Can't Perform a Single Push-up? Watch this.

Push-up Progression

  1. Start with a platform height that allows you to perform 5 sets of 8 reps, with at least a few reps left in the tank after each set. Rest for about 2 minutes between sets (more or less, depending on how you feel). The initial platform height should be EASY. Things will become more challenging as the weeks progress.
     
  2. Each week you will remove a riser-level from the platform set-up, but you will continue to perform 5x8. Each week your goal is to perform 40 total reps with good form.
     
  3. When you train 5x8, that is your primary push-up day, but you will also have a secondary push-up day in which you will use the same platform height and perform 3 sets of max reps UP TO 12 reps. That is, you will do as many reps as you can for 3 sets, but you are not to exceed 12 reps per set. The secondary push-up day is performed weekly as well, and should be at least 2 days apart from your primary push-up day.
     
  4. As the weeks progress, you may find that you cannot perform 5 sets of 8 reps. If this is the case, perform more sets with fewer reps per set, while still achieving the total 40 reps. For example, instead of 5 sets of 8, you could do 8 sets of 5, or 10 sets of 4. Or, you could do [2 sets of 8] + [4 sets of 5] + [1 set of 4]. However, stick to 5x8 for as long as you can. When you change your [sets] x [reps], keep them as close to 5x8 as you can. For example, don’t do 10 sets of 4 if you are capable of 8 sets of 5.
     
  5. If you get to the point where you can’t perform sets of 3 reps or more, go back to the initial platform height that you used on week 1 and restart the progression, but this time performing 4 sets of 10 reps. Use the same progression described in step 2 – decrease the platform height by 1 riser-level per week, while performing 4x10 for as long as you can (increasing sets while reducing reps per set as necessary). All that being said, the gradual progression of removing 1 riser-level per week should make step 4 unnecessary for most people.
     
  6. Follow steps 1 through 4 (or 5 if necessary) until you are able to perform a regular push-up!
     
  7. This push-up progression can be included in your current program, just make sure to prioritize it by:
    1. Performing the push-ups as your first exercise if you use an upper/lower program.
    2. Performing the push-ups as your first upper body exercise if you use a total body program.

Summary

  • Decrease the platform set-up height by 1 riser-level per week.
     
  • On your primary push-up day, complete 40 total reps each week.
     
  • On your secondary push-up day, perform 3 sets of max reps (up to 12 reps per set) each week.
     
  • Stick to 5 sets of 8 reps for as many weeks as you can.
     
  • Increase sets and decrease reps as needed as the weeks progress.
     
  • When you change [sets] x [reps], keep them as close to 5x8 as you can.
     
  • Don’t allow sets of less than 3 reps (unless you have just one odd set left to finish your total of 40 reps). If you get to the point where you’d need to perform more than half of your sets of less than 3 reps to achieve your total 40 reps, go back to your initial platform height from week 1 and start again with the same progression, but doing 4 sets of 10 reps.
     
  • Always use good form and full range of motion! Don’t count the reps otherwise.

Key Components

Consistency  ► For this program to work, you must follow the progression every week.

Patience ► It’s hard to know how long it will take you to develop the strength to perform a regular push-up. It all depends on your individual status (i.e. age, bodyweight, training history, strength level). Keep in mind that heavier individuals will have a harder time performing a regular push-up, as the push-up is an exercise that uses your own bodyweight. For example, a push-up for a 250 lb person is much harder than a push-up for a 150 lb person, as the former has to lift 100 lbs more!