Getting Stronger at Push-Ups

Today we’re covering the Push-Up and how you can make it go from a weakness to a strength!

Don’t think it’s possible? Follow along and let Coach Shawna show you it IS!

But first, if push-ups are on your list of movements to crush this year- did you know we have a program that works on building out those muscles- CFT accessory? Check it out at competitivefemaletraining.com!

Step One – Positions

Most women when learning how to do push-ups want to put their hands super wide. This makes sense as they’re trying to access the strongest muscles in their upper bodies- their shoulders. Women don’t come naturally with very strong triceps, which are a huge part of horizontal pressing, so when it comes to push-ups they’re relying on the muscles they DO have.

But if you don’t practice using the right muscles you can’t build the right muscles out. Your hand placement for push-ups should be slightly outside your shoulders, with your upper arms coming in at a 45 degree angle.

The next thing you have to pay attention to is your core, your midline. You’ll notice as your arms start to get tired your midline starts to sag (it’s NOT a coincidence!). You see this across the board in everything we do in this sport- core to extremity. It ALL starts from your core!

When you’re doing push-ups your core needs to be tight. Your butt should be squeezed, and you should be bracing similar to how you set up for lifts. This will help you to move as one unit.

Step Two- STOP going to your knees when you see push-ups in a workout!

This is the equivalent of only doing ⅓ of a squat (if you only did this you wouldn’t be able to move the same weight below parallel). How many women do you know who can do 20 push-ups on their knees but not ONE in a plank? It’s because just like in a squat, if you don’t train the whole movement you won’t get strong in the whole movement!

Stabilizing the midline (where your lower half connects to your upper half) WHILE you build out your arm strength is the key to getting solid, reliable push-ups. And today we’ll help you make that possible.

So now you might be saying, okay if I can’t go to my knees how am I supposed to do push-ups?

The first and easiest way is to do your push-ups on an elevated surface. Pick a bench, box, or even the wall. This will allow you to train your core to participate in the movement while also building out that upper body strength.

As you get stronger on elevated surfaces, you can begin to lower the surface to make your push-ups harder.

Alright, let’s move on to additional things you can do to work on your push-ups.

The Banded Push-Up

Grab a band (start with the thickest if you’re still working on your first push-up from the ground) and place it at about knee height on clips on the rig. The goal with the band is to help support your core when you’re in the deepest part of the push-up. Then you’ll lay across the band and boom! Full push-ups.

Press in Hollow

This movement helps you build core strength and understand what position we are looking for as you perform your push-ups. Grab a pair of dumbbells (something challenging) and lay down on the floor. Start the movement like you would perform a floor press (essentially a dumbbell bench press but from the floor) but instead of keeping your feet on the ground, lift them off and set them up like you’d do a hollow hold. Then perform a dumbbell press. Don’t let the small of your back come off the ground, and try to keep feet low. If this is too hard start your legs in a table top position (knees bent at 90 degrees).


How slow can you lower yourself down to the ground? Negatives allow you to use the muscles you need to build strong push-ups without having to worry about the push-up itself. Use these in conjunction with the other movements above (we don’t recommend doing negatives more than 2-3 times a week)

Lastly, how do you put this all together? For class wods we recommend choosing a push-up mod that’s sustainable for the workout prescribed. Find one of the mods you can do for 8-10 reps. Get comfortable with that then transition to the next level up. Progress as you get stronger.

Looking to add these in outside of regular training? Pick an exercise or two and perform them 2 – 3 times a week as 3- 4 sets of 8-10 reps. So you might do something like this:

Mon/Wed/Fri 3x 10 Chest elevated push-ups supersetted w/ 10 negatives.

That’s it ladies!

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