How To Start A Push-up Routine For Beginners

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Pushups can help you build upper-body strength, add mass to your arms, chest and shoulders and get your metabolism going. If you don’t do push ups regularly, you need a good push-up routine for beginners. Let’s look at how to properly do push ups and how to get going with your own push up workout plan. You’ll learn which muscles each variation work in the sections below.

What You Need To Get Started

Push ups use body weight for resistance, so you don’t really need anything other that yourself to do them. But some push up variations for beginners call for some basic equipment that you may already have.

  1. A timer of some kind, like the one on your phone, is helpful in getting consistent workouts
  2. A set of dumbbells can be useful for some of the variations
  3. An exercise step is helpful for incline push ups
  4. An exercise mat is optional, but can make push ups more comfortable
  5. A good pair of exercise gloves can keep you from getting calluses on your hands, if you worry about that

That’s all. The only thing that’s really necessary is your body, but the things on the list are good to have.

How To Get Started

Follow these steps to start your own beginner’s push up workout routine.

1 – Set Up Your Workout Area

You need an area of about seven by four feet to do push ups comfortably. Setting a dedicated space aside in your home gym, bedroom or living room will mentally reinforce your resolve to stick with your new push up workout plan. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Just lay your mat on the floor and maybe set a workout timer next to it.

2 – Learn How To Do A Real Push up

First off, you need to know how to do push ups. Forget about what your high school PE teacher taught you. I have nothing against gym teachers, but they’re usually off target.

You won’t get the results you want if you don’t use proper form. You’ll end up neglecting your target muscle groups. Worse, you may even wind up with a pulled muscle injury.

Here’s how to do a standard push up the right way:

  1. Lay flat on the floor with your chest and stomach resting on the floor. The balls of your feet should be on the floor. That’s your fulcrum.
  2. Put your palms flat on the floor. Your elbows should be bent as close to 90 degrees as is comfortable, and your hands should be shoulder-width apart. This video shows good push up form
  3. Keeping your back and neck straight and you core engaged, slowly push up into plank position while exhaling
  4. Pause for a moment in plank position
  5. Slowly lower yourself while inhaling, pausing at your starting position
  6. Repeat

Check this short video out to see the perfect standard push up form.

You need to practice to nail your technique. And you have to develop a rhythm. A good place to start is two seconds up, one second pause and then two seconds down, Pause for one second at your starting position before pushing up again,

Once you feel you have your form and technique down pat, and it feels natural to you, go on and test yourself to see how many correct push ups you can do.

3 – Test Yourself

Are you comfortable with proper-form push ups? Don’t be discouraged if it takes you a while. You may have been doing push ups the wrong way for your whole life. But it’s worth repeating that you have to make a habit of doing push ups correctly before establishing your baseline and creating your beginner’s push up routine plan.

We can skip the complicated testing. What you need to do is establish a baseline. Find out what you’re capable of. You may be starting out with two pushups per set. You may begin doing 20 pushups per set. We’re all different. Your starting line depends mainly on your current level of physical fitness.

Get comfortable, hit the start button on your timer and do as many push ups as you can in thirty seconds. That’s your baseline. That’s how many push ups you’ll be doing per set.

But what if you give out before 30 seconds? No problem, in this case the maximum number of push ups you can do before getting exhausted is your baseline. Your sets will be shorter than 30 seconds at the beginning of your plan.

If you really struggle just to do a couple push ups, you may want to start with knee or incline push ups. Check out those variations below. Try them both and see which one works better for you.

4 – Make Your Plan

You likely have a good idea of what you want to get up to. You just have to get there, right?

How to increase push ups for beginners? Progression is the name of the game. Start where you can, and progress to your goals at a comfortable pace. Your goal should include the number of reps per set and the number of sets per workout that you think you’re capable of.

Let’s say that your test says your starting point is five push ups at a time. Do a set of five, then take a 30-second rest. That’s one set. Try another. Your goal should be three sets per workout.

Once you have an idea of the number of reps per set and the number of sets per workout, you have your plan. Add reps to every set until you feel like you’re maxed out. Work your way up to three sets per workout.

And there you have it. You went from a push up novice to a beginner with a plan and a steady routine.

Next up is your push up challenge. This should come after you are in the habit of doing your push up workouts at least three times a week. Push yourself to squeeze in an extra set each workout. Get an extra workout every week. Progress beyond your comfort level. See some of the more difficult variations below to challenge yourself.

Push Up Variations For Beginners

Here’s some variations that can get you in shape to do standard push ups and challenge you to go further once you master the standard.

Knee Push Ups

This variation puts some of your weight on your knees, so you’re not lifting it. What makes this such a good push up variation for beginners is that it can build your push up muscles to the point where you can do a standard push up.

Start on your hands and knees with your palms on the floor about shoulder-width apart and under your shoulders. Lower your upper body until your chest touches the floor, pause, then raise yourself back up into starting position. Keep your back straight the whole time, as shown in this illustrative video.

Incline Push Ups

This variation will get you used to proper form. You’ll need a high exercise step or something of similar size. You can even use a cooler or couch. Get creative.

Imagine a standard push up, but your hands are on the exercise step. Start with your chest touching the step, instead of the floor. Push up until your arms are fully extended.

Knee-Standard Hybrid Push Up

This is a good way to work your way up to a standard push up. It requires the proper form of a standard on the way down, but the way up is like a knee push up.

Start in the plank position, in standard push up form. Lower yourself slowly to the standard push up lower position, with your chest touching the floor. Bend your knees until your knees are resting on the floor, and push up as in the knee variation. So the balls of your feet are your fulcrum when you start in the plank, but your knees are your fulcrum on the way up, as in the knee variation.

Dumbbell Push Up

Up until now, I’ve shown you easier variations. But you’ll eventually get to the point where you’ve nailed the standard and want something more challenging. The dumbbell push up is harder than the standard, but not so tough that it’s out of a beginner’s realm.

You still want standard push up form, but you’ll be gripping a dumbbell in each hand instead of having your palms flat on the floor. So what’s so challenging about it? You still have to lower yourself until your chest touches the floor. Try it. Your chest, shoulders and arms will feel the extra burn.

Diamond Push Ups

Triceps may be the most neglected muscle group. Everyone wants strong and sometimes massive biceps. But triceps are important for overall arm strength. And if you’re after mass, bigger triceps will increase the total girth of your arms.

Consider diamond push ups to put some emphasis on your tris. This video shows good form.

The only thing different is your hand position. Instead of being a shoulder’s width apart, they are under your chest. And your thumbs and index fingers are touching, so your hands are in a diamond or pyramid shape.

Push Ups For Beginners FAQs

Here’s the most common questions beginners ask when they are starting their own push up routine.

What Would Your Push-up Routine For Beginners Look Like?

Do you have a good idea as to how you’re going to start your push-up routine for beginners? It’s important to have a plan. And it’s even more important to stick with your plan. Why not begin today? Start with mastering your form, then test yourself to find your starting place.

Ask any questions you have in the comments below and share with others what your plan looks like. Tell us how you’re going to start you push up workout plan.

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Jeff Carpenter

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