Think learning to do a real pushup is impossible? Think again! Here’s how to do a push up and why it’s worth doing. I finally learned how to do a push up after years of going about it all wrong. Pushups are an amazing whole body exercise and worth mastering to get the benefits. Free printable pushup tracker included.
I FINALLY Learn How to do a Pushup!
I made it a goal almost two years ago to learn how to do a full body pushup. You know, the pushup where your body is straight and that seems impossible to most of us women.
I worked really hard for a long time, building up the number of modified pushups with knees bent, often called “girl’s pushups,” that I could do. To my surprise, even after getting to the point where I could do 50+ modified pushups, I couldn’t do a single full body pushup.
That’s when I began to research and learned that I was doing it all wrong! Some articles I read said that pushups done with knees on the floor don’t EVER lead to being able to do a full body pushup. That was true for me—I was not even able to do one. It was so disappointing. Of course there are benefits to what I was doing. My arms looked good but I was not reaching a goal I wanted to reach.
So, before you dismiss the idea of learning to do a full pushup, I want to share some of the benefits that are unique to the full pushup. It has way more benefits than the knee on the floor pushups and I hope this will encourage you to consider training your body to do this great exercise.
Why You Should Learn How to do a Pushup (The benefits of doing pushups)
Pushups give you an amazing looking shoulder, back and chest.
Pushups use many muscles in your body This exercise truly uses all your major muscle groups and forces them to work together, making it one of the most efficient exercises there is.
Pushups are great for your abs. Getting a tight midsection can be challenging. Pushups, with all the strength and stabilizing required give the abs a thorough workout.
Pushups improve your posture. Good posture not only makes us look fitter, it can make you look younger.
Pushups work stabilizing muscles as well as your major muscles. This helps protect against injury.
Pushups can be done almost anywhere, without special equipment, and they are free.
Pushups teach your body balance and stability.
Pushups build confidence!
My Favorite App to Learn How to Do a Pushup
I use an app on my phone to help me keep track. It’s call 100 Pushups and it was free when I got it. You do an initial test and then it gives you a workout. Pushups are performed in five sets. So, even if you can only do 1 or 2 pushups at first, it will tailor the workout to your ability.
If you aren’t able to complete all the reps in each set, you can repeat that workout until you can. It keeps track of your progress and allows you to advance at your own speed. I often have to repeat workouts several times until I can go to a new level.
The Trick to Learning How to Do a Pushup
Here’s the trick to learning to do a pushup. Start on an incline. You can start against the wall. Or on a kitchen counter. It’s okay if you can only do a couple. Start where you can at least do one.
When I started doing my pushups on an incline, I used the back of living room chair that was at a height that was challenging. For my next lower incline I took a cushion off my couch and used the couch frame. It is about fifteen inches off the ground. When I tried that level, I really only could do one repetition. But I kept at it and soon my body began to understand what it needed to do to stabilize me.
And it was hard even though it was on an incline. No matter how hard one is, if you can do one, you can progress. If you can’t do one, then find a higher incline and work on that for a while. It took me a few months to brave doing one on the floor but I did get there.
Here are some specific directions for different levels of incline pushups:
Against the Wall Pushups
Start with standing pushups on the wall. Stand an arm’s length away from the wall with feet shoulder-width apart and hands flat on the wall.
Keeping a flat back, slowly lean in until your chest is almost touching the wall, bending and tucking the elbows close to the body.
On a Bench Pushups (or your couch)
Once you can perform your pushups correctly against the wall, move to a lower incline on an exercise bench if you have one. I didn’t, so I experimented with some furniture and found a challenging AND stable height using my couch with the cushions removed.
With your hands on a bench and feet straight behind the body, perform a normal pushup, keeping your elbows close to the body. This is going to be much more difficult than against the wall. Just keep at it and your body will get the hang of it. Your arm strength is just part of the equation. Your core, shoulders, back, legs, and butt also need to learn how to do this move.
On the Floor Pushups
Start in plank position, with your hands under but slightly outside of your shoulders.
Lower your body until your chest nearly touches the floor. Keep your core as stable as possible. Tuck your elbows close to your body as you lower towards the floor. Pause briefly, then push yourself back to starting position. Repeat. If your body sags, consider that your last rep and end this set.
Some final words on how to do a pushup
In my list of benefits, I said that pushups give you confidence. It’s really true. Very few women can do a proper pushup. No, it doesn’t come easily or naturally but with perseverance and a system, it’s totally doable. I feel more confident about everything since learning how to do a pushup. Even though I was in good shape without being able to do one, I feel stronger and more stable all over.
For whatever reason, I feel extremely proud of being able to do this. Maybe because for so long, I thought it was impossible. Now having learned to do an “impossible” thing, maybe there are other “impossible” things to attempt.
So, if learning how to do a pushup is something you’ve been wanting to do, I really encourage you to give it a try. Keep in mind that it’s a process and it might take weeks or months to do that proper pushup. But you are getting benefits to your body no matter where you begin or how long it takes.
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I'm a former counselor, career services leader, and college advisor. Now I coach and write at My Think Big Life promoting health and personal growth.