A fitness trainer tells you exactly why ‘beginners push-ups’ or ‘half push-ups’ are a terrible idea (and what you should do instead)
Push-ups are an important exercise in any workout. It isn’t unusual for one to get out of bed and start doing push-ups to get the blood flowing before they start their day. However, push-ups are also fairly difficult if you aren’t used to doing them. As a beginner, it’s almost impossible to do even two or three reps. Believe me, I’ve been there.
Which is where the ‘beginners push-ups’ come in. You’ve likely seen people do them in group exercise classes. You get on to your knees and do your push-ups from your knee. Several of us have done it and we feel accomplished at having completed ten reps with those push-ups. That’s also probably why we go back to doing them all over again – they give us the satisfaction having completed ten reps.
“Ten is just a number; you don’t get a prize for hitting that number,” says Eddie Teel, a Mumbai-based American fitness trainer. “In fact I avoid recommending the ‘half push-ups’ or the ‘beginners push-ups’ to my clients because I feel it does them more harm than any good.”
Teel explains that when you’re doing push-ups from your knees, you aren’t working out the parts of your body you need to strengthen so as to progress. “Remember, push-ups are a full-body workout. They don’t just make your arms stronger, they work out your entire body – abs, lower back, thighs, glutes etc. So you need to learn to do push-ups the right way,” he says.
Of course, this is easier said than done when you have the upper body strength of a three-year-old. For this, Teel has a great workaround. He says: “As with everything you do in life, to get push-ups right, you need to get the basics right. Once your foundation is strong, you can work on it and progress to the next level.”
So the answer to the push-up conundrum, according to Eddie Teel, is incline push-ups. Teel says, that while it may take you some time to reach your goal of doing the full push-ups on the floor, you can start by following a few basic steps.
Practice the plank position
Teel says that half your battle is won, once you master the plank position. “The reason you aren’t able to do push-ups is because your body cannot handle its own weight. When you practice the plank position, it helps you train your body to do just that,” he says.
Now, it’s likely that you are unable to do the full plank, in which case you can start by doing the forearm plank and then graduate to the full plank position. Here, in the video below, you can watch how to get these two planks right:
Once you get the full plank position right, then it’s just a matter of going down to the floor without bending your knees or arching your back and pushing yourself up. But we get that this too may not necessarily be easy. Which is why, Teel recommends…
Don’t aim for the floor
“Instead of doing push-ups on the flat surface of a floor, consider doing it on an elevated platform, he says. “Consider a chair (you’ll need to be careful to position it in a way that it doesn’t move, causing you to fall) or a counter that isn’t very low,” Teel says. For those who absolutely cannot do the incline push-ups, you could consider using a relatively higher platform like the kitchen counter. And those who can’t manage that either, Teel recommends the wall push-ups. They key, here, is to get the position right. “Your body should be in a straight line, knees away from the ground/wall and with that in mind you lower your body to the surface,” he says. Here, watch this video on how to do get the wall push-ups right:
Now begin to challenge yourself
“Once you get the wall push-ups right, move to the kitchen counter, then to a chair, then to a lower surface, and so on till you are finally able to do push-ups on the floor, in the correct manner,” Teel says.
Tell cannot stress enough on getting the form right. “Form is the key to all exercises. If you get your form right, you will see a marked difference in your performance. More importantly, you will avoid injuries,” he points out. With that in mind, here is the correct way to do full push-ups on the floor:
There is no easy way to get fit. Consistency is key. The more you keep doing it, the better you will get at it. You cannot expect results immediately. Heck, if you’re staring out with wall push-ups, be assured you will take some time to get to the floor. But also know that if you do it consistently, you will most certainly get there. Trainers often shout “Don’t give up!” when you’re working out. That isn’t just some motivational hack; it’s just a fact of life. If you give up after doing wall push-ups for ten days, that’s going to be the end of your achievement. Learn to push yourself every day, ever so slightly, and you’ll realise that perhaps at the end of the month (or three months or six months), you will emerge healthier and stronger.
Eddie Teel is a Mumbai-based American fitness trainer. You can follow him on Instagram here.