Push-up is one of the most popular exercises in the fitness industry. And it is the staple exercise, especially once you start with Calisthenics training. Very famous as it is, but still many struggles to do this very simple movement.
If you are just getting started with push-ups or in your Calisthenics training, and you still don’t have enough strength to do the full push-ups on the floor, you can do it in 3 simple ways:”
- You can do a kneeling version push-up
- You can work on elevating your hands to make the push up easier, also known as incline push-ups
- The negative push-ups
How to do the kneeling push-ups
One of the simplest ways to modify the push-up exercise is doing it kneeling. You will shorten the leverage that you are pushing with your arms; thus, it will make it easier for you to push yourself up.
Start on all 4s position with your hands just directly under your shoulders and your knees under your hips. Bend your elbows to lower your chest down to the floor, then push yourself back up. Make sure your elbows are pointing backward and not outwards as you bend down.
Is there any easier version of the kneeling push-ups?
Knees and hands closer
If you still struggle with the kneeling version of the push-ups, you can bring your knees closer to your hands, which will shorten the leverage a bit more. The only drawback here is your form will look a little awkward as your hips will be a little higher in relation to your shoulders at the bottom of the position, and you will feel cramped up, but this will make the movement more doable for the time being.
Partial range knee push-ups
Another way to make it easier is to go only to the lowest point you can do, which you know that you can still push back up. This way, you can maintain a good form with good control of the movement. You can place a pillow, books, or a yoga block as a point of reference for you to touch your chest onto. This will give you a consistent range to target and gauge your progress in the future.
Doing the kneeling version is great as you only need the floor to do it. The only thing that you miss if you are doing this version is the plank component of the standard push-ups which will give you a great benefit in strengthening your core muscles. Here is a post that describe more details about the plank line of the Push-up exercise.
How to do the incline push-ups
Find a stable surface you can place your hands onto, like a table or a bench. Do your regular push-ups. If you still struggle to push yourself up, try to find a higher point you can place your hands. Once you get stronger with the current level you’re working on, find a lower level to place your hands to progress.
The basic mechanics here is that “The higher your hands are, the easier the push-ups will be.”
One best way to work on your incline push-ups is doing it on a rectangular box that has unequal dimensions on its length, width, and height. You can start on the highest point of the box, then progress to the middle height, then to the lower height.
Incline push-up is my go-to version that I teach my students in my Calisthenics classes here in Singapore as this will simulate the standard form for the push-ups, which will give us the full benefits of the exercise.
Here is a short video I created so you can understand push-ups better:
How to do the negative push-ups
The other alternative for a beginner to work on the push-ups will be doing the negative version. In short, you just do the downward phase of the movement. You start in a high plank position, then slowly lower down until your chest is touching the floor. Then push yourself back up in any way you can manage to go back into the plank position again to start the next rep. Make sure that you go really slow when you go down, aim to do around 7 to 10 seconds to get the maximum benefit for this movement.
If you can’t lower down all the way with good control, or you are not able to lower down slow enough, you may not be ready yet, and you can choose to do the incline push-up or the kneeling version.
How many push-ups should you do?
As a beginner, you should try to aim at doing around 10 repetitions to start with and work your way to do 15 repetitions. Do this for 3 to 5 sets. Make sure you have adequate rest between sets (around a minute or 90 seconds) and give yourself a day or two to recover from your previous session before doing your push-up routine again.
It is important for you to do more repetitions at this level as you will build a better foundation with the movement, and at the same time, you will learn faster as you are logging more repetitions of the movement.
Make sure that you are working on the right level of your push-up variation when you are doing your routine. What I mean here is, if you can do 18 on the height you have chosen for your incline push-ups, then you are shortchanging yourself with the intensity. Conversely, if you are struggling to do 5 reps, then you are pushing yourself too hard. Doing 10 reps should feel like you’re doing 80% of your max. Slowly progress your way from there.
Is doing daily push-ups good for beginners?
I wouldn’t advise doing daily push-ups for beginners. Firstly, you are still learning the movement, and there might be some minor corrections that are needed to be done. Doing daily push-ups will cause you to fatigue and will most likely compromise your form further. This bad form over time can cause injury to your shoulders or elbows. Secondly, as a beginner, your recovery level is still very slow, and you may not be able to recover fully in between your daily sessions. This will lead to overtraining or just a plain loss of motivation as it will be too hard to do it consistently. You are better off doing 2-3 times per week for now. Here is a basic Calisthenics routine you can follow at home.
Shall I go for Wide, Narrow, or Shoulder width?
Another question is which version of the push-up should you be doing when you’re just getting started; the simple answer is just to work on the standard version first. Don’t overcomplicate things at this point; learn the basic movement and get stronger with it. Once you can do around 15 good repetitions on the floor, you can start exploring other variations.If you are based in Singapore, you can join our trial package for 3 sessions here to learn more about Calisthenics.