How to do Push ups – Whatever your strength level

18 Apr, 2018

A staple gym exercise, that most people get terribly wrong! Are you one of them?

Try this tutorial video to learn how the correct form can help you to master push ups.

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Video transcript

Hi guys, Charlie Hart from Charlie Hart Fitness here. Today I’m here to show you four levels of push ups.

Push ups are one of the staple exercises we see a lot of, and unfortunately they are quite butchered especially by people who can’t quite do a full push up. So I will talk you through the variations.

Level 1 – Knee push up

Level 1 intensity is a knee push up. We bring ourselves in to an all fours position. Knees on the floor, we bring our chest down to the floor, and we push ourselves back up. Nice and simple, but certainly not easy.

The mistake I see most people make, is they keep their bum back and the bend only their arms. Doing it this way, we’re not really working the chest or triceps, we’re just dipping up and down.

Although that can be quite difficult, I’d much rather see people rock their hips forward. I’ll show you that again, push the hips forward then lower your body over your arms. Your chest and hips should reach the floor at the same time.

Level 2 – Full push up

Level 2 intensity is the full push up. I get a lot of questions about hand width here. It varies from individual to individual. If we go for a wide hand grip we will be working the chest more, if we go for a very narrow grip we will be working the triceps more. Typical advice is to start ever so slightly wider than the shoulders.

The same advice as the knee push up applies here. I see a lot of people dipping down like this [1:30], rather than bringing their whole body down. Or I see the inverse, which is where the hips come down first, and then the chest comes down. It’s just not as efficient, we won’t get as many presses. We will be straining through our joints, and not firing our muscles in the correct sequence.

A good push up should look like a plank.

Level 3 – Slow push up

Level 3 intensity is where we start to get more advanced with the slow push up. This is for those who can do 20-30 push ups pretty quickly. We slow it down, which sounds simple.

We bring ourselves up in to our push up position, come down nice and slowly and come up nice and slowly. 10 reps at this pace is going to feel magnitudes harder than 10 reps at a fast pace.

Level 4 – Arch push up

Level 4 intensity is the arch push up. I really like the next variation as this is how you can learn to do one armed push ups. These are called arch push ups. When you bring yourself down you favour one side, push up and then favour the other side.

As we become stronger in that movement we can set our hands wider. Still favour one side and then repeat on the other. This is a very tough exercise.

Then, if we are really strong, we can move on to our one armed push up.

Those are the four variations of push ups. Make sure you choose one you can do competently. If we can only do one or two reps, that’s fine. Think about slowing them down and picking up the intensity as we go along.

Charlie Hart is an experienced personal trainer, having worked with more than 100 clients clients in and around Cambridgeshire.

His interests in fitness, health and how they intersect help his clients to transform their bodies, sleep better and feel better in themselves.

Talk to Charlie today if you'd like help improving your well being.

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