One of the most rewarding experiences of working out, whether you’re starting out fresh or are a lifelong athlete, is achieving set fitness goals. Some prefer to have access to a home gym. Others prefer their favorite fitness centers with a full range of equipment. No matter how you train, fitness tests are some of the best bodyweight exercises to test out relative strength. One such test is the push-up.
The average middle-aged man should be able to do around 20 push-ups. To some this will be easy, to others, this may be challenging. But if you’re not at that level, no worries. We’ve compiled a list of workouts to help you improve your push-up performance. The easiest way is to simply start doing push-ups regularly. Over time, this will help you increase your overall number. However, it’s also important to train individual muscle groups involved in a push-up. This means hitting the triceps and core is just as important as the chest. Read on to see how you can start to master the push-up.
The chest is the central muscle for the push-up. Therefore, it makes sense that other exercises to strengthen the chest will help your push-up ability. The chest press or bench press is excellent for this. You can do presses with a bar or dumbbells, on a flat bench, or at an incline. For maximum training results, it’s best to alternate how you do this exercise. For example, during workout No.1, do flat barbell bench presses. The next time you hit your chest, do incline dumbbell presses.
A barbell takes less work to stabilize and is therefore great for lifting heavier weights. Don’t discount dumbbells, though, even if you can’t lift as much. They recruit stabilizing muscles that help in your push-up journey. Train for strength with this exercise, meaning low reps. Three sets of 3-5 reps will really build strength. Push the amount of weight you lift progressively, eventually exceeding your body weight. As your chest strength increases, this will translate to more push-ups.
Your triceps will also come into play when doing push-ups. Strengthen them by doing dips (also great for the chest), cable pull-downs, and skull crushers. Keep the reps low, around 6 to 8, to really strengthen the triceps. Note that when doing push-ups, the closer together you place your hands the more your triceps come into play. The farther apart you place them, the more the exercise targets your chest.
At the heart of the push-up exercise is a plank. Keeping your body straight and engaging your core while doing push-ups is important. You can do static planks, meaning you keep your arms straight and hold the pose for as long as possible. However, there are a ton of benefits to dynamic planks, meaning you move throughout the motion. Check out the seven-minute dynamic plank workout below.
This seems kind of obvious, but doing more push-ups will help you get better at push-ups. Here are two ways to do this.
- Move through the motion more slowly. The longer you place your muscles under tension the harder they have to work. Get in a push-up position and lower yourself to the ground. Focus on slowly lowering yourself, counting to four. Push back up at normal speed and repeat. By spending longer in this position you engage the muscles for a longer period of time, which will help with how many push-ups you can do at a normal speed.
- The other way to train by doing push-ups is to do push-ups throughout the day. Set yourself a target. Depending on where you are now, maybe 50. Maybe 100. Start out in the morning and do a round of as many push-ups as you can do. And then throughout the day, in between Zoom meetings, or whenever you take a trip to the kitchen, do 10 to 20 more. By consistently hitting 100 a day your body and muscles will adapt and you’ll be able to do more push-ups in one go.
As you grow stronger and increase your push-up ability, make sure to reward yourself and celebrate the achievement. It can be easy to launch into the next goal without properly marking our accomplishments. When you find that you’re routinely able to do push-ups until you get bored, it could be time to adapt your chest workout so you don’t plateau. Bookmark these seven push-up exercises for an added challenge to return to when you’re ready. These exercises can also be fun to do alongside the workouts above if you’re looking to push yourself to the limit.
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