Push ups are one of these fundamental exercises that we should do often, because they're one of the most effective ways to work the upper body and core.
However, if you can't do full push ups yet, don't worry–there are variations you can do that help you to work your way up there.
If regular push ups are easy, you don't have to stop there. You can always do more reps, or make your pushups more challenging. You'll find some ideas in this post.
Modifying Is Not Wrong
Do you ever feel bad or guilty when you modify exercises?
When I used to take more group fitness classes, I never used to modify anything. There was a peer pressure for sure! I always felt like a failure if I did, or thought that I'm not tough enough, and that was a hard pill to swallow! I wanted to be the best.
But we can't be best in everything. And if you're worried that someone sees you not doing the hardest version, then the truth is that everybody is busy with their own workout and nobody will pay attention to you.
If we're not ready for a certain exercise, it's actually much smarter to do modifications. The main reason is that our form is probably quite a bit better when we're doing a modified version.
I know for sure that I'm not able to do certain yoga poses in yin yoga class… and at first, it was difficult when the rest of the class could sit in the hardest poses for minutes and I seemed to be the only one struggling. But I'm over it now–I'm clearly not ready to put my leg behind my head and hold it there for minutes, and I accept it 🙂
Why You May Want to Make Your Push Ups Easier
Not everyone can do push ups, and that's fine, as long as we keep working on getting better! Knees down or hands elevated push ups take some weight off from our upper body, making the push ups easier on our arms.
Doing modified version also means that we can control our core better. Our hips should not be sagging, which can easily happen when we're not able to hold the core tight so that it stays in line with the rest of the body. Another way we compensate for our weak core is to lift the hips up.
In a proper push up form, none of this should happen. So, putting the knees down or hands on an elevated surface actually makes it possible to perform push ups better and protects the body from potentially getting injured. .
Why You May Want to Make Your Push Ups Harder
Maybe you're already great at regular push ups. From here on, you can make your workouts more intense by either increasing the number of reps you're doing, the number of rounds you're doing, or try out some more difficult variations.
Here are 6 push up variations, from easiest to hardest:
Push Ups on Knees
This modification is great if you're not yet ready to do the regular, toes-down push ups.
Put your knees down to take some weight off from the upper body. Be sure to keep your body from your head to knees in a strong plank position and not lift the butt up. Bend your elbows, trying to keep them close to your body. Lower your chest as close to the floor as possible, then push up again, extending the elbows fully.
Hands Elevated Push Ups
This modification takes you one step closer to regular push ups, where your hands and feet are on the same level.
To make your push ups easier, place your hands on an elevated surface. That will take some of the weight off from your upper body. The higher the surface, the easier your push ups will be. Bend your elbows, trying to keep them close to your body. Lower your chest as close to the surface (desk, chair etc) as possible, then push up again, extending the elbows completely.
Regular Push Ups
In a regular push up, your feet and hands will be on the same level. Start in a plank position, shoulders directly over the wrists. Keep the core tight. Keeping the elbows at about 45 degrees from the body, lower your body close to the floor. Your body should move as one unit. Then, press yourself back up again.
Legs Up Push Ups
This variation will add additional weight to your upper body. Put your feet up on a chair, table or other higher surface. Get in the plank position, shoulders over the wrists. Bend the elbows and lower your upper body. In this variation, its very common to drop the hips, but try not to do that. The body should move as one unit.
Pike Push Ups
In this variation, we add more weight to the arms than in a regular push up. Lift your hips up so that you're in the downward facing dog position. Bend the elbows and let your head move as close to the floor as possible. Keep the hips up all the time. Then, push yourself back up again.
Pike Push Ups Legs Elevated
In this variation, we'll put together the feet elevated and pike push ups. Put your feet on an elevated surface, then lift the hips up so that they're over your shoulders and wrists. Bend your elbows, then push yourself back up again. Especially if you're a beginner, be sure to start out carefully and not bend the elbows too much at first, as you want to be sure that you have enough strength to push yourself back up.
Bodyweight exercises like push ups don't have to be intimidating or boring! There are many modifications and progressions available, so you can always find the way to challenge yourself.
If you're now doing one type of push ups in your workouts, try to do the next difficult one next time. For example, if you've been doing knees down push ups for a while, try to do hands elevated version next time, or if you always do regular push ups, see how the feet elevated push ups go.
Thoughts? Did you try out any of those? Let me know!
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