Featured Image & Written By: GymIt personal trainer, James Tincknell. About 50% percent of my clients can’t perform one single push-up during their initial fitness consultation, and I’m not surprised! The push-up is one of the most well-known exercises in the world. However, many people find it incredibly difficult. This difficulty results in poor exercise movement, which puts undesirable stress on our joints and renders the exercise useless in increasing our overall strength.

The kneeling push up is thought to be an easier alternative, as it allows you to complete the standard push-up movement from the kneeling position, removing our entire lower body from the movement. This makes the exercise easier, but only partially engages the chest and upper back musculature responsible for coordinating the movement.

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This variation also removes the most important part of the push-up, core engagement! This lack of core engagement results in poor spinal and pelvic alignment puts stress on the front shoulder and does not allow us to progress in moving our whole body as a singular unit. The worst part? This results in virtually no crossover strength to the other exercises we perform in our workouts.

It’s time to ditch this variation, and work towards the classic push-up! There’s a reason it’s famous after all. Here are the top three ways I develop and strengthen this exercise with my clients over an extended period of time. Take a look and let me know if you have any questions! Together we can intelligently progress and strengthen this movement in a safe and efficient way.

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Try These 3 Ways to Strengthen Your Push-Up

1) Perform “Hands-Up” or Incline Push-Ups

Placing our body on an incline and performing a push-up from our toes will allow for one to move through less gravitational force during the movement. Not having as much gravity pushing us down during the movement will not only make the exercise easier, but it allows for one to maintain proper positioning throughout the whole movement. As we get better at the incline, we can slowly decrease the level at which we are inclined. This will directly translate into our functional strength.

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2) Placement of “Risers”

If the incline is still too difficult, no worries! Just take some risers or any block and create a platform underneath you between your chest and hips. Elevate that platform as high as you need to. When you initiate the push-up and move your chest and hips toward the floor they will come into contact with the platform and you will be able to successfully push yourself back up to the starting position. Progress from this by removing risers and bringing that platform lower to the floor. This will not only force you to maintain proper mechanics, but it will also allow you to practice push-up depth. The deeper we go into a push-up, the more chest and back musculature we are using, the stronger those muscles will get. The best part? That strength will directly elevate your own personal strength capacity.

3) Supplementation of Core Training

The main purpose of the core is to resist movement. This means that any exercise we do, the core provides an equal amount of resistance to prevent us from falling. So when we are doing a push-up, the core is working to stabilize us in the air so we don’t fall on our faces! Weak cores will always make the push-up inherently challenging. Consider including more core training in your workouts, such as deadbugs, planks, and hollow-body holds. Do this prior to one of the above push-up variations, and you will notice a more activated and engaged core during your push-ups. Plain and simple, strong cores make push-ups easier! And I can’t say this last part enough; push-ups will directly translate into our functional strength capacity and it will make almost every other exercise easier for you!