Pushups are one of the best exercises for building upper body strength.
They are superior to exercises like a bench press or chest press, as they engage multiple aspects of movement, and are not performed on a stable surface, which enhances the need for core engagement.
Push-ups incorporate the use of core strength, upper back strength, and require you to stabilize the scapula and shoulder girdle throughout the movement.
The other upside with pushups is that you can enhance the difficulty by adding in weight (with a weighted vest), resistance bands, doing them in a TRX Strap, or creating further challenge on the “Core” by lifting a leg and lessening the base of support.
While push-ups are a great exercise, they require a lot of practice to learn proper technique so you gain the benefits they offer.
Push-ups will expose any “weak links” in the chain, because there is so much involved.
Part of improving your strength and pushup count is to focus on strengthening these weak links.
Here are 3 great ways to increase your pushups:
Improve Core Strength
Core strength is the weak link for most people in a pushup. Believe it or not, upper body strength is something most people can maintain throughout the movement, but failure often happens with the “core”.
Start by incorporating plank and side plank work in to your routine to improve pushups.
Take 3 days a week, and complete 3 sets of each exercise, for 30 seconds per set, and 30 s of rest in between sets.
Alternatively, dead bugs are a great exercise for enhancing core strength. You can incorporate these into your routine like this:
- Complete 3 sets, 10 reps total, and 60s of rest in between sets
- Complete 2-3 times per week, either after your weights training circuits.
Check out the video below that demonstrates how to do a dead bug
Work the upper back
Having good strength through the upper back, namely the rhomboids, lower and mid trapezius, and lats, allows you to hold your shoulders down and back throughout the movement.
By strengthening the muscles that stabilize and hold the shoulders down, this will allow you to complete more reps.
Incorporate the following back exercises into your routine to strengthen these areas: TRX rows, band rows, and db 1 armed rows.
Complete 8-12 reps, and 3-4 sets…with 30-60s of rest in between sets.
Focus on contracting the muscles in between the shoulder blades, and getting the shoulders down and back to stay out of the traps. When you do a row, think about driving the elbows back and down slightly, as you pull back.
Practice and do other push-up variations
Practice makes progress. The more you practice, the more progress you will make in adding more reps to your pushups. Aim to do at least 3 sets of pushups to fatigue each workout, and do this 3x per week to see improvement and to also get enough recovery.
Second, as you get stronger from doing modified pushups on the knees, consider adding in an incline pushup from the toes to continue progressing
The incline pushup is a great variation to:
- Continue to build core and upper body strength when modified pushups get too easy
- Bridge the gap between modified and regular pushups. When you move on to regular pushups to the toes, it is close to a 33 % increase in resistance.
Incline pushups will provide a great “in between” version of the exercise, so you continue to feel challenged and move closer to full pushups.
Check out the video below to see what an incline pushup is all about
Always here to inspire and motivate you, David Macdonald and the Vitality Fitness Team