30 Day Push-Up Challenge For Beginners

Runners tend to be goal-oriented, and we often gravitate towards challenges to achieve specific fitness milestones or athletic feats. Finishing a marathon, setting a new PR in the 5k, and completing a running streak are popular bucket list goals for running itself.

An increasing number of runners are also choosing to set other fitness goals, such as a push-up challenge for beginners, particularly in the growing understanding that being a well-rounded athlete can help you run faster and reduce your risk of injury.

Some runners dread push-ups and can only remember the last time they did them as a faint memory of a terrible day in PE class. Other runners try to bang out a set of push-ups every so often, only to find they need to drop to their knees after just a few.

However, with dedicated training and the proper technique, it should be possible for you to learn how to do regular push-ups. Through this 30-day push-up challenge for beginners, you’ll progress your strength and form to master push-ups once and for all.

By the end of this 30–day push-up challenge for beginners, you should not only have the ability to complete 25 push-ups in a row but will also have a newfound confidence in your body strength. 

In this guide, we will cover: 

  • What Is a Push-Up?
  • The Benefits of Push-Ups for Runners
  • How to Perform a Push-Up
  • Common Push-Up Form Mistakes
  • Marathon Handbook 30 Day Push-Up Challenge For Beginners
  • Exercise Instructions for the 30 Day Push-Up Challenge For Beginners

Let’s commit to this 30-day push-up challenge for beginners and get started!

The push-up challenge for beginners. A woman in a push-up position.

What Is a Push-Up?

A push-up is a challenging bodyweight exercise, which is part of its allure; it’s also highly effective for strengthening your entire upper body and core. 

The Benefits of Push-Ups for Runners

Mastering a push-up isn’t just a badge of honor you can wear or fodder to brag about at the dinner table. Push-ups offer an array of benefits for runners. 

#1: Push-Ups Strengthen Your Upper Body

Runners often focus on squats and lunges or other leg-strengthening exercises, but it’s equally important to strengthen your upper body and core. 

A strong upper body will help you maintain a powerful and quick arm swing when you run. Your arms actually help drive your stride forward, so having a strong upper body can lead to better running form and a more efficient stride

Push-ups strengthen your triceps, shoulders (deltoids), chest (pecs), and traps, which are great for increasing functional upper body strength for running.

A woman in a push-up position in a gym.

#2: Push-Ups Strengthen Your Core

Push-ups target your entire core—the superficial and deep abdominal muscles, obliques, glutes, back, and hips. A strong core is critical for runners because the function of the core is to connect the upper and lower body.

The core should provide a stable foundation or anchor point for your arms and legs to move. In this way, your core helps coordinate and orchestrate an efficient, safe, and powerful running stride.

#3: Push-Ups Can Decrease Your Risk of Cardiology Disease

A longitudinal cohort study of 1,104 active subjects found a significant negative association between the participants’ baseline push-up capacity and cardiovascular disease risk incidence over ten years. 

Researchers noted that subjects who could complete more than 40 push-ups at baseline had a significantly lower risk of cardiovascular disease than subjects who completed fewer than ten push-ups at baseline.

Of course, this is a correlation study rather than evidence of direct causation, but hey, anything that seems related to reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease is a good thing.

A woman in a push-up position against a wall.

#4: Push-Ups Can Be Done Anywhere 

Push-ups are a bodyweight exercise, so you don’t need dumbbells, kettlebells, or resistance bands. Because they don’t require equipment, push-ups can be performed just about anywhere—from your bedroom to a hotel room, the gym to a park. 

As long as you have floor space as long as your height, you can do your push-ups, which is convenient for our 30-day push-up challenge for beginners. No matter where life takes you over the next month, you can get on the floor and work on your push-ups.

How to Perform a Push-Up

The key to maximizing the benefits of this 30-day push-up challenge for beginners is to make sure you are striving toward performing a push-up correctly. You’ll see a lot of runners and gym-goers using the improper form when doing push-ups, which not only compromises the benefits of the exercise but also increases the risk of injury.

Here is how to do a perfect push-up:

Push up exercise.
  1. Get into the starting position by placing your hands on the floor slightly wider than shoulder-width apart and your feet on the floor with your toes curled under contacting the ground behind you. Your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders, and your toes stay on the ground. Engage your glutes and draw your belly button up to your spine while keeping a neutral spine and neck for the duration of the exercise. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet.
  2. To perform the push-up, bend your elbows and lower your chest to just above the floor and then push through your palms to lift your body back up until your elbows are extended but not fully locked out.
  3. Be sure to breathe throughout the exercise, and don’t let your hips sag. Actively push your heels away from you to promote good form.

Common Push-Up Form Mistakes

There are a few common technique and form errors with the push-up that we would like to avoid:

  • Not going deep enough: Your elbows should be bent to at least 90 degrees. Bring your chest as close to the ground as possible.
  • Sagging your lower back: Keep your back straight without dropping your hips and butt down.
  • Sticking your butt in the air: Again, keep your hips in line with your body.
  • Hands too narrow or too wide: There are benefits to modifying the hand placement for push-ups when you are training, but for standard push-ups, you want your hands under your body, just slightly wider than shoulder-width apart.

Marathon Handbook 30 Day Push-Up Challenge For Beginners

30-Day Push-Up Challenge Printout

(right click the image to save and print this Challenge, or scroll to the end of the article for a text version)

Exercise Instructions for the 30 Day Push-Up Challenge For Beginners

For this 30-day push-up challenge for beginners, we will use a variety of exercises. Here are the complete instructions to perform each one.

