Push-ups or press-ups may a common exercise in basic calisthenics, but that doesn't make them easy. If you want to increase the number of push-ups that you can do in one set, you can learn to use the proper form and increase the number of sets and reps you can do the right way. You can also learn some muscle-isolation exercises that will make you stronger and increase your push-up skills.
Doing Push-Ups Properly
1Stretch out beforehand. To perform push-ups properly and ensure that you can increase the number of push-ups you can do at once, it's important to learn the proper form for the exercise, and to stretch out thoroughly before you begin.
- Stretch your chest by performing the warrior pose, gripping your hands together behind your back at waist-height, then extending your arms gently away from your body to stretch out your chest. Hold for a count of 15-20, gently stretching your pectoral muscles.
- Stretch out your upper body and your lower body as well. Push-ups, despite being a mostly upper-body exercise, engage your whole core, requiring you to be loose and ready to exercise.
2Position your weight on the balls of your feet. For the push-up, the balls of your feet should be placed firmly on a non-slip and preferably slightly padded surface, like a yoga mat. You can wear trainers for additional foot support, if necessary.
- If you're just on the carpet at home, it's good to have shoes on to help you grip the floor slightly and avoid slipping. In bare feet or socks, it can be more difficult.
- If it is difficult for you to do a regular pushup, start by performing modified push-ups on your knees instead of your toes until you build enough strength to do a regular pushup.
3Keep your shoulders back and your spine straight. Your head should be facing the floor, you neck as straight as possible to avoid straining. Keep your shoulders back, not scrunched up toward your neck. You want your spine should be as straight as possible without disrupting its natural curvature. This straight line down the length of your back should continue down to the heels of your feet.
- It helps to set up a mirror, if you can, or have someone spot you, to make sure you've got a straight back while you're in push-up position. Have someone snap a quick picture of you, to make sure, then make the necessary adjustments.
4Position your hands and arms properly. Both your arms and feet should be shoulder-width apart, though your hands may be spread further to make the push-up easier when you're first starting out. As you get better, you should bring them closer to shoulder-width for an ideal push-up.
- Keep your elbows in, however wide your hands are, and position your hands behind the plane of your shoulders. When you're in push-up position, imagine a straight line between your shoulders and the ground, and don't cross that line with your hands.
- Performing push-ups can put a lot of strain on your wrists. Use the outside edge of your hand, rather than the flattened palm, to perform the push-up. Some people also like to grip dumbbells, instead of doing flat-hand push-ups, for the same reason.
5Bend your arms to a 90 degree angle. Bend your elbows, keeping your back and your hips very straight and locked, and lower yourself down slowly. When your arms are at a 90 degree angle, push yourself back up until your arms are straight.
- It's not better to try to touch your nose to the ground, or to try to pop up in the air forcefully after doing a push-up, at least at first. Just focus on getting the mechanics right and keeping your back straight, if you want to eventually do more push-ups.
- Other varieties of push-ups, some of which involve deeper dips, done for added muscle-building, will usually involve slightly different hand positioning, and will be discussed in the last section. For the purposes of regular push-ups, don't dip further than 90 degrees.
6Keep your core locked. Done properly, you should start to feel a push-up in your abs, just as much as in your chest. Your core (abdominal muscles) should be tensed to maintain posture, but there should be no dynamic movement other than the arms, shoulders, and chest area throughout the movement.
- Try this, hold yourself in push-up position, but don't do a push-up. See how long you can hold it, staying very straight, locked in to the position. Where do you start to feel the burn? Keep those muscles tight as you do a push-up, and you'll stay engaged and straight during the exercise.
7Go slowly at first. It's not a race. Lower yourself in a smooth and swift movement, breathing in as you go down and expelling air outward as you push yourself up into position. You'll be able to do more push-ups in the long-term if you do fewer, more slowly, at first.
- If you're blasting through push-ups very quickly, it might seem like a good way to increase the number you can do, but it's important to focus on building strength at first, then worry about numbers later.
- If numbers are your goal, of course, your ultimate goal is to do more push-ups, more quickly. Push-ups done quickly are somewhat less challenging.
Increasing Your Numbers
1Max out. If you want to increase the numbers of reps you can do for any exercise, it's a good idea to figure out how many reps you can do at once, period. So, drop and do as many push-ups as you can do. When you drop down and can't push yourself back all the way up, that's your max.
2Do progressive sets of push-ups each day. If you're using your own body weight for resistance, it's still good to break up a workout into sets, allowing yourself brief rests between them to recover. This allows the muscles the opportunity to build growth more effectively than blasting through a single high-rep set, which is more stressful on your muscles and joints. There are a few different ways of arranging a push-up workout into sets:
- You can increase the number of reps per set that you do, adding reps slowly. Start doing three sets, with a third of your max number of reps in each set, before slowly adding reps to each set, bringing up your total number for the day.
- You can increase the number of sets that you do of your max. Do the maximum number of push-ups that you can do each day in a single set, then let yourself recover for several minutes, then do another set later. Slowly add the number of sets that you can do at once, then start slowly adding reps to your max.
3Try breaking your max into three sets. If you maxed out at 15 push-ups, do three sets of five push-ups, with a short ten second break in between each set. Do that for a few days, then add an extra push-up or two to each set the next time you try. Stay there for a few days, then do the same thing again.
