I started doing push ups when I was fifteen. I imagine at any point I could do about fifty. I never lost one push up competition in college, and always impressed those army recruiter stations with how many I could do.
I’m not going to spend a lot of time talking about why push ups are so amazing. Just trust me: They’re amazing. Push ups build strength in the upper body, define the arms and shoulders and chest, and don’t block range of motion, like the bench press.
I think everybody should be able to do ten push ups. If you can do ten push ups, you at least don’t weigh 400lbs, and that’s a good thing, I think. Once you get to 20 push ups, however, it’s time to start adding weight, or move to more challenging variations.
First, let’s do a quick review of the technique:
- Elbows in
- Forearms vertical at the bottom
- Back flat
- Body moves as a single unit–no waviness.
Now, here are 7 ways to do more push ups (or, in some cases, get your very first one):
#1 Sets Throughout the Day
Push ups respond to frequency. They’re an exercise you can do a lot of and recover from, because of their low systemic load. They don’t crush you like a bench press crushes you.So get in the habit of doing sets through out the day, even if it’s only one rep at a time. Do a set when you get out of bed. Do a set before every meal. Do a set when you get home from work, or while you are at work. Do a set at the mall. Do a set in a box. Do a set with a fox.
#2 Set a Push Up Quota
If you’re feeling ambition, you can set a quota. I like 100 reps a day. Don’t do it all at once. Follow rule #1.
#3 Alter the Angle
Altering the angle is a better progression than doing push ups from the knees. Elevating your hands to find an angle where you’re challenged, but successful, and lowering that angle overtime will get you to a full push up much more quickly.So start with your hands on a set of steps or a bench, and go from there.
#4 Control On the Way Down
Eccentric/Negative reps are my second favorite progression. Even if you don’t have the strength the push up, you may find you have the strength to control down. This will start to build the strength you need to complete the move.
#5 Try Hindu Push Ups
Another nice progression, and something different to throw in the mix.
#6 Add Weight
When push ups start getting easy, add weight. Try a vest, or put one of your kids on your back. Being able to move move weight with a push up will often carryover to being able to do more reps.
#7 Practice, Practice, Practice!
Ultimately, this is what it comes down to. Not to be that guy (but really, to be that guy) people struggling with push ups are people who aren’t doing enough reps. They aren’t practicing.