Wall Push-Ups

Wall push up exercise.

The easiest modification of a push-up is to place your hands on the wall since it reduces the force of gravity. The technique for a wall push-up is similar to regular push-ups, but you will place your hands on a wall rather than the floor.

  1. Step your feet back a few feet from the wall and lean into the wall. Bend your elbows to bring your chest towards the wall, keeping your body in a straight line. 
  2. Push back away from the wall and repeat.

Bent-Knee Tricep Dips

Bent-Knee Tricep Dip Challenge

Dips strengthen the chest, back, triceps, shoulders, and core. Maintaining proper form is key to preventing shoulder irritation. 

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair, couch, or bed with your hands cupping the edge on either side of your hips.
  2. Bend your knees to 90 degrees, place your feet flat on the floor and lift your butt off the chair, shifting your weight entirely into your palms and heels.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower your hips to just above the floor but not touching it. Your hands should be behind you.
  4. Press through your palms, using your triceps and chest, to lift your body up.

Straight Leg Tricep Dips

Straight leg tricep dip exercise.

This version is more advanced than with bent knees. 

  1. Sit on the edge of a chair, couch, or bed with your hands cupping the edge on either side of your hips.
  2. Straighten your legs out in front of you so that the back of your heels are resting on the ground. Lift your butt off the chair, shifting your weight entirely into your palms and heels.
  3. Bend your elbows to lower your hips to just above the floor but not touching it. Your hands should be behind you.
  4. Press through your palms, using your triceps and chest, to lift your body up.

High Plank

Full plank exercise.

Planks end up on most core routines because they are a foundational anti-rotation movement and are great for developing core stability and control. This variation also works your shoulders and obliques. 

  1. Get in a push-up position with your body in a straight line from your heels to your head.
  2. Your hands should be in line with your elbows under your shoulders.
  3. Keep your core tight but create throughout the hold.

Forearm Plank

Forearm plank exercise.

This classic core exercise helps prepare for push-ups by strengthening your abs, shoulders, glutes, and back. 

  1. Get into a push-up position, but drop down, so your forearms are on the floor. Your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders, and your toes stay on the ground.
  2. Engage your glutes and draw your belly button up to your spine while keeping a neutral spine and neck for the duration of the exercise. Your body should be in a straight line from your head to your feet.
  3. Be sure to breathe throughout the exercise, and don’t let your hips sag. Actively push your heels away from you to promote good form.

High Plank With Shoulder Taps

Shoulder taps plank.

This modification helps your entire core develop the strength to stabilize your body during movement and strengthens your shoulders.

  1. Get into a push-up position, maintaining a straight line from your feet to the top of your head.
  2. Without raising your butt into the air, lift one arm and reach across to tap the opposite shoulder, and then return to the starting position. Keep your legs locked, and don’t allow any swaying from side to side as you switch arms.
  3. Alternate arms.

Feet/Knee Push-Ups

Feet/knee push up exercise.

This hybrid move involves doing the lowering portion of a push-up from your feet, then dropping your knees to the floor and pressing back up from a kneeling push-up.

Up-Down Plank

Up down plank exercise.

This dynamic move strengthens your core, triceps, chest, and shoulders to help you prepare for push-ups.

  1. Start in a plank position with your elbows on the ground.
  2. Push one palm into the floor until your elbow is straight and then do the other hand to end up in a push-up position. Your hands should be positioned directly underneath the shoulders.
  3. Lower back down onto your elbows with control, one side at a time. Be careful not to rock your hips. They should be kept as stable as possible by keeping your core and glutes engaged. Slow down if you feel them moving.
  4. Keep repeating this pattern, switching the arm that is pushing up to the top position every time.

Ok, Marathon Handbook community, 30 days to do 25 full push-ups. Let’s get after this push-up challenge for beginners!

If you are looking for another challenge, such as running your first 5k, check out our Couch to 5k training plans here!

Group of women doing knee pushups with an instructor.
MondayTuesdayWednesdayThursdayFridaySaturdaySunday
25 Wall Push-UpsHigh Plank
2 x 30 seconds
(90 seconds between sets)
20 Kneeling Push-Ups20 Bent Knee Tricep DipsRest Day30-second Forearm Plank 15 Feet/Knee Push-Ups
(Lower from your feet, then put your knees down as you push up)
30 Kneeling Push-UpsHigh Plank
2 x 45 seconds
(90 seconds between sets)
2 x 25 Kneeling Push-Ups
(90 seconds between sets)
2 x 20 Bent Knee Tricep Dips
(90 seconds between sets)
Rest Day60-second Forearm Plank25 Feet/Knee Push-Ups
50 Kneeling Push-UpsHigh Plank With Shoulder Taps
2 x 30 seconds
(90 seconds between sets)
2 x 5 Full Push-Ups
Rest 90 seconds in between each

25 Kneeling Push-Ups
20 Straight Leg Tricep DipsRest Day30-second Up-Down Plank5 Full Push-Ups 
25 Feet/Knee Push-Ups
10 Full Push-Ups
10 Kneeling Push-Ups
High Plank With Shoulder Taps
2 x 45 seconds
(90 seconds between sets)
15 Full Push-Ups2 x 20 Straight Leg Tricep Dips
(90 seconds between sets)
Rest Day45-second Up-Down Plank20 Full Push-Ups
20 Full Push-Ups25 Full Push-Ups!
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, and contributes to several fitness, health, and running websites and publications. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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