The push up exercise has survived decades of change and progress and remains one of the best upper body weight exercises. It can be performed almost anywhere, because it doesn’t require equipment (unless modification is involved), and when taught the proper bio-mechanics, the push up is very safe. Still, it’s the one movement that, when introduced, elicits the same response: “I can’t do a push up.” In many cases, this is true. That’s why, when working with clients at Live in Fitness™, I have a step-by-step progression that helps achieve this effective upper body sculpting exercise.
There are many variations of the push up, but the standard push starts in a high plank prone position with elbows fully extended. The individual then lowers the body, trying to keep the shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line. Once the individual is lying on the ground or the back of the triceps reach parallel, she presses her hands and toes to the ground and reverses the order, ascending upward until she reaches full extension in the elbows.
One of the first things I ask from the group or individual is to let me see how they perform the push up. Once I see how close they are to actually completing a standard push up, I can determine where they should start in the modification progression. Below are four easy progressions to help you build the correct muscles in order to complete a standard push up on the floor safely and effectively.
Progressions starting from easiest to more standard:
Wall push up – This is performed standing and leaning against a wall, lowering the body as close as you can to the wall and pushing away.
Bench/elevated push up (Knees) – This is performed on a bench or some sturdy horizontal apparatus that can support your weight such as a ledge or bar, lowering the body as close as you can to the bench or apparatus and pushing away. The bar can start high and be lowered depending on how comfortable you are with the movement. You can lower your knees to the floor once you make it to close enough to the floor to do so.
Knee push up (Ground) – This is performed with your knees on the ground and your hands on the ground. Your body stays in a nice straight line through your shoulders, hips and knees, lowering until you are completely lying on the floor. Once you have reached this position, keep that straight line and push back up to full elbow extension.
Standard push up with knee – Starting in the standard high plank prone position with elbows fully extended, lower your body in a nice straight line through your shoulders, hips and feet until you are lying on the ground. From here you will push up to your knees. Once you have pushed to your knees, you will then push your toes into the ground and lift your knees off the ground until you are back in the high plank prone position with elbows fully extended.
Here is another great article for some push up exercise