Fit Focus: Perfect Pushup Progressions

All of us have seen fitness trends burst on the scene, and then fade away as fast as slouch socks and puff paint. Yeah, you all remember those days.  However, there are some exercises that will always be in style. Enter: The Pushup

Pushups are awesome for many reasons, but my favorite is that you can do them anywhere. I’ve literally done pushups in the bathroom while waiting for the shower water to heat up, or in the kitchen while dinner simmered away. Yep, I’m crazy. But we all know with a busy life you get exercise in when you can, am I right?

Pushups use your own bodyweight + gravity to condition and tone your muscles, and is a cheap, no equipment required movement that will tone your entire body. While most people consider the pushup as a upper body movement, because it mainly targets your chest and triceps,  your positioning in a pushup puts all your muscles to work from your toes up to your shoulders. This means you are working important abdominal and back muscles along with your legs and hips.

Also when you do pushups you are essentially doing a resistance exercise which means you are building bone density. This is essential for women, and can be as effective as lifting weights.

Tips to a perfect pushup:
– When in the “lifted” position keep a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders. (use a mirror to practice your form)
– As you lower keep your movement smooth, with no hip movement back arching, or belly dropping.
– Lower only until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the floor.
– Utilize your upper back, shoulders, and arms to push yourself up to the lifted position.

Don’t think you have the strength to do a pushup, or just starting our in your exercise journey? You’re in luck! The pushup is an exercise everyone can do, and benefit from, because it can be learned in progressions.


1. Wall Pushup – Start standing in front of a wall, place you hands on the wall and make sure you body is in a straight line from your toes to your shoulders. Using your arms and shoulders lower your body until you are about 2-3 inches from the wall, and push back up to the starting position.

*Tip – to make it a little easier walk your feet closer to the wall.


2. Incline pushup – Place your hands on a couch or low table in the “lifted” pushup position. Make sure you body is in a straight line toes to shoulders. Using your arms slowly lower until your chest is 2-3 inches from the couch or table, and then push back up to start.


3. “Lifted position” hold – Get into the lifted pushup position on the floor. Practice keeping your body straight and holding yourself tight in this position. This will help you feel all your muscles and how your body should be as you progress into a pushup.


4. Knee pushups – From the lifted pushup position drop to your knees. Check your form making sure you are in a straight line from your shoulders to your knees. Using your arms slowly lower your body until your chest is 2-3 inches from the ground, then push up to the start.


5. The Pushup – Start in your lifted position with toes and hands on the floor and body extended in a straight line from shoulders to toes. Slowly and controlled using your arms lower your body until your chest is about 2-3 inches from the ground, then push back up to the start.


ADVANCED PROGRESSIONS – when you want to get fancy

1. Decline Pushups – Place your feet on a chair, and hands on the floor. Get into the lifted pushup postition. Make sure your body is straight, and using your arms lower until your chest is close to the ground, and then push back up to the start.


2. Stability Ball Pushups – These are basically the same as the decline pushups, but you are placing your feet on the top of a stability ball versus a chair. These are much harder because the stability ball is a less stable base than the chair causing you to use more of your core muscles to keep your form straight, and perform the pushup properly.


There is a WIDE variety of pushup variations that work different muscles in your upper body, and also pose a new challenge using an old exercise.
For next Friday’s Fit Focus post I’ll be writing about those variations plus sharing a workout for you  to try hopefully incorporating some new pushup challenges to freshen up your upper body routine!


Pete wanted to take this picture…he’s a goofer.

Something to remember: While a push-up helps tone many of the body’s muscles, it doesn’t offer much in the way of cardio benefits, and it won’t help develop the “pull” muscles in your back. So be sure to include other exercises in your regular workouts along with pushups.

Something to try: See how many pushups you can do in a row with good form. Once your form starts to go south drop to your knees and see how many you can do with good form. Then to the wall until you are fatigued. Rest 1 minute and start again, try to beat your previous numbers keeping your form strong.

**Disclaimer – Everything I write is from my personal study and experience, I am not a fitness professional. Please check with your doctor and use common sense when training and changing up your fitness routine. 

Your turn: Do pushups intimidate you, why? Where is the weirdest place you have ever done a pushup?



3 thoughts on “Fit Focus: Perfect Pushup Progressions

  1. So I figure I’m already kind of ahead of the game since I can do lots of pushups on my knees. Does this mean I need to challenge myself and do the full on push-up?

    • You always make me laugh Narah! I’m pretty sure the answer if obvious, yes, you need to challenge yourself now. 🙂 I believe in you.
      Here’s what I would do:
      Get up on your toes for one full pushup, do it with good form, then drop to your knees and finish the rest of the set. The next set or the next time you do pushups, do two full pushups, then to your knees. Before you know it you’ll be busting out 10 full pushups. Actually, that could be your by Christmas goal. 🙂

  2. Pingback: Christmas Cookie Burner Workout | Fitness in the Kitchen

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