Push-ups are one of those exercises with name recognition - like crunches and squats - even people who don't exercise know what they are. As a trainer I love push-ups because they provide a fantastic upper body and core workout, but since they don't require equipment they can literally be done anywhere.
The problem is that even though everyone knows what they are, and tonnes of people include them in their routine, most people struggle to master a perfect full body push-up.
That struggle can be SO frustrating!
Believe me, I get it. I have been practicing for years and my push-ups still need work. But let me tell you, they are for sure better than they used to be. I drastically improved my push-up strength and my range of motion by following the below progression.
The main take-away so far: you too can improve your push-up. Just follow these four steps!
Step 1: If you have never worked out before, start by doing a few exercises that simulate the motion of a push-up, such as flat and inclined bench presses. These exercises wake-up the muscles needed for push-ups, but they don't require you to support your body weight. Work in a rep range that allows you to lift heavy-enough weights. Lots of people, especially woman, primarily lift light weights for 15 reps. If you want to get better at push-ups you need to be able to support your body weight, so incorporate cycles where you lift heavier weights for six to 10 reps.
Stage 2: Do "negative" push-ups. If you have never tried push-ups, start by doing negatives from your knees. Then progress to doing them from your toes. If you have been trying push-ups for years, but still struggle to do full range push-ups, do negatives from your toes.
Negative push-ups: Get into a push-up position on your knees or toes depending on your level. Lower yourself as slowly as possible all the way to the ground (a count of 8 to 10). Make sure your chest, not your pelvis, hits the ground first. Rather than pushing yourself back to the starting position, let your chest rest on the ground, then push your bum back over your feet to get up.
Step 3: Do "negative combo" push-ups: start in a push-up position from your toes. Lower yourself down for 10-20 counts. Make sure your chest hits the ground first. Keep your core engaged. Then place your knees on the ground, lift your pelvis slightly off of the ground and push-up without using any momentum.
Negative push-ups are useful because they allow the body to get used to working in a larger range of range.
Step 4: Congratulations - you get to try full push-ups. Aim for 3-5 reps with impeccable form. Don't round or arch your back. Engage your core and your bum.