The Physical Movement, Your Best Self: Simply Strength Series - 10 ways to build your strength with push ups regardless of fitness level and age.

Along with the squat and pull up, the push up represents one of the most effective ways of building ourselves and our young athletes up. So why ignored or done wrong so much? Let's fix that.

Push ups are regarded as one of the most beneficial exercises we can do to improve strength and overall condition level

Push ups require very little space and no equipment.  All that is required is the desire to do them.

However, there are certain inherent risks that prevent us from doing them regularly.

1.      They are boring.

2.      They require preparation and buildup. Push ups vary between 50-75% of our body weight, depending on the individual.  At 170 lbs, that is 85-127lbs of resistance, which when done without warm up or practice will often lead to injury.

Here are 10 ways to benefit from push ups while reducing risk of injury, regardless of fitness level , previous experience and time away.

1.      Don’t ignore your history.  If you have a history of wrist or elbow or shoulder issues, don’t jump into push ups. Wade into the shallow end by following the points below (see tutorials below).  If you are working with kids, their history is that they probably don’t have the strength to do full body floor push ups. Tutorial 1 covers that.

2.      A little knowledge goes a long way.  You do not need to be an exercise scientist to benefit, but taking the advice from someone who does not have credentials can do more harm than good. Understanding a little bit about proper movement and requirements to get stronger is a critical piece of the puzzle.  (see tutorials below)

3.      Start at the beginning. If you have not done in a while or working with young people, make the resistance lighter and focus on proper form.  

4.      Do not fall in love with repetitions until you can do them productively.  The goal is not to do 75 push ups and hurt your shoulder. The goal can be to build strength, perhaps fill out that T-shirt a little differently, add some definition to your upper body, burn fat, improve muscle endurance, and cardiovascular health.

5.      Understand how to make push ups harder and easier.  This first form of variety will not only allow you to progress, but also reduce injury and eliminate boredom.

Making push ups easier mean reducing the resistance. This can be done by changing the angle at which you do them.  On a wall, in a door frame, the more vertical we are, the less resistance there is.

Making them harder can be accomplished by moving slower, or pausing at the bottom of the movement, or making them hands free version. We can also add resistance via a band, or change the angle to decline (feet elevated).

Tutorial 1 and 2 below cover all these.

6.      Understand that slower push ups activate more muscle and faster speed push ups increase chance of injury.

7.      We don’t need to do push ups every day.  Gains in strength and overall benefit come as your body recovers, not during the activity. Give yourself 48 hours before going another round of push ups.

8.      Knowing the right dose comes with experience. Being sore is not required to improve. Start with doing a version of the push up until you get tired,  then come back day after next and make it a little different.

9.      Strengthen primary movers like chest/triceps and shoulder.  Bands are great to build up to have more control over push ups.

10.   Strength stabilizer muscles like glutes and core.


11.   Be consistent. 3-4 times per week.

Give yourself 30 days to build them into your routine. Once into your routine, you can vary them, and take them anywhere you want over your lifetime.

Most importantly, you will benefit from the increased ability to break a fall, roll around without soreness with your special sweetie, and toss a ball with your kids/ grand kids.

For training our youth, many of these same principles apply. Progress until full control then move to the harder version.

Push up Tutorial:

How to properly do push ups part 1:

2 minutes that covers the proper set up, impact of body position and speed of movement, as well as easing strain on the wrists as well as making them easier on the body.

How to properly do push ups part 2: 

Making the push up work for you means you not only know the proper set up (part 1) but how to manipulate body position to prepare the body, increase or decrease difficulty. Many of us simply jump into push ups without thought on proper form and body mechanics.  They fall in love with maximum repetitions at the expense of proper form. We have seen the 100 push ups a day workout ads? This is what leads to injury if we don’t have proper form.

Just a few push ups daily can make a massive impact in strength improvement if you manipulate the difficulty level a little at a time.  Make this a challenge, and get stronger with push ups!

You are worth it!