Pushups Are Challenging!
If you walk into a gym and see a ripped guy pumping out pushup after pushup, you don’t think too much about it. After all, he’s a dude, and as a general rule, we assume guys can do pushups effortlessly.
Of course, that’s not true. Not all men can pump out infinite pushups. While men do have the advantage of having more testosterone which generally increases natural upper body strength, they too must practice an exercise to achieve mastery.
For anyone, man or woman, who cannot do a pushup today, you understand how challenging they are! When attempting to perform a pushup you realize one or two things. Your arms are seemingly weak, and you apparently have no ab muscles.
Did you know pushups actually work out several muscle groups? In addition to arms and abs, pushups also workout chest, shoulder and back muscles. This is what makes the pushup such an amazing exercise and why you WANT to master the pushup!
How to Master Pushups in Three Phases
If you cannot do pushups today, I’m here to provide you with a guide that I’ve broken down into three phases to help you achieve your pushup goals!
Phase 1: The Counter Pushup
I found counter-height to be a great starting point! The amount of difficulty is directly related to the angle of incline. The steeper the incline (feet closer to the counter), the less body weight you are pushing up, resulting in less force on your muscles.
Ideally, as you increase your muscle strength, you decrease your incline (Feet further from the counter). If you are a math nerd, you may enjoy this article on how to calculate how much weight you are pushing up in relation to your personal body weight and level of incline on your pushup.
Choose your starting height, whether it be a counter, chair, or bench. This is your starting point in phase one, but you may even choose to have a few sub-phases if you want to decrease your incline before moving on to phase 2.
Place your hands on the counter, shoulder-width apart. Position your feet behind you so you are standing at the counter in an inclined plank position, with your body forming a straight line.
Slowly bend your arms and lower your chest to the counter, hold for a second, then push yourself back up. Repeat for a determined amount of reps. (guide provided below)
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Phase 2: The Modified (knee) Pushup
Once you have completed phase one, you are ready for phase two, the modified pushup. These have erroneously been referred to as “girly pushups”, but that is a terrible term.
One, it implies women are not capable of achieving a full body pushup, and two, it implies it is beneath men to perform this pushup. Both ideas are damaging and incorrect.
The modified pushup is for ANYONE who is working toward the goal of a full body push up. It is a stepping stone on the way to phase 3!
To begin, position yourself into a straight arm plank with your hands shoulder-width apart, your back straight and core engaged. Lower your knees to the floor, keeping your back straight. This is your starting position.
Slowly bend your arms and lower your chest until its just a few inches from the floor. Hold for a second, then push yourself back up. Repeat for a determined amount of reps. (guide provided below)
Phase 3: The Full Body Pushup
This is the end goal! If you are working your way through the first two phases, it may be a couple of months before you get here. And that’s ok! Slow and steady wins the race!
Last year, my goal was to achieve a full body push up. Just one! Even though I had been on this planet for over 40 years, I had never mastered a single full-body pushup, much less an entire set.
After working through the first two phases, I finally achieved my goal! It was a single pushup, and I was excited! My son recorded the moment for me.
I felt no shame in posting it to social media to show off my single full body pushup! It was a major accomplishment!
Work your way through the first two phases, and you can achieve this goal too!
To begin, position yourself in a straight arm plank with your hands shoulder-width apart and your back straight. Slowly bend your arms and lower your chest until it’s just a few inches from the floor. Hold for a second, then push yourself back up. Repeat for a determined amount of reps. (guide provided below)
Beyond the Phases
Once you complete the phases, what’s next? Well, first I encourage you to not slack off doing pushups. Commit to doing a certain number every day, whether first thing in the morning when you get out of bed or anytime during the day.
Commit to 10-20 pushups every day, and you will maintain a great habit of overall body fitness just in this one exercise alone. Slack off, and you may find yourself having to go back through one or more of the phases above.
Full transparency, I slacked off a bit myself the second half of last year. While I’m not starting back at the beginning, I am returning to phase 2. No shame, it’s just where I’m at.
I can still manage a full body pushup, in-fact I can pump out about 10 of them, but my form sucks…they are not pretty!
So I’m returning to phase two, with plans to not only increase my upper body and core strength but to develop excellent form.
The better form you have when executing the pushup, the more effective the exercise is.
Speaking of good form, make sure your body is straight, in a plank position with your shoulders, hips, and knees aligned and your core engaged, breathing in on the down and out on the up.
Did you find this exercise guide to beginner pushups helpful? Please comment below and let me know what you think!
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