- Eventually, you'll be up to 15 x 3 sets, and you can start progressively adding a rep or two to each set. Alternatively, you could switch to doing fewer sets of more reps per set.
4Try doing three sets of your max each day. If you'd prefer, start doing your max set, but with longer breaks in between. Using this method, you'll add reps more slowly, but your total per workout will increase very quickly, and you'll get stronger.
- Alternate 3 x Max push-up workouts with more sets of fewer reps. If you start at 15 reps, try doing three sets of 15 and see how it goes. If it's too tough, try doing 5 sets of 10 and see how you feel.
5Progressively add more push-ups to each set. However you choose to organize your workouts, start tinkering with your numbers to alternate doing progressively larger sets and more sets. Switch back and forth between the two to keep your workouts as dynamic as possible.
- Move at your own pace. Whether you want to increase your sets or increase your reps, there's no single way to start doing more push-ups. Either way, you've got to be consistent and do a number of push-ups that feels comfortable for you.
- To be on the safe side, you shouldn't be adding more than a rep every 2-3 days. You need to allow your muscles to get stronger and not overwhelm yourself.
6Try timed push-ups. There are two basic ways in which you can make a task harder for yourself: increasing the amount of work you have to do, or decreasing the timeframe in which to do the work. If you've got a good fundamental push-up motion down, see how many you can do within a set period of time, like a single minute, and write down the data along with the date, into some form of journal or notepad to track your progress.
- It's important to make sure that you maintain proper push-up form if you're going to try timed workouts with your push-ups.
7try to max out once a month. However you choose to add reps, pause periodically and see how many you can do in a single set, without stopping. You should notice results pretty quickly, however you're choosing to structure your sets.
- Even if you started at a particular goal, like being able to do 50 push-ups, say, it's important to keep your workouts shaking up, doing different types of sets and different workouts on a regular basis. It's easy to plateau if you get repetitive.
8Be consistent. If you do push-ups only every now and then, you'll notice a drastic drop in the number that you're able to do. If you do 50 push-ups one day, then stop working out for a week to celebrate, you won't be able to do that many the next time. All exercise rewards consistency.
- It's much more efficient to do fewer push-ups more regularly, than to try to a do a whole bunch all at once, but irregularly. If you want to do more push-ups, you need to do push-ups at least 5 days a week.
Targeting Your Push-Up Muscles
1Incorporate push-ups into a total health exercise regime. Though push-ups are a brilliant form of all-body exercise, you should also be doing other exercises to work concentrated muscle groups and promote total fitness. Other good exercises that you can do at home, or with a simple set of hand weights include:
- Russian swings
- Leg raises
2Do chest curls. Push-ups target your pectoral muscles and your triceps primarily. Another exercise that does the same thing and can be done with a set of hand weights is the chest curl, also known as the butterfly curl.
- Use a set of weights that will be challenging for 10-15 reps. Lie back on a weight bench, your hands together, raised straight above your chest. Keeping your arms extended and straight, lower the weights by spreading your arms apart, dropping them to each side, even with your chest. Exhale, and bring your arms back together above your chest to complete the rep.
3Do pec rows. Pectoral rows are a lot like reverse push-ups, and require hand-weights that are challenging for 10-15 reps. It's an excellent way of working out the same muscles and giving yourself a variation on your basic routine.
- Stand with your back straight and one weight in each hand, then lean forward at a 45 degree angle, keeping your back very straight. Lower the weights straight down, then bring them up slowly, engaging your triceps and pecs, flexing your arm at a 90 degree angle, like a push up. Lower the weight slowly. Do sets of 15.
4Try raised guillotine push-ups. If you want to start getting extreme and challenging yourself to do more push-ups, raised guillotines are a great way to do it. These involve basically dipping slightly lower than a traditional push-up, by raising the rest of your body somewhat. This isolates your shoulders slightly more than regular push-ups. Only do this if you're able to do basic push-ups with proper form.
- Put your hands on two barbells or medicine balls, to raise up slightly higher. Prop your feet on something of a similar height, if necessary. Lower yourself until your chest is even with the prop.
5Try other push-up variations. If you get tired of doing regularly push-ups, you can use the basic technique to isolate other upper-body muscle groups and get more out of your workouts. Try the following push-up variations:
- Planche push-ups involve propping your feet up higher, and help to isolate your chest muscles.
- One-handed push-ups involve putting your one arm toward the center of your body, increasing the resistance for each arm.
- Maltese push-ups involve moving your hands down closer to your waist, isolating your back muscles.
- Diamond push-ups isolate the triceps, and are done by putting your hand into a "diamond" pattern, touching your thumbs and your forefingers on the ground.
- Bridge push-ups involve hand-weights. To do one, grip the hand weights and do a basic push-up, then twist your body to one side, raising one arm straight into the air. Go back down and do another push-up, then twist up to the other side and raise the other arm. These are hard.
- Make sure you have the right stance.
- Go do some weightlifting. Build up the muscle groups used in a push up (Chest, triceps, shoulders, core, back, etc.)
- Do not overdo the push-ups.
- When you reach your goal don't stop or you're gonna have to do this back over and over again.
- If you overdo yourself, you will feel a lot of pain.
- This article is not responsible if you hurt yourself.