Over the past couple of months I have had an influx of ladies and gentlemen wanting to be able to do their first full press up, that simple but extremely difficult movement of pushing your body weight from the floor to an arms fully extend plank posture. I have seen all sort of variations of people getting up from the floor and calling it a press-up, everything from snaking at the hips to some movements I don’t even know how to describe and various arm and hand placements.
The simple fact is it’s just as much about keeping you core straight tight and unmoving from the top of your head to the heels of your feet as it is about pressing your body weight from the floor and arm placement. You have to learn to move your arms while keeping your core rigid as a bar of steel and for this I say no to press-ups from your knees its counterproductive, I will never recommend it and never use it to train my clients, there is a much simpler more effective and deceptively challenging way.
Stage 1: Start with a Wall Press.
This movement although seeming relatively easy is very deceptive, especially when you’re just starting out.
Face a wall, standing a little farther than arm’s length away, set your feet shoulder-width apart and raise your weight onto the balls of your feet. Lean your body forwards and put your palms flat against the wall at shoulder height and shoulder-width apart. Slowly breathe in as you bend your elbows and lower your upper body towards the wall in a slow, controlled motion, it should take you about 3-4 seconds. Your elbows should move back and out to make you like an arrow from the back. Hold the position for 1 second and the bottom keeping tension in your chest and arms, then breathe out and slowly push yourself back until your arms are fully extended.
Work on your press-up plank.
Learn to hold your core tight and unmoving in the press-up plank posture, the longer you can hold this posture the better. Always keep straight as an arrow don't let your hips sag or bridge.
Stage 2: Decrease the incline bit by bit.
Decrease the incline gradually over time, make the wall press harder by stepping back future from the wall, then move onto chairs, tables, the stairs anything that is stable, offers a solid surface and allows you to lower your chest to your hands while keeping your hands at shoulder width and shoulder height. Eventually increase the incline so much you on the floor all while keeping that core straight and true.
Stage 3: Start on negatives.
Once you’re on the floor your probably not going to have the strength to push yourself off the floor while keeping your core tight but you but you should have the strength to preform negative press-ups. These emphasises the slow lower towards the floor (again while keeping that core solid).
At the bottom it doesn’t matter how you get up but it matters about getting back into that press-up plank posture quickly, how far you lower yourself before your arms give way and your core shifts (you slump) and how slowly you do it! The slower and the lower you go the better.
Stage 4: Repetition repetition repetition.
Once you have mastered say 8-10 perfect negatives start attempt full press-ups the lower and press even if it’s one or two it’s a start! Keep at it and that number will start to increase no problem.
The 30 Days Press-up Challenge
This challenge can be done throughout the stages, I like to use it when a client has reached stage 3 or 4, however it can be applied to any stage. Its a great way to slowly build up the strength required while keeping it simple and consistent. It starts off very easy and gradually builds in intensity.
- Start by preforming a max set of press-ups (Wall-press at any incline or good form negatives).
- Divide the number of press-ups you did by half. For example if you did 10 with good form you get
- The next day you add 1 to this number, and complete that number of press-ups (5+1=6). Repeat this process day by day so 6 becomes 7 and so forth.
- Do this for 30 days, is starts off simple and gets hard towards the end of the 30 days when your doing 30+ press-ups daily. You can break the press-ups down as you wish, you just have to make sure each press-up is done with good form. Ideally you would do it in max effort sets but form can suffer on the last few reps so I would say keep it in sets of about 60-80% of your maximum.