The Push Up Pump

“Push-ups are too hard. I’m not good at them!” Oh, okay, well, in that case, let's just never work on them and never get better at them. Great idea… not. These are some of the most common phrases I hear when teaching people this movement. Good news is that you are not alone. This month we are going to talk about progressions, eventually leading you to perform a proper push up. When done correctly, the push-up is potentially one of the best bodyweight movements. It increases overall strength and stability. Often associated with upper body strength, they also require support of the core, lower body, and optimal wrist/shoulder health. Whether you are a total newbie or a push-up boss, the options below will aid in increasing your success.

How to:

  • Start in plank position: hands facing forward just outside shoulders, toes tucked, core engaged, butt squeezed, shoulders down from ears.

Sub: Start on knees or torso elevated pressing hands onto a supportive edge.

  • Inhale at the top, maintain engagement of breath as you begin to lower entire body in one fluid motion. Arms should be at 45 degrees, elbows above your wrists while your butt, upper back and back of head stay in a straight line. No sagging through the lower back.

Sub: On knees, lower torso to the floor keeping shoulders away from ears, hand/elbow position is the same.

-From bottom begin to exhale forcefully as your body moves back to starting position, attempting to push the floor away from you. Keep heels pressing back, fingertips engaged.


  • If you are brand new to the movement begin by elevating torso.

- Ensure you have the shoulder and wrist health to support your body.

  • Breathwork is huge. Inhale at the top, keep core braced, exhale as you come out of the bottom.
  • Keep the body in a straight line. Think plank like, always stacking the body to a clear line.
  • Arms at 45 degrees. Avoid flaring arms out creating a T shape. This puts unnecessary strain on shoulders, reducing length and strength of posterior chain for most.
  • No sagging hips. Squeeze your butt.

For the newbie:
Choose to start with torso elevated, work here until you are able to do 5-10 reps. Next, drop knees to the floor and work to hit 5-10 reps like this.

For the push-up boss:
If you are able to do 20-25 push ups from plank position consider these variations:

            -Feet elevated push up: Bring feet higher than torso on a box or couch.

            -Single leg push up: Lift one leg off the floor. Be sure to switch legs and keep hips from tilting in or caving through low back.

            -Diamond push up: Bring index and thumbs to form a diamond, keeping back flat, lower body, pressing back up to start position.     

Regardless of your current ability, remember that this takes time, and requires a commitment to moving well with proper joint and muscle health. In order to do ten, you need to start with one. Stick with it and enjoy the process.