HEALTHY MONDAYS: Your pushups plan

Pushups. Yuck.

Everyone hates them. But everyone needs them. They're the best exercise you can do for your upper body. They tone the arms, chest, shoulders and core. And you can do them anywhere.

Unfortunately, they're really hard. But there are ways to modify the move so that anyone can do them.

Your goal: 3 sets of 10-15 pushups, 2-3x/week for a fabulous upper body! Once you can perform 2 sets of 15 pushups with relative ease, it's time to move to the next level.

Against the wall
This is the easiest level. Stand about a foot or so away from a wall. Place your hands at chest level on the wall. Keeping your body straight and abs tight and engaged, bend your arms until your nose is just a few inches from the wall. Straighten arms. Repeat. The closer your feet are to the wall, the easier it is.

On the stairs or counter
Place your hands on the edge of the counter or the stairs (start 4 steps up from ground). Hands are slightly wider than shoulder width apart. Body is in a straight line, abs are engaged. Lower your body until chest almost touches step or counter. Straighten arms. Repeat. If you're using the stairs, once you can do your 2-3 sets of 10-15 on that step, move down a step. You'll be on the floor, doing regular pushups in no time.

Over the ball
If you have a big exercise ball (Fitball, Swiss ball, etc), you can use that for "easy" pushups. Lie face down over the ball, walk your hands forward until the ball is beneath your pelvis. Hands are on the floor, slightly wider than the shoulders. Lower chest toward the floor, straighten arms. Repeat. As this gets easy, walk the hands out until ball is under thighs, then under knees, then shins, then feet. If you can do these with just your feet on the ball, you're a stud. Just sayin'.

On the floor
Of course, you can always do your pushups on the floor. Easiest level would be on all fours, with your hands beneath your shoulders and knees right under the hips. Bend the arms to lower chest toward floor. Straighten arms. Repeat. Keep the hips lifted. Next level is on the knees. From all fours, walk hands forward until your body makes a straight line from shoulders to knees. Abs tight. Bend arms and lower and lift. Once your can do 2-3 sets of 10-15 pushups on your knees, you're ready to move to "guy pushups" or "military pushups" on your toes.

Sore/bad wrists?
This is a problem for a lot of people, especially women. I used to have this issue myself. But in the 8 years I've been a personal trainer, I've found that the problem isn't "bad" wrists so much as "weak" wrists. You just need to strengthen them. Start by standing in front of the wall as in the wall pushups. Just keep your arms straight and support your body like that. Build up to 30 seconds. If you must start with just 5 seconds, that's okay. Once you can do that, go to all fours on the floor. Just hold that upward position. Build up to 30 seconds. Once you can do that without pain, try the easiest level of pushups, even if you can only do 1-2 at a time.

To inspire you and possibly motivate you, last fall I decided to start a pushups plan myself because I'm notoriously weak in the upper body, despite all my working out. I wanted to be able to do a bunch of guy pushups without looking like I was going to die. I started off being able to do just one set of seven or so. Now, I'm up to 85 (not all at once, but in about 4-5 sets). My goal is 100.

Good luck and tell me how you're doing.


  1. I hate pushups but they are a part of my routine. However, I will admit that I do need to do more of them and push myself to the next level

  2. Amy, yes, once they start becoming at all easy for you, you need to make them harder or do more reps. Good luck.