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Can’t Do a Single Push-up? Here’s How to Get Strong Enough to Drop and Gimme 20

Kells McPhillips

Kells McPhillipsMay 23, 2019

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Photo: Getty Images / Petri Oeschger


This week, I successfully completed about 100 push-ups. Since that’s about 90 more than I’ve ever attempted before, need I tell you that I’m sore? Need I tell that I did a majority of them wrong? Now I’m on a mission to master push-up alternatives that will help me get to a place where I can complete at least 20 real push-ups properly.

“A perfect push-up is basically the perfect plank that descends and ascends,” says Brandon Hirose, master trainer at Crunch Gym in New York City. In theory, it sounds really simple. But anyone who’s found themselves in a “drop and give me 20!” kind of situation, know it’s anything but. To get started with your journey, Hirose and Maillard Howell, owner of CrossFit Prospect Heights in Brooklyn, broke down four moves to build your strength for an on point push-up.

How to build strength with 4 push-up alternatives

 

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👉🏾Having issues building up to strict push ups? 👉🏾One technique Ive used over the years to help build upper body muscular endurance and strength that translates over to better push ups. . 👉🏾Here I am working with Adam using switches from the top of the push up to forearm plank holds. These can be done on a bench or slowed all the way down with 3,5,7 second pauses to make easier or harder. . 👉🏾Give these a try once a week in addition to building your triceps and you will have push ups over time!! . PS. ‘Drop your butt’ 🤓😂 . #TheBetaWay 🙏🏾 . . . . . . . #bodyweightworkout #bodyweightexercises #chestworkout #coreworkout #planks #brooklynfitness #nycfitness #niketraining #nikenyc

A post shared by Maillard Howell (@mnhowbeta) on Jan 30, 2019 at 10:41am PST

1. Static plank holds

No surprises here. Getting the good old-fashioned plank under your belt is necessary before you attempt any variations of the push-up. According to Howell, static plank holds teach you how to manage your body weight before attempting to lower it down and lift it back up.

To get started, get onto your hands and knees, then lift your knees off the ground so you hips and shoulders are at the same level. Engage your core, tuck your tail bone, and make sure your glutes and inner thighs are working hard.

Complete five sets of 5-second holds, followed by five sets of 10-second holds, and five sets of 20-second holds, and so on.

2. Eccentric Push-Ups

“From the top of the push-up, slowly descend to the ground,” instructs Howell. Then, you can get return to you high plank however you need to (using your knees is fine)! This move is all about trying to keep your body in a straight line and your core fully engaged.

“You can challenge yourself with tempo work and increase the time it takes to come down as you get stronger. If done right, this time should increase over a week,” says Hirose.

Complete five sets of descending for 5 seconds.

3. Tricep kickbacks

“The triceps are very, very small, but they’re probably one of the most powerful muscles in my opinion,” says Howell. “They’re the main pushing muscle of the upper body.”

To do a tricep kickback, place your left hand and left knee on a bench. Support the right side of your body by placing the right foot firmly on the floor. Grab one dumbbell with your right hand and position the arm at a 90-degree angle. Without moving the upper arm, straighten through the elbow.

Complete five sets of five reps on each side—using a lighter weight. Then work your way up.

4. Scaled push-ups

How you angle your push-up can make it a little more easy to tackle. So when you’re just learning, Howell recommends positioning a barbell at belly button height on the squat rack and practicing your push-ups from there. “The higher the bar is, the easier it is. The lower the bar is, the more it will mimic a traditional push-up,” says Howell. “As they get stronger over time, I’ve had clients just lower the barbell.”

Be sure to maintain that flawless plank position—even as you lower down and press back up.

Complete five sets of five reps. Next time, lower the barbell and try the same amount.

Speaking of moves that make your muscles quake, here’s how to get the hang of a pull-up, and how to master the donkey kick

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