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How to Do Push Up's if You Can't Yet (Step-by-Step)

Updated: Nov 3, 2021

Do you struggle doing push ups? Are you trying out push ups for the first time? I was in this position once, so I compiled some tips to help you complete your first push ups.

This guide will help you succeed at your first push-up. It will also answer any questions you may have about push-ups.

Table of Contents:

How to Do Push Ups if You Can't Yet

Doing your first push up can be difficult, below are some ways and techniques you can make it easier, build up your strength, and eventually complete your first flat push up.

Wall Push Ups

You can begin with push-ups against the wall. Face the wall from a distance of three to four feet. Lean against the wall with your arms shoulder-width apart. Slowly lower yourself to the wall by bending your elbows.

Push up until your chest meets, or almost touches, the wall and your arms are straight but still slightly bent.

  • Three sets of 5-20 wall push-ups are recommended.

  • Three times a week you should practise this.

Tabletop Push Ups

Another option is to use tabletop push ups. A mat should be placed on the floor. Place yourself on your hands and knees. Your knees should be bent and your arms and back should be straight. Lower your upper body slowly to the floor.

Slowly push up with your arms to the beginning position once your nose is nearly touching the mat.

  • Three sets of five to ten tabletop push-ups are recommended.

  • Three times a week is best.

  • Make sure your back is straight the whole time during this exercise.

Incline Push Ups

Try a push-up on an uphill. Place your hands on a solid, raised surface, such as a couch arm, bench, chair, or table, shoulder-width apart. Place your feet straight out in front of you and stretch your legs.

Your back should be straight, and your body should be diagonally positioned in relation to the ground.

Slowly lower your upper body until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle toward the raised surface. Then gently return to your starting position. This is an example of an uphill push-up.

  • When doing this exercise, make sure your elbows are near to your body and not jutting out.

  • Three sets of five to ten incline push-ups are recommended.

  • Three times a week you should do this.

  • Pushups on an elevated surface are an excellent method to build up to normal pushups.

Knee Push Up

When you're ready, you can make an attempt at a knee push-up. A mat should be placed on the floor. Place yourself on your hands and knees. Bring your hands forward until your body is diagonally positioned on the floor.

Cross your calves and lift your feet in the air till they are hanging. Slowly lower your upper body to the ground, keeping your back straight, until your elbows are bent at a 90-degree angle. Then gently return to your starting position.

  • Straight arms with a little bend at the elbow is ideal.

  • As you do this exercise, remember to maintain your back straight and your core firm.

  • To cushion your knees, put a towel or pillow beneath them.

  • Three sets of five to ten knee push-ups are recommended.

  • Three times a week, practise this.

Negative Push Up

A negative push-up is a good exercise to try. A mat should be placed on the floor. Begin in a high plank posture, as if you're ready to do a push-up. Your elbows should be slightly bent, not locked.

Then, as you gently lower your body to the ground, make sure it is lying on the mat.

  • Three sets of five to ten negative push-ups are recommended.

  • Three times a week, practise this.

  • While doing this exercise, be sure to tense your abdominal muscles.

Other Improvements

Once you have progressed all the way to the negative push up, you can begin to try doing one push up at a time, pushing yourself up and then lowering yourself slowly back down.

You can also do supportive exercises, such as triceps extensions and other tricep workouts, as well as other chest and ab exercises.

These supportive exercises will hep develop the muscles responsible for the push up, helping you reach your goal of completing a push up for the first time.

Other ways to further improve your push up ability it to use equipment like the push up board and push up stands, they can help you change how the exercise works, allowing you to increase your range of motion and activate different muscles - both of which boosts muscle growth.

Achieving Your First 100 Push Ups

  1. Find an incline - your best bet could be stairs, or a sofa/couch or even just the wall.

  2. Start by doing as many reps as you can with good form, then rest for 2 minutes. Once rested, repeat for another 2 sets. Start doing this workout two to three times per week.

  3. Work on this incline height until you can do 3 x 10 (three sets of ten reps) with good form, this means keeping a tight core, not sticking out your butt and not flaring your elbows out.

  4. Keep progressing to a lower incline height (for example the next step down the stairs) and repeat the same process again on this incline level.

  5. Once you've mastered the height you're at, keep going down an incline until you reach the floor. This may take 3 weeks, or 3 months, or longer. Don't be put off, keep it up!

Once you've mastered the flat push up you can even move onto the decline push up, however this is for advanced trainees.

You can also add the push up into your home bodyweight workouts.

How to Do Push Ups Step-by-Step (for a Beginner)

  1. The first step is to think about a push up as a moving plank, holding a solid core, keeping your body head-to-toe locked in a straight line.

  2. The correct way to do a push up is to position your hands around shoulder-width apart, or slightly wider.

  3. Your fingers should be splayed, with your middle fingers pointing straight ahead, towards the 12 o'clock mark.

  4. As you slowly bend your elbows (around 3-5 seconds) and lower your body toward the ground, your elbows should be at around a 45-degree angle to your body.

  5. Once you've levelled out, begin to raise your body up again, keeping a tight core and maintaining a straight body like it's locked to a straight line, the only part that should be moving is your arms and elbows.

Want to make push ups easier? Try this push up board.

What Muscles Does a Push up Work?

A push up uses your own body weight as the resistance, working your upper body and your core at the same time.

In the standard push up, the following muscle groups are targeted:

  • Pectoralis major and pectoralis minor

  • Deltoid major and deltoid minor

  • Latissimus dorsi, rhomboids and trapeze muscles

  • Biceps

  • Triceps

  • Serratus anterior

The push up is very similar to the plank therefore uses these muscles also; lower back muscles, abdominal/core muscles, gluteus maximus and medius, which are the buttocks muscles, leg muscles, such as the hamstrings, quadriceps, calf and also shin muscles.

Frequently Asked Questions

Below are answers to some of the commonly asked questions about push ups.

Q: Is it okay to do push ups everyday?

A: It is generally okay to do push ups every day, just be sure to have a break if you feel any effects of overworking or fatigue. Changing it up every so often may be beneficial too.

Q: Why can't I go all the way down in push ups?

A: This can be due to a multitude of reasons, however the most likely reason why you cant go all the way down in a push up is that your body hasn't adapted to this movement yet, therefore the more you practice push ups the better you will get at them.

Q: I can't do push ups but I'm strong?

A: The most likely reason why you cant do a push up even if you're strong on other exercises is due to your overall body-weight, also because your body hasn't been able to adapt to the push up. Losing body-fat and practising the push up will help.

Q: How to make push ups easier?

A: The best way to make a push up easier is to use an elevated surface for your hands instead of the floor, for example doing push ups off of a sofa/couch. Over time you can work your way back down to floor level, or even start raising your feet off the ground to make them harder.

Q: Can you get ripped doing push ups?

A: For beginners, doing push ups will be able to make a significant difference in strength and size. However for more advanced trainees and pro-level athletes, just doing push ups will not get you ripped, you will need a much more advanced set of workouts.


Written by Billy White

billy white

Billy White is a qualified Kinesiologist and Personal Trainer. He is an aspiring bodybuilder, fitness enthusiast, and health and fitness researcher.

He has multiple years of experience within the fitness, bodybuilding and health space. He is committed to providing the highest-quality information.


The information provided in this article is not intended to replace professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a physician or other competent professional before following advice or taking any supplement. See our terms and conditions.

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