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5 Steps to Your First Push Up

Push ups are a staple exercise, and one that a lot of newbies look at and think ‘wow, I’d love to do that!’ - and the cool thing is, with practice, you can.


If you feel alone in the sense that you can’t do a push up, you’re not alone. Many people can’t do push ups properly, or can’t do them at all.

So, if you’ve been wanting to level up with your exercise and training, you’re in luck, because I’m gonna share with you exactly how to achieve your first push up.


I’m here to tell you that it IS possible, as long as you practice. There’s a saying that goes something along the lines of ‘don’t be disheartened by the results you didn’t get from the work you didn’t do’, so remember that the next time you’re feeling discouraged and haven’t actually even begun to practice yet.


Push ups are an all-round fantastic exercise for both men and women, and the great thing about them is that they offer many variations to suit everyone. Before we get into it, I want to share the one thing I REALLY hate about push ups (or should I say, people?) is the whole ‘girl push up’ title they’re given, if they’re performed on their knees.


Listen, first of all, there are NO ‘girl’ exercises, and there are no ‘boy’ exercises. This immediately implies that women are incapable of performing certain exercises that men can perform, and it also implies that ALL men should be able to perform a push up - again, that’s not the case.


Step 1.


Setting the foundations


Before diving into full push ups, you need to be able to perform a good, solid plank. The plank is an isometric exercise that will build overall strength, and help lay the foundation for your push ups. If you’re unable to perform and hold a strong plank, then this is the start point that you need to work on first.


A good plank requires full body strength from head to toe, creating a straight line from your shoulders to your heels.


A strong plank consists of:

  • Hand placement directly under your shoulders (slightly wider than the chest)

  • A flat back

  • Your butt should be in line with your back and not sticking up in the air too high, and also not sagging too low

  • Core engaged and your hips level with one another

  • Shoulder blades flat and your shoulders not shrugging up to your ears

To build strength in your plank, you really need to think about engaging every muscle.


As an isometric exercise, you are utilising every muscle in your body, and that means you need to ‘switch your muscles on’ - it’s not an exercise you can be lazy with. For example, your hands should be actively pressing into the ground and you should feel as though you’re trying to grip the floor, as you actively press away, actively pushing yourself upward with force.


The plank is one of the main elements of your push up. Every time you push up, in every single rep, you return to the plank position. It’s important that with every rep, you return to your *strong* plank position, and not a weakened version. As soon as your plank position starts to weaken, your hips start to sag, and your core isn’t engaged, you will no longer be able to perform your push ups with correct form.


Set yourself a challenge on holding your plank over the next few weeks to build strength in this position.


You’ve nailed your plank, so, what’s next?


Before jumping into the deep end, there are some push up variations that you can work on, that are gonna build strength and get your body used to the push up position before being able to bash out full reps.


These exercises are:


Step 2. Elevated push ups (from a wall/chair/bench)

The lower the platform, the harder that this regression becomes. Starting out with the wall is the easiest option, and I’d suggest starting here if you’re totally new to push ups.


Raising your hands will reduce the amount of weight that your body has to carry, therefore it makes sense that the higher your hands, the easier the exercise will be.

  1. Place your hands on the platform and lower yourself with your chest down first. Don’t lead with your head or your hips!

  2. Keep elbows tucked in, and send them backward as you lower your body to the platform

  3. Choose a platform that allows you to do upwards of 8 reps. If you can manage more than 14 reps per set, then choose a lower platform


Step 3. Table top push ups


This variation is a great option if you have limited upper body strength, but still want to work push ups into your routine. They’re a good option to go for if you have push ups programmed into a workout, but don’t wanna skip them.


Whilst the table top push up can look similar to regressed push ups on your knees, they’re actually a regressed version of the regression.


This is because we actually bring our knees closer to the body, to more of a table top position, as opposed to shifting our weight forward into our upper body, like you do in the regressed push up on your knees.

  1. Come into an all fours position, with your shoulders stacked over your wrists, and your knees placed directly under your hips

  2. Ensure your core is engaged with a neutral spice, and ensure you’re not hyperextending through the back

  3. Begin to hinge at the elbows and drop your nose to the ground

  4. Ensure to drive yourself up through the palms of your hands, as opposed to just lifting using your back and dipping your head up and down


When you’re in this position, it can become easy to just dip your nose down and come back up very easily. However, I want you to think about the long game.


Think about why you’re doing this position. It’s to build strength toward your full push up, so you have to make sure you’re utilising the position to build strength, and not just to bash out as many reps with bad form as possible.

Step 4. Eccentric only push ups


Believe it or not, many people struggle to do a full push up because they’re lowering themselves to the ground incorrectly. Most people will focus on the pushing part, but if you’re not lowering yourself to the ground correctly, the chances of performing a push up correctly are slim to none.


Your upper body needs to be strong enough to put the hands on the floor for this exercise, so make sure you’ve done your plank exercises and built up your strength here first. Eccentric only push ups focus on the lowering part of the exercise, making sure to lower with control and keeping perfect positioning of the body.

  1. You should take between 3-10 seconds to lower yourself to the ground.

  2. Hinging at the elbows, keeping them tucked or at around a 45 degree angle

  3. Your body should remain in a straight line from your neck to your heels, with no dipping at the hips

  4. When you need, drop to your knees, but keep your weight shifted forward so that your upper body is still doing the work

  5. Once you reach the bottom of each rep, you can use your knees to come back to the top of the rep to reset

As you get stronger, the lowering phase will begin to take longer - and that’s a great sign that you’ve built strength! You can also intensify this exercise as you get stronger by adding pauses at different positions. A simple start would be to add a pause at the bottom of the rep just before you reach the ground (or elevated platform).


Step 5. Regressed push ups on your knees


Now you’re on the home stretch! Regressed push ups may look easy, but if they’re performed correctly, they’re technically very difficult. The further back you take your knees, the more your upper body is going to be working - and that’s what you want here.


Most people get confused between table top push ups and regressed push ups, because they look similar, but, remember what I said about the knees going further back? When they’re further back, they’re a regressed push up, and NOT a table top push up - and MOST importantly, they are NOT a ‘girl’ push up.

  1. Come into a table top position

  2. Place your knees further back, so you’re no longer in an all-fours type of position

  3. Focus on bringing your chest down to the floor, NOT your nose

  4. Keep your core engaged, and make sure you don’t stick your bum up high in the air

  5. Hinging at the elbows, keeping your elbows hinging behind you

  6. Drive through your palms, and make sure your core stays engaged as you come to push up


And finally, you can move onto your FULL push ups!


Remember everything you’ve learnt throughout these 5 steps, and keep your technique exactly the same as what you did during the elevated push ups, eccentric push ups and your regressed push ups. You’ve built the strength and now it’s time to put it to the test!



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