So you want to become a push up ninja huh? Good! The push up is one of the most effective full body exercises, and when you dedicate time to them they will turn you into a super athlete.
Being good at the push up requires not just upper body strength, but core, hip, and low back strength as well. While pursuing your goal of mastering the push up, you will develop strength that will transfer over into other areas of your fitness.
This article will walk you through a 7 step push up progression. This progression is designed to take you from the most basic of push ups, to the most advanced. Read to the very end for an outline of how to incorporate these into your upper body routine.
If you are a total beginner and cannot do a push up, start from the beginning and work your way up from there. If you exercise regularly and can crank out push ups at will, start from step 5.
Now let’s get started!
Step 1 – Modified Bench Push Up
This is the simplest push up variation. Just because it’s simple, doesn’t mean it won’t build strength and take you to the next level. It will! If you cannot perform regular push ups, this is the best place to start. You can do this on a bench or up against a chair.
Watch this video for a full modified bench push up tutorial!
Step 2 – Modified Push Up
This is the most common type of modification, and for good reason! It’s very effective at slowly incorporating the push up into any routine. The key with this one is to get full range of motion. Aim to get your chest all the way to the floor.
Watch this video for a full modified push up tutorial!
Step 3 – Scap Push Up
The scap push up is mostly used as a way to warm up and mobilize the shoulders. I included it in this progression because it’s a fantastic way for someone who can’t do push ups to slowly and naturally ease their way into a full push up.
Watch this video for a full scap push up tutorial!
Step 4 – Push Up
Although being a push up king is what we’re ultimately after, this is actually the middle point of your push up development. This is where you will begin to notice some true strength (and potentially size) gains. The push up is an often forgotten strength exercise!
Watch this video for a full push up tutorial!
Step 5 – Deficit Push Up
We add more range of motion with the deficit push up. This will build strength and power from the bottom position. Training with extra range of motion is a great way to add difficulty, so when you go back to the regular push up, it will feel much easier.
Watch this video for a full deficit push up tutorial!
Step 6 – Decline Push Up
This is one of the more challenging push up variations that you can do. Feet elevated on a surface, doing your best to get your chest all the way to the ground. Not only is this more range of motion, but it is at a deficit so it requires more shoulder and core strength.
Watch this video for a full decline push up tutorial!
Step 7 – Push Up Pyramid
This is a series of push ups and kneeling arm haulers that will build strength, endurance, and aerobic capacity with the push up. This is the final stage of becoming a push up king and is necessary to being able to perform a lot of push ups in a row.
Watch this video for a full push up pyramid tutorial!
How to Use These in Your Program
Now that you know exactly what to do, it’s time to learn how to use these exercises in your program.
First, you should incorporate push up work on days where you are targeting upper body pressing muscles. For beginners, my recommendation is to do them as your only upper body pressing exercise in your routine. For the more advanced, do them after your first chest exercise of the day (i.e., bench press).
Second, you should pick the push up exercise that you can comfortably do 3 sets of 8-12 reps of. If you are unable to perform 8-12 reps of a push up exercise, drop down to an easier variation.
Here is how to program these push up variations into your routine…
Weeks 1-2: Modified Bench Push Up…3 Sets of 8-12 Reps, 3 times per week.
Weeks 3-4: Modified Push Up…3 Sets of 8-12 Reps, 3 times per week.
Week 5: Scap Push Ups…3 Sets of 8-12 Reps, 3 times per week.
Weeks 6-7: Push Up…3 Sets of 8-12 Reps, 3 times per week.
Weeks 8-9: Deficit Push Up…3 Sets of 8-12 Reps, 3 times per week.
Weeks 10-11: Decline Push Up…3 Sets of 8-12 Reps, 3 times per week.
Week 12: Push Up Pyramid…3 times per week.
If, at any point, you plateau and cannot move on to the next push up variation, go BACK one step and proceed from there. After a 12 week cycle, re-evaluate your progress and start over.
***If you are more advanced and can already comfortably do push ups, start at week 8 and perform 5 Sets of 8-12 on each exercise for a 5 week cycle.
Getting good at push ups takes time. Before embarking on this journey, vow to yourself that you will be patient, and trust the process.
Remember to have fun with your fitness and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.
As always, please reach out to me if you have any questions!
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