Can’t do pushups? These 4 exercises will help you get there

Pushups can be one of the most intimidating exercises. I’ve been a personal trainer for over a decade and I still dread doing them!

The move itself looks simple but try to do one and it quickly becomes clear that it is one of the most difficult bodyweight strength-training exercises. This is because it not only requires arm strength, but works the whole body simultaneously, from the core to the glutes.

This is great for getting a lot of bang for your buck while working out. But it also opens the door for damage. When done incorrectly, pushups can cause muscle strain in the back, neck, shoulders and even hips.

That’s why it’s so important to learn proper form and start with modifications as you work your way up to full transition.

Benefits of pushups

Because pushups are a full-body exercise, they tone and strengthen the entire body. The exercise works the shoulders, chest, triceps, abs and torso. I also always encourage people to engage the glutes and quads in a plank position to increase stability.

Because pushups recruit core muscles to keep your body stable, you’ll also experience the benefits of a stronger core, including overall strength and stability, better posture and less risk of injuries. lower back injury.

Common pushup mistakes

Because pushups are so difficult and engage so many muscles, they’re easy to do wrong. The most common mistake I see people make is that their hips sink and the lower back is arched. The move is meant to be done in a plank position, with your body in a straight line. Hip slouching is a sign that your core isn’t engaged properly and it puts stress on the back that can lead to pain and injury.

To check if you’re getting this form wrong, do a pushup in front of a mirror. The body compensates for the lack of strength by sinking at the hips and arching the back. So if you notice this happening in your body, you probably don’t have the core strength to properly perform the pushup (or if you do, you’re not working the core properly to stay in the plank position!). To correct this mistake when performing a pushup:

  • Stay aware of your body positioning, specifically keeping your hips square and your core pulled tight.

  • Keep the shoulders over the wrists.

  • Reach the heels toward the back of the room and the crown of the head toward the front of the room, lengthening the spine.

  • Make sure your hips are as high as your shoulders.

  • If you can’t keep your hips in this position, try a modified pushup on your knees.

How to do pushups for beginners: modified pushups

If you can’t do a full pushup with proper form, that’s OK! Start with a modified version and work your way up. There are several different modified pushup options to build your core and upper-body strength and prepare you for the real deal. Modified pushups on the knees are one of the most popular modifications. And they are a great workout!

Start in a pushup position with your wrists directly below your shoulders and your palms flat on the mat. Instead of being on your toes, rest your knees on the mat and cross your ankles in the air. Pull your navel toward your spine, and make sure you maintain a straight spine from your neck to your tailbone. Begin bending your elbows slowly to the sides, lowering your chest until your chin touches or almost touches the mat. Return to the starting position and repeat.

How to do a pushup

Performing a pushup correctly takes some practice and self-awareness. These step-by-step instructions will help you get there:

  1. Start by getting down on all fours with your palms on the mat slightly wider than shoulder width apart.

  2. Make sure your arms are straight. Reach your legs straight behind you, tucking the toes underneath to get into a plank position.

  3. Bend at the elbows, lowering your body until your chest almost touches the mat.

  4. Pause in this position for a few seconds, then press down into the ground to straighten your elbows and push your body back.

  5. Return to the starting position and repeat.

4 exercises that will help you do better pushups

If you feel unsteady in your pushup, or notice that your hips are sinking and dropping back, there are some exercises you can do to build the core and arm strength needed to perform a full pushup correctly. .

Elevated pushup

Using an elevated surface such as a chair or wall to place your hands on while doing a pushup will allow you to perform the same movement but with less weight. It helps you practice proper form and gradually build core and arm strength. The less inclined you are, the easier it will be. So start with a wall, then move to a desk or table, and finally a chair or step. Simply place your hands on the raised surface, keep your body straight, and perform a pushup. Repeat this 10 times.


Holding a plank in a pushup position will help you build the core strength needed for a regular pushup. Get into plank position with your palms on the mat and your arms and legs straight. Wait about 10 seconds. Then, rest. Gradually increase the amount of time you can hold the plank until you reach one minute.

Oblique Twists

This exercise can be done with or without weights. Either way, you’ll work your core. Start with your butt on the ground and your knees bent with your feet in front of you. Keeping both hands in front of your chest, twist your entire body to the right so that your hands hover over the mat on your right side, then twist your entire body to the left to Your hands will hover over the mat to the left of your body. Perform 10 twists on each side.

Flutter kicks

Lie with your back flat on the ground and your arms straight at your sides. Lift both legs off the ground and start kicking up and down, alternating between left and right leg. Remember to squeeze your core and keep your back on the ground. If your back starts to lift, keep your knees slightly bent to allow your lower back to stay connected to the mat.

More ways to master the move:

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