The push-up is a foundational bodyweight exercise that everyone can benefit from doing. Besides being fundamental for building upper body strength, power, and size, the push-up also comes with a ton of great variations that can provide a lot of training benefits.
However, in order to perform some of the more advanced push-up variations, then the basic push-up needs to be an exercise and skill on lock. This means that a foundation of form and strength need to be built for the pushing muscles that are required to perform great push-ups.
In this article, we’re going to provide you with a one-month program to tackle the push-up and bring you up to speed for performing multiple clean, consecutive reps.
Before diving into program, we’re going to cover two useful pushup progressions that everyone should understand, as they’ll be used throughout the four week program. These two progressions will help build a foundation of strength and form to improve pushups.
The first push-up progression is the single and double knee assisted push-up. For this push-up variation, you’ll assume a traditional push-up position and place either one or both knees on the ground based on your strength and fitness level.
This variation is useful because it helps lighten the load that needs to be pushed and it’s going to help us accumulate pressing volume throughout the four weeks.
- Double Knee: Great option for true beginners.
- Single-Knee: Slightly more advanced, pay attention to the hips and ensure they’re square when using this variation.
Tempo and Paused Push-Ups
The second progressions worth noting are the tempo and paused push-up. This modification will stem from the push-ups variation being performed and it will change the speed in which your execute the movement.
- Tempo: Modifying the lowering and pressing portion of the
- Paused: Stopping at a specific position and holding for a
time based goal.
Beginner Push-Up Program
The goal of this program is for it to be implemented into your current training routine. The workouts are short and should either 1) supplement your current training days, or 2) be performed on off days as an active recovery session.
Rest Days and Equipment: This program works best if it’s run with one day of rest in-between each workout day, so avoid performing them all back-to-back-to-back with four days of rest inbetween sessions. Good frequency options include:
- Monday, Wednesday, Friday
- Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday
Also, this program includes no equipment so it can be used anytime anywhere.
Rest Times In-Between Sets: Try to take between 1-2 minutes of rest in-between sets. However, this can shortened or lengthened based on your energy levels and schedule. If you can shorten rest times and perform perfect reps, then feel free to do so!
Assisted Modifications: Scale your assisted push-ups by proficient reps. For example, if one week you perform two knees down and complete all of the reps, then switch to one knee for one, two, or all of the sets the following week. Use your strength and execution as a scale for the type of assistance used and needed.
Pre-Program: Perform as many normal push-ups as possible until form breaks down. No shame here. If it’s 0, then we start there and build! Take a day of rest, then start on the 4-week program below.
Day 1: Push-Up Volume Accumulation
1. Assisted Push-Up: 3 x 8-10 reps
- Perform these with either one or two knees on the ground. Choose based on your starting strength and fitness level.
2. Assisted Tempo Push-Up: 2 x 6 reps
- Perform an assisted push-up with a 4-second lowering phase. Count to four in your head while lowering, then either A) press back up as normal, or B) get back to your starting position by any means.
3. Decline Push-Up: 3 x 6-8 reps
- Find a bench, staircase, or piece of furniture to perform a push-up on. The goal should be “feeling” this in the lower pec region.
4. Extended Plank: 4 x 20-25 seconds
- Week 1: 20-25 seconds,
- Week 2: 30-35 seconds,
- Week 3: 35-40 seconds,
- Week 4: 45-50 seconds
Day 2: Lockout and Tricep Strength
1. Assisted Close-Grip Push-Ups: 4 x 8 reps
- Perform an assisted push-up with the hands shoulder width apart or slightly closer to create a triceps focus.
2. Half Range of Motion Push-Ups: 2 x 5 reps
- For these, assume a normal push-up position and perform a half-rep with a 3-second lowering phase, then lockout as normal. The goal is targeting the triceps.
3. Bodyweight Skull Crushers: 3 x 8 reps
- Perform these on a wall or couch. Choose a height that is feasible for 8 reps. Check out this in-depth guide for a bodyweight skull crusher how-to.
4. Up and Down Planks: 3 x 10-20 reps (see below for weekly rep scheme)
- Week 1: 10-12 reps, Week 2: 14 reps, Week 3: 16-18 reps, Week 4: 18-20 reps
Day 3: Pec and Deltoid Strength
1. Wide Grip Assisted Push-Up: 3 x 8-10 reps
- Position the hands roughly one hand’s widths wider that your normal push-up setup.
2. Assisted Pause to Dead Stop Push: 3 x 5 reps
- Perform a 3-second lowering phase, pause when the arms hit 90 degrees for 1-second, then lower the body to the ground counting to 2-seconds. Once the body makes contact with the ground, assume your normal starting position and get up by any means.
3. Lateral Delt Raise: 3 x 10-12 reps
- Grab a milk jug, phone book, or backpack with some weight in it and perform lateral delt raises.
4. Prone YTWs: 3 Rounds
- Lie flat on the ground and perform three rounds of YTWs
The One-Month-Long Beginner Pull-Up Program
Get your first pull-up or blast through plateaus with our monthlong pull-up program.
If the deadlift is the ultimate test of pure strength, then the pull-up is the best move around to test your functional strength. The reason being that to do a pull-up, you need to be strong, stable, and relatively lean (since you’re pulling your own body weight). Also, if you’re ever dangling from the edge of a cliff (we hope not, but, hey, stuff happens), deadlifts aren’t going to do you much good.
The main issue with pull-ups is that they’re hard to do. If you’re too heavy and/or not very strong, the move is a nonstarter. That said, there are variations and alternatives you can use to work up to your first-ever pull-up. We’ll go over those below, in addition to outlining a month-long program to take your pull-up game up a few notches.
Perform each of the three workouts below every week, with at least a day of rest between each, for four weeks. Each workout consists of three to four exercises, totaling about 30 minutes per workout. Progressions can be done using a heavier load. Challenge yourself to add weight each week, yet not so much that you can’t feel the back muscles working.
- Dead Hang: 4 sets of 30 seconds, resting 45-60 seconds between sets. (Add weight if you can, using a belt and weight around hips.)
- Isometric Pull-Up Hold: 4 sets of 10 seconds, resting 60-90 seconds between sets. (Perform a 10-second hold at the top of the pull-up.)
- Inverted Barbell Row: 4 sets of 5 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Use a pronated grip, slightly wider than shoulders. Add weight and go heavy.)
- Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 6-8 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Add weight and go heavy, perform controlled eccentric and get a full lat stretch between reps by elongating the arms at the top.)
- Towel-Grip Dead Hang: 4 sets of 30 seconds, resting 45-60 seconds between sets (Add weight if you can, using a belt and weight around hips.)
- Eccentric Pull-Up: 4 sets of 5 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Lower yourself to a count of 3 to five seconds.)
- Band Assisted Pull-Up: 4 sets of 5 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Choose a band that will make you struggle for your last rep, yet still maintain good form. Don’t use the momentum from the band to propel yourself back up.)
- Supinated-Grip Dumbbell Bench Supported Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Be sure to have palms facing away from you as you row.)
- Fat-Grip Dead Hang: 4 sets of 30 seconds, resting 45-60 seconds between sets (Add weight if you can, using a belt and weight around hips.)
- Band Assisted 1 ½ Pull-Up: 4 sets of 3-5 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Start at the bottom of the pullup. Pull your chin over the bar, and perform a slight pause to engage the back muscles. Go down about halfway so that your elbows are in line with your eye. Pull yourself back up. That is a 1 ½ pull-up.)
- Lat Pulldown: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets (Add weight and go heavy, perform controlled eccentric and get stretch between reps by elongating the arms at the top.)
- Seal Row: 4 sets of 8-10 reps, resting 60-90 seconds between sets.