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Push-ups are a fantastic exercise! It doesn’t matter whether you’re starting out on your fitness journey or you are looking for a new challenge, it’s good to know how to do a push-up (which you might also call press ups!).
Have you ever had a moment where you’ve attempted one and then immediately thought to yourself, “I can’t do push-ups”? You are definitely not alone.
Push-ups can be tough, especially if you’ve never done them before! Getting the technique right is so important, so don’t be afraid to do modified push-ups, such as resting on your knees, when you start out. That way, you can work on your technique AND gradually build up your strength.
When it feels as though push-ups on your knees are getting too easy but you can’t quite do them on your toes, try adding an incline by resting your hands on a bench or chair.
When you’re feeling stronger, you can try reducing the height of the incline. For example, try swapping the bench for a step. When you start noticing that incline push-ups aren’t as difficult as they used to be, it might be time to move to a full push-up!
If you’ve given incline push-ups and the other variations a try and you still don’t feel as though you are making progress, I’ve got some reasons why, as well as some tips to help you, further down.
Just like any exercise, you need to make sure it is being done the right way, otherwise you may increase the risk of an injury.
This is how to do it with the correct push-up form:
While push-ups are an upper body exercise, they also a great way to challenge your core! When doing this exercise, it’s important that your body forms one straight line from your head through to your heels. What I mean is that you should try to avoid ‘sagging’ through your lower back or sticking your butt up in the air while doing them.
When doing any variation of a push-up, whether on your knees or toes, it’s important that you keep your core activated.A helpful way to do this is to imagine that you are drawing your belly button in towards your spine. Ensure that your chin also remains tucked into your chest so that your neck is long and an extension of your spine.
Because push-ups are a body weight exercise, you can do them anywhere! That makes them perfect for squeezing in a workout on holidays, if you’re travelling for work or you love a budget-friendly workout routine!
In the same way you can modify to make push-ups easier, you can also make them harder! When you’re ready to test yourself, you can try modifying push-ups to make them more demanding. If you’re no longer seeing result from workouts, it might be time to increase the challenge, known as progressive overload.
Try these ideas for push-up progression:
You’ve tried lots of push-up variations, including my suggestion for incline push-ups but you are still struggling. Now you feel like you simply weren’t meant to do a proper push-up, ever. Don’t worry — I have some reasons why you can’t do push-ups and what you can do to overcome these obstacles!
As I mentioned above, you need more than upper body strength to do push-ups! A good foundation is so important for every push-up, which means that you may need to work on overall strength and stability. Compound exercises, such as squats and planks, can help with improving your stability, while rows and chest press exercises can help you to develop more upper body strength.
Incorrect form means you aren’t getting the most benefit out of any exercise but when it comes to push-ups, it may actually prevent you from doing them in the first place.
When doing a push-up (as I explained above) you should be able to hold your body in a straight line. If you have sagging hips or flared out elbows, you are making push-ups harder than they need to be. It may make it hard to push your bodyweight back up, so you feel as though you’re not lifting properly off the ground. Try doing a plank with correct form in front of a mirror at the gym (or in front of your workout buddy) and see if there are any problems with the alignment of your body.
As you probably already know if you’ve tried a push-up, they can be tough on your wrists. While some joint pain can be the result of poor push-up technique, some injuries or physical conditions can also limit your ability to do this exercise. If you notice wrist pain during push-ups or any other type of pain that always starts with particular exercises, chat to your healthcare professional. Some conditions or injuries can make it hard to do push-ups correctly but there are always other exercises you can use instead.
It might be an exercise people get wrong often but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible to do a push-up following the correct technique.
As with any exercise, I want you to focus on quality first! There is no shame in starting with push-ups on your knees, or against a wall, if it means you learn the correct way to do them. Once you can do standard push-ups, THEN you can think about making them harder. Don’t be in too much of a rush!