The Ultimate Push-Up Progression Plan: Follow This Plan For Bulletproof Gains

Many people struggle with push-ups. However, if you haven’t been consistently strengthening your upper body or you carry a lot of excess body weight, regular push-ups can be extremely challenging.

A push-up progression plan can help you build your way up to doing full push-ups.

But, what is the best push-up training plan for beginners? How many days does it take following a push-up progression plan to be able to conquer push-ups?

Is there an advanced push-up progression plan for those who can do some push-ups but want to be able to do difficult progressions or long sets of 50 or 100 push-ups?

In this article, we provide a complete push-up progression plan to help you get from struggling to do modified push-ups to banging out sets of full push-ups and potentially even more advanced push-up variations.

We will cover the following: 

  • Tips for Doing Push-Ups
  • Beginner Push-Up Progression Program
  • How to Make Push-Ups More Difficult

Let’s dive in! 

A kneeling push up, a step in the push-up progression plan.

Tips for Doing Push-Ups

Before you can get caught up in your push-up training plan, it’s important that you master the proper push-up technique and form.

When you perform push-ups, you want your entire body to be in a straight line from the top of your head to your heels. 

Your core and glutes should be engaged the entire time to help maintain a straight back. Your wrists, elbows, and shoulders should all be stacked vertically in a line, and your elbows should bend mostly backward toward your feet rather than flare out to the sides. 

Crucially, you should be moving through the full range of motion, which means starting up with your elbows fully extended and then lowering your body all the way down until your chest hovers just above the ground with your elbows bent at least 90°. 

A push-up.

Do not “cheat“ on the range of motion by failing to go deep enough or pushing all the way back up to vertical before beginning the next rep.

Using improper form will make push-ups less effective at strengthening your chest, arms, upper back, and core and may contribute to developing elbow, wrist, or shoulder pain.

If you do not keep your core tight and glutes engaged, it can be difficult to keep your hips in line with your body and your back straight.

When your hips sag, it can strain your lower back, and if you hike your hips up into the air above the line of your body, it can put more torque on your shoulders and wrists.

Beginner Push-Up Progression Program

If you are a beginner, you may need to start with wall push-ups or push-ups with your hands elevated on a desk or table. Because your body is at more of an upright angle, you are contending with less gravity in these positions, making the push-up easier.

The more upright you are, the easier your push-ups will be. Therefore, if you are very deconditioned, begin your push-up progression training plan with wall push-ups.

Wall Push-Ups

Here are the steps to perform a wall push-up for beginners:

  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.

Gradually, find increasingly lower surfaces to place your hands on, starting with a counter, then a desk or table, then a chair, and then a low coffee table.

Build up to doing at least ten push-ups in a row.

Then, you can begin the official push-up plan once you are able to do modified push-ups from your knees.

After you have progressed from wall push-ups and elevated push-ups with your hands on a surface such as a table, you will begin modified push-ups on your knees. 

Kneeling Push-Ups

Here are the steps to perform kneeling push-ups:

  1. Get into the starting position by kneeling on the floor.
  2. Walk your hands out as you drop your hips until your body is in a straight line from your head to your knees. 
  3. Your hands should be on the floor directly under your shoulders. Your elbows should line up directly underneath your shoulders. 
  4. Engage your glutes and draw your belly button up to your spine.
  5. 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. Make sure that your butt stays in line with your body.

Once you are able to do ten kneeling push-ups, you will progress to full/half push-ups.

Full/Half Push-Ups

In this step of your push-up progression training plan, you will do the lowering portion of the push-up from your feet as if doing a full push-up. 

Once your chest is hovering just above the ground and your elbows are bent to 90°, you will drop your knees to the ground and press up back to the starting position from the modified kneeling push-up position that you conquered in the first part of the push-up progression plan.

Here are the steps:

  1. Get in a regular push-up position with your toes on the ground, your body in a straight line, and your wrists stacked under your elbows and under your shoulders in a vertical line.
  2. Keeping your core and glutes tight, bend your elbows to lower your chest until it hovers just above the floor.
  3. Then, carefully drop your knees to the floor, making sure to adjust your body positioning to keep your hips in line with the rest of your body from your shoulders to your knees so that you are still in a good plank position.
  4. Press through the palms of your hands to return to the starting position until your elbows are fully straight.
  5. Before beginning the next rep, lift your knees off of the ground and come back onto your toes so that you are in the full push-up position for the lowering portion of the exercise.
  6. Build up to 10 reps.

Once you can do full/half push-ups, start trying to do full push-ups. Start with just 1-5 reps, and then do the rest of your reps on your knees.

For each workout, try to increase the number of full push-ups and decrease the number of modified push-ups. Beginners should start with three days per week with the push-up progression training plan.

A decline push-up with dumbbells.

How to Make Push-Ups More Difficult

If you’re an experienced athlete and want to follow a push-up progression plan to get even stronger, there are things you can do to make push-ups more challenging and more comfortable for long sets of push-ups.

For example, if you want to follow a push-up plan to be able to do 100 push-ups in a row, it can be really helpful to make push-ups more ergonomic.

Long sets of push-ups can cause shoulder, elbow, and wrist discomfort, particularly if you have chronic injuries in any of these joints or have even slight imperfections in your push-up form.

Push-up handles can help optimize the alignment of your shoulders and elbows.

Plus, if you are an advanced athlete, using push-up handles allows you to achieve greater depth in your push-ups, which increases the difficulty of the exercise for more time under tension and resultant strength and math gains from this bodyweight exercise.

We love the Fitness Hardware Able Rolling Push-Up Handles for advanced athletes. Rather than being basic stationary push-up handles, the Fitness Hardware Push-Up handles are actually on wheels, so you have to use an incredible amount of core strength to keep the handles fixed in position.

Alternatively, you can actually take advantage of the rolling nature of the Fitness Hardware rolling push-up handles to move your hand spacing in and out as you slide the handles outward as you drop down into the push-up and use your core and shoulders to squeeze the handles back inward as you press up.

Another advanced progression is to wear a weighted vest when you do your push-ups. You can also adjust your hand spacing and do narrow and wide push-ups to target different portions of your chest and triceps.

Finally, you can add push-up holds. This involves modifying the tempo of your push-ups such that you lower your body towards the ground and then hover in this position, performing an isometric hold for 5 to 30 seconds. 

Gradually build up the length of the hold, and then press back up before beginning the next rep.

For the advanced push-up progression plan, strive to do push-ups four days per week. Twice a week, do regular push-ups. Add 2-5 reps per set per workout. Twice a week, try advanced push-up progressions as described above.

Ready for a structured push-up training plan? Check out our 30-day push-up challenge here.

A plank with dumbbells.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. 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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