The push-up is the king of body-weight exercises, but not everyone can do them properly. Love it or hate it, it will never go out of style because of how effective and efficient it is – it works your chest, shoulders, triceps, biceps and core.

If you’re lacking in the upper-body strength department, doing just a single traditional push-up can be tough, let alone a round of 10! So, if you’re tired of watching people knock out hundreds of push-ups while you’re stuck on the bent-knee version, this progressive program is just the thing for you!

Let’s take a look at ideal positions and transitions so you can maximize the benefits of performing this movement, and finally do a push-up with perfect form!

Aim: Performing a standard push-up

Place your weight on your hands and feet, with your spine and head in alignment with your legs, hands just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart (palm flat on the floor) Keeping your abs tight, lower your upper body to the floor, flexing the elbows, then rise back to the start position. Keep your head still, and keep your eyes looking down. Breathe in on the way down, and out on the way up.
Push-ups done with your elbows in (closer to your body) put more emphasis on the triceps. Wide arm push ups with arms at a 90 degrees angle to your body focus on your chest.

The Program

You’ll train a single progression, 3 times a week (e.g. Monday, Wednesday, Friday) with a rest day between them.

Start at the point of the progression which is relevant to you. If you’re able to complete a new progression the first time (i.e. 4 sets of 8), move on to the next progression at your following workout. If it’s too easy, it’s time for you to move on.

The first set is a warm up set: go back two or three levels in the progression and perform that variation for 8 repetitions. Perform each following set to failure.

In each new workout, you should aim to improve on the number of reps you performed previously by at least 1, e.g.: (8,8,7,6) to (8,8,8,7)
Once you manage 4 sets of 8 reps, you’re good to move on to the next progression. If you find yourself not progressing, take a few rest days, then resume training.

Choose one of the following variations as your starting point and perform 4 sets of 8 repetitions with 1 – 2 minutes rest between each set. When you can complete 4 sets of 8, move on to the next exercise in the progression.

  1. Wall push-ups. To find the starting position, stand away from the wall and extend your arms in front of you until the tips of your fingers touch the wall. If you find it too hard, move a little closer to the wall.
  2. Incline Push ups. Use a box or bench, where your incline can be halfway between the wall and the floor (45 degree incline). The steeper the incline the easier the exercise and vice versa.
  3. Box push-ups. On your knees, with your spine and upper legs at a 90 degree angle. Place a towel under your knees if you need to, or use a yoga mat.
  4. Three-quarter push-ups. On your knees, with your spine and thighs aligned.
  5. Three quarter- push-ups + 5 second eccentric push-up. 3/4 push ups on the way up, then get on the balls of your feet and perform the lowering phase of a standard push up to the count of 5 seconds.
  6. Standard push-ups. Your upper arms should form a 45 degree angle with your torso, hands shoulder-width apart. Lower yourself until your chest and nose almost touch the floor, then push back up.

That’s it! If you follow this progression to the letter, you’ll be cranking out push-ups in no time.

Let us know how you’ve done!

Stay strong!