Guide to your Better Push-up: Part 1

The push-up. Everyone can conjure an idea of what it is, how it looks, and what it likely works in the body, but not everyone can do one that improves strength for push-ups or other pressing. This isn’t to say there’s only one way to do a push-up, just that there are cues to consider to realize their intended benefits.


When you do a number of push-ups, you probably expect that you should be getting stronger overall and better at doing push-ups themselves, right? Unfortunately for many, that’s not the case. Push-ups start off feeling challenging, and continue that way, for far too long. And often, soon after things start to feel easier/pretty good, an injury occurs. Not because push-ups cause injury, but rather because the pattern with which you do a push-up can contribute to injury. Of course, then you have to stop doing push-ups for awhile to recover from the injury, likely losing some of the strength you’ve gained.


One of the most obvious benefits of push-ups is pressing strength. It’s important in everyday life, from pressing yourself off the ground, to pushing a heavy cart around Costco. Another, less often realized benefit of developing your push-up technique is how it also improves the coordination of your total body strength.


In my article, “A push-up must be greater than the sum of it’s patterns,” I share how the intention you bring to your push-up influences the benefits of that push-up on how you move – and live. Here, we’re going a farther to provide guidance on how to progress towards a push-up technique that you can enjoy doing for a lifetime – that will help you build exactly what you’re looking for, whether it’s strength, endurance, or something else.


Push-up Progressions: If you’re no longer making progress towards a solid pushup, try any of the following progressions based on where you feel stuck.

  • Deadbug: Work on these if
    • your shoulders typically hurt from doing push-ups, or
    • you’re not sure how to stack your ribs and hips.
  • Hollow Body Hold: Work on these if
    • your shoulders typically hurt from doing push-ups, and
    • you need to develop more strength in your rib and hip stack when under strain.
  • Push-up, Kneeling: Work on these if
    • you’re having trouble doing a controlled negative full push-up.
  • Push-up, Negative: Work on these if
    • you can do a negative full push-up, but can’t yet push back up from the bottom.
  • Push-up, Negative to Push-up, Kneeling: Work on these if
    • you can push up from the bottom part of the way, but lose your form as you do so.
  • Push-up, Negative to Pause to 1/4 Push-up: Work on these if
    • you can keep your form when pushing back up, but can’t yet push up all the way.
  • Push-up, Half from the Top and Bottom positions: Work on these if
    • you can push back up most or all of the way, but lose your form at certain parts.
  • Push-up, Full: Huzzah! You’ve made it. Once you’re here for awhile and feel really solid with it, you can consider advanced pressing options.

At each stage of the progression, you’ll find different parts of your body that seem to need time to get stronger or develop more mobility. Some areas to consider are your core, wrists, shoulders, back, legs and chest. Most important of all is how all these different areas work together as a unit to help you accomplish the movement in the most efficient and sustainably repeatable pattern. Take your time with each rep, reflect often to facilitate adjustments and be patient with yourself as you progress.

And if you want to follow a program that will help you break free from your current push-up plateau, click here to get notified when the 10 Minutes to Better push-up program releases – coming soon.

You’ll get access to 10+ structured 10 minute routines, all created to guide you to your strongest push-up at your own pace. It doesn’t matter where you’re starting from, because you’l have access to every movement, as well as variations that you can grow with.

Published by

Chris Gaines

I help people discover the impact of athleticism in their everyday life. With that clarity, they navigate misconceptions around fitness. With that focus, they pursue movement skills with intention and a larger purpose. All so they can face life's everyday challenges and grow with confidence.

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