How To Improve Your Press Ups

A few years ago, I wasn’t able to do a ‘proper’ press up – proper meaning starting in a full plank position, bringing my chest to the floor and pressing back up.

With a few months practise I was able to do about five full reps but never got any better than that.

Picture credit: Vivobarefoot

In 2019 I applied to go on a TV programme which required me to be able to do 40 press-ups in 2 minutes.
At first, I thought how on earth am I ever going to be able to do that!? But with 6 weeks to prep, I had enough time and determination to give it my best shot.

My military mate gave me some simple advice on how to improve and with that, I progressed from five to 34 press-ups* in just 6 weeks!
* unbroken reps, no rest between each rep

Here is how I did it.

  1. Do 3 x max press-ups every day
    Perform the maximum amount of press-ups you can do for three sets.
    If you can only do one press up on your knees, do that.*
    Rest between sets so your muscles fully recover – take enough time for the burn/ache in your muscles to completely go and you feel ready again.
    I find around five minutes is good for me.
    You can rest for up to 10 minutes if you want.

    I do my three sets of press-ups as part of my morning routine in between my routine tasks; journaling, box breathing and Kegel exercises.

    * once you can do 10 press-ups on your knees, progress to one full press-up, then progress from there.

  2. Use strict form
    Lower your chest to the floor using a full range of movement, keeping your body in a line.
    Tuck your elbows into your body so they aren’t flared. This allows for good shoulder alignment.
    If you are not sure how to do a strict press-up, watch a tutorial on YouTube. I like GMB Fitness for bodyweight movements.

  3. Rest Saturday & Sunday
    Take a break at the weekend, allowing your muscles to rest and regenerate.
    I must admit, I didn’t follow this when I was practising hard