pushup and you hold the top and bottom positions, all these positions are are varying plank positions. So, the first thing you want to do is work on planking in at different levels. First work on your top position, get to the point where you can hold that for 60 seconds making sure to stay straight with hips inline. Next move to half-pushup and finally to the bottom with your nose an inch off the ground. You should be able to hold these positions for 60 seconds.


Once we have worked on our plank variations, we’ll work on progressing our pushup.



The best way to start when learning how to do a pushup correctly is with your shoulder’s elevated. This will allow you to be able to control your body through a full range of motion while not having to push as much of your body weight. Once you can do 3 good sets of 10, move yourself closer to the ground. Slowly lower your shoulders lower and lower towards the ground until you hit the standard pushup position. The goal here isn’t to see how fast you can do a correct pushup, it’s to perform the movement correctly from the beginning and progress your way to the bottom. After all, if you start with bad form, you’ll always have bad form.


From here we can elevate our feet on to a platform. This will increase the amount of weight you are pushing. Once your body gets to about 45 degrees from the ground, stop. Much beyond this point and you’re getting into handstand pushup territory. You can also place your feet on an unstable surface such as an exercise ball or BOSU ball to challenge your midsection more.


The pushup is a great exercise to use in your training program, so long as you’re performing it correctly. Take the time to learn the movement and you will reap the benefits. And remember, if it’s important, do it every day.

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