Although they are dreaded by most, the push-up may be one of the best bang for your buck exercises. By holding yourself in a rigid plank position while using the upper extremity to control the movement, we add more focus on core and lower extremity stability. The problem is that most people always try them from the floor, even when that may exceed their skill level. On the other end of the spectrum, doing push-ups from the floor may become too easy for more advanced exercisers. Today I would like to spotlight a great push-up progression which allows all exercisers of any ability level to complete them successfully and continue to progress without having to do tons of repetitions.
Let’s first take a look at the incline push-up. By angling the body with the head higher than the feet using a squat rack or bench, you can decrease the difficulty of normal push-ups. This is a great starting point for people who either lack the upper body strength or do NOT keep their body perfectly in a straight line.
Once the incline push-up is mastered with proper core stability and upper body strength, we can slowly lower the person down to the ground until they are in the regular push-up position. Notice the exercise didn’t change whatsoever but it allowed us to take a step back before trying the regular push-up. These could also be made more difficult by adding a weight vest or chains to increase external resistance.
The next step after push-ups from the ground are feet elevated push-ups. This position adds more weight towards the upper body. Again, the exercise never changes, just the angle of inclination. External resistance such as a weight vest or chains can be added to the body to increase difficulty.
Lastly, the final step in the push-up progression is the TRX feet elevated push-ups. This is the same as the last push-up, but by utilizing the TRX we now make the exercise more unstable, therefore relying on a greater degree of shoulder and core stability. The TRX feet elevated version is usually where I call it quits with my clients. At this stage if they can still bang out plenty of repetitions I will make sure to add some type of external load.
I highly recommend finding your push-up starting point and adding these into your exercise program. Really focus on holding a rigid position with the legs locked out. Since you are using a significant amount of muscles to create movement and maintain stability, there is more benefit than doing a chest press and front planks separately.
Garrett McLaughlin is an Athletic Trainer and Personal Trainer in Nashville, TN. He creates personal training and injury rehabilitation programs for the general population and athletes. Garrett is passionate about not only working one-on-one with clients, but educating them on health & wellness so they can continue making positive choices throughout their lives. Check out Garrett’s Facebook wellness page for more frequent information.