Push ups are one of the first resistance exercises we learn. It's one of the most basic recommended movements incorporated in a lot of no-kit workouts, but many of us struggle to do even several push ups in a row. This might be because you carry some extra weight, which makes resistance training harder, or your arms and core aren't strong enough to execute the move.
However, there's a few things you can do to increase the amount of push-ups you feel comfortable doing. Hampton, the calisthenics coach behind fitness brand Hybrid Calisthenics (opens in new tab), has released a video helping those who are looking to improve their push-up game. Whether you're looking to get to 100 push-ups for the first time, or you're just hoping to get your first one, these tips can help you progress.
You can also check out our guide on how to do a push up properly.
Watch the Hybrid Calisthenics push-up video below:
Push up tip #1: Work on easier variations
"Even if you can kind of do push-ups, but only do two or three, the way I would improve is to work on easier variations," says Hampton. This generally means changing the angle of your body, which puts less pressure on your muscles. Doing push-ups with your knees on the floor, on an elevated surface such as a chair or bench, or even against the wall, can make the exercise easier.
Hampton states just as weightlifters will train with lighter weights to improve their strength, you can train these easier variations at high volumes to slowly build up your muscles and work up to doing regular push-ups. If you're an experienced calisthenics athlete and you can't do any more regular push-ups after a demanding work out, incorporate easier variations and work to failure.
Push up tip #2: Try floor presses
Bench or floor pressing small weights can also help you build up strength. The best purpose-built equipment for this are the best adjustable dumbbells, which you can make as light or as heavy as you want, but "soup cans, water bottles, or anything that's safe", according to Hampton, will do in a pinch.
Hampton recommends doing this on a bench or chair rather than the floor, which will allow you to pull your elbows right back and ensure the weights can touch your chest at full range of motion. Our guide to how to do a bench press goes into more detail on this.
Push up tip #3: Eat and sleep right
"I found if I didn't sleep well, then my push up numbers suffered," said Hampton, who also advocates eating a healthy diet, getting carbohydrates (and therefore energy) from high-fibre fruits and vegetables rather than high-GI processed carbohydrates such as white bread, fries, chips and sugary foods. Likewise, you need protein to fuel your muscle growth, but lean meats and healthy alternatives such as the best protein powder for weight loss will always trump processed meats like bacon, sausages and burgers.
A healthy diet and regular sleep schedule can help us drop fat, which Hampton claims can improve our push-up numbers by changing our body composition, the ratio of muscle-to-fat. If our total body weight is going down, but we're getting stronger, we'll be able to do more push-ups because our bodies weigh less, causing less strain on stronger muscles.
Matt Evans is an experienced health and fitness journalist and News Editor at Fit&Well, covering all things exercise and nutrition on the Fit&Well website. Matt originally discovered exercise through martial arts: he holds a black belt in Karate and remains a keen runner, gym-goer, and infrequent yogi. His top fitness tip? Stretch.
It only takes 20 minutes to build upper body strength and muscle with this workout
Workout This upper body circuit is quick to complete and effective for developing muscle and improving strength
By Jessica Downey • Published
Do multivitamins work? Here’s what a nutritionist has to say
Do multivitamins work or is it better to take individual supplements? We find out which option is better and whether you need to supplement your diet at all
By Alice Porter • Published