If you’ve never been able to do a full push up, you’re not alone. Many people feel self-conscious about not being able to do a push up, and are afraid to do them. I was one of these people. My push-up journey started with me being unable to do even a modified push up. When I went to my first barre class, I was really nervous about push ups, because I knew I couldn’t do them, and I was so worried about embarrassing myself. The instructor offered me a modification I could do: push ups with my hands on the barre. I could do it! I was so proud of myself.
After that first time, I felt more confident. I wouldn’t say I felt super-confident, and I still felt self-conscious about doing an incline push up–at first. As time went on, I became more comfortable with it, because I was doing the best I could and I was trying. No one could ask for more.
Over time, I built up the strength to do push ups. I eventually went on to modified push ups, then being able to do a couple full push-ups in a row. When doing Kayla Itsines’ BBG, you’ll need to get better at push ups–there are a ton of them! The day I was able to do 15 push-ups in a row, I felt like I could conquer the world!
This post outlines how you can improve your push ups and get to a point where you can do a full push up.
Tip: Record yourself doing your push ups so you can review your form later.
Step 1: Incline Push Ups
Incline push ups like these can be done on different surfaces, getting closer to the ground as you improve. I started these with a large angle, like I’m doing here, in my home on the edge of my kitchen counter. I didn’t have the strength to go lower and couldn’t hold my body in a plank position at smaller angles. You can also do them against furniture like sturdy tables and couches as you get stronger. Making sure your body is straight is so critical to improving, so find the angle where you’re able to hold a plank and do as many as you can.
Step 2: Modified Push Ups and Planks
You need to improve two things as you progress in your push ups: your chest and shoulder strength and mobility, and holding your body in a plank position as you move. Modified push ups on their own aren’t the most effective way to progress in push ups, in my opinion. You need to be able to hold a plank to make sure you have good form while doing a full push up. Modified push ups and planks go hand-in-hand at this stage.
Modified Push Ups
Begin in a modified high plank position, with your lower quads on a mat and your hands to the side of your body. Lower your torso down to a couple inches above the mat so that your elbows are at a 90 degree angle, and then push yourself back up to a modified high plank. Be careful not to be resting on your knee caps, and make sure your neck is in a neutral position.
Play around with your hand position. A wide stance (like shown here) will require less strength in your pecs and triceps, and more strength in your biceps. Try push ups with your hands wide and hands closer to your body to see what works best for you. As you progress, you’ll want to practice push ups with varying hand positions to strengthen the different muscles.
Start in a high plank and hold for 10 seconds. Your hands should be directly below your shoulders, and your glutes, quads, and core should be engaged to make sure your lower back doesn’t curl. After holding, bring yourself down to a low (aka forearm) plank one arm at a time, and hold for 10 seconds. Your elbows should now be below your shoulders, and your glue, quads, and core still engaged. Push yourself back up to a high plank and repeat. If you find this easy, increase the time you are holding each plank.
Step 3: Full Push Ups
Push ups are moving planks. Get into a plank position, with your hands wider and back towards your feet a little instead of in line with your shoulders. From there, lower your plank to a few inches above the ground so your elbows are at a 90 degree angle, and then push yourself back up, all while keeping your body still and muscles engaged.
There are a ton of different variations of push ups, all which target different muscles. Adjusting where your hand and elbows are will let you change which muscles are working. Don’t be afraid of trying different positions!
Tip: Don’t rush through push ups every day. At least occasionally, throw in some super slow push ups to build up that muscle. You won’t be able to do as many, but it will be just as challenging.