Fitness Articles

You Can Do Perfect Pushups

Reach Your Fitness Goals!

Make your fitness dreams come true once and for all, starting with the classic pushup!

Pushups tend to be much easier for men, since they have greater muscle mass and strength than women. But you don't have to be G.I. Jane to master the "boy" pushup. Before you can perform real pushups, you have to build enough strength in your upper body to handle your body weight, and a strong core (a variety of crunches and plank exercises will help) to stabilize your body in the pushup position. The following exercise progressions will help strengthen the major muscles involved in pull ups until you're strong enough to do them on your own.
Time Involved: Two 10-minute sessions a week, for several weeks
Muscles Worked: Chest, Shoulders and Triceps
How to Train at the Gym
A variety of gym machines and equipment can help you build strength for your pushups.
  • Phase 1: Start by strengthening your "pushup muscles" by using the chest press machine, or by doing chest presses with dumbbells or a bar. Start with any weight you can handle until you can perform 2-3 sets of 12-15 repetitions in good form. Then move to Phase 2.
  • Phase 2: Continue to gradually increase the amount of weight you press over time, until you can lift about 80% of your body weight for 1-2 sets of 10-12 repetitions in good form. Once you can lift this, you can do real pushups—guaranteed!
  • Phase 3: Pushups! Once you've mastered Phase 2, you should be able to perform about 4-6 pushups or more. Congratulations!
  • Phase 4: To perform more pushups, or perform them with ease, work on your pushups regularly. If they still feel difficult, focus on the negative (lowering) phase of the pushup, lowering slowly for about 5 counts. This will help you build more strength so you can perform more pushups in good form. Continued ›
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About The Author

Jason Anderson Jason Anderson
Jason loves to see people realize the benefits of a healthy, active lifestyle. He is a certified personal trainer and enjoys running races--from 5Ks to 50K ultramarathons. See all of Jason's articles.

Member Comments

  • I trained myself to do push-ups using the training program New Rules of Lifting for Women. It included planks - I can now hold a 90 second plank, but when I started I could barely hold it for 30 seconds - and pushups at an incline. I started pressing off a bar (I used a bench-press bar, and have also used the Smith Machine bar), and then moved it lower (to a bench) and finally to the floor.

    I found the trick for me was to remember it is a PLANK, and to squeeze my butt. I can now do 8 in a row, but it will only go up from there. I can't get my nose to the floor yet, but I'm the closest I've ever been. I'll be working on perfecting that nose-to-the-floor over the next few weeks. - 6/17/2013 4:41:48 PM
  • This is my dream exercise is the Regular(military) push up. I will master it. I just have to get past the cramp I get in my foot when in the full plank position. :(

    My number to achieve is a mere 50. - 7/7/2012 2:58:40 PM
  • I used to do up to 25 "real" pushups many years back. Now, I don't know why my knees don't want to come up! So only girly pushups for me now! :( - 5/23/2012 6:21:36 PM
  • I am unable to do even 1 pusu-up at this time but tis article gives me hope. I will make sure to give it a try. - 5/23/2012 9:19:51 AM
  • WOW.. maybe if I LOSE about 80% of my body weight, then I can actually chest press 80%,... though I'll be too weak to chest press any weight! - 2/1/2011 6:08:04 PM
    I've been working on my upper body strength for a while. Currently I bench press 50 pounds, which is "not quite" 80% of my body weight ;-) Actually it's quite a bit less. However I can do about 8-10 perfect pushups in a row, and after taking a break I can do a few more. So I'm confused by the advice to work up to 80% first and then do pushups. - 10/3/2010 9:37:09 AM
  • Years ago I used to be able to do literally hundreds of pushups at class. Sadly this days appear to be long gone at least for now.

    - 9/15/2010 11:08:01 PM
  • I started a boot camp class at my gym about a month ago, and found it AGONIZING how often they worked in pushups! When I started I could do a total of 4 (regulation push-ups). Now I'm up to 30!!! It's amazing how much you can improve when you just keep at it, relentlessly! (having very mean trainers who don't cut you any slack helps too!) - 9/10/2010 1:29:02 PM
  • Stability ball push up are only harder when the ball is closer to your toes, but that still isn't as hard for me as floor push up, because the ball supports some of your body weight. - 1/17/2010 8:45:07 PM
  • I might be mistaken, but isn't pushups on the stability ball HARDER than floor pushups?
    Also, are there any suggestions for improving floor pushups. I can do about 8-10, at what my dad estimates to be just short of 90 degrees or perfect form.

    I seem to be stuck in getting to perfect form, and any more than this number. =/ - 12/18/2009 12:52:27 AM
  • The only push up I can do is a frozen I am going to work on my chest strength so I can do a proper push up - 7/16/2009 12:04:28 AM
  • I found out when I started Boot Camp that in all my 32 years of living I have never done a proper push up. I still stuggle with them, but hopefully this will improve with time and training. Thank you for the advice. - 5/1/2009 2:03:59 PM
  • I am definitely saving this one since at the moment I cannot do even ONE pushup with correct form. This will give me something to work with. - 5/1/2009 9:15:12 AM
  • great article. - 6/2/2008 12:24:37 AM
    The phase training sounds great and sets a goal that is obtainable. I am going to give it a try for six weeks and see what results I can get. - 3/24/2008 8:54:47 AM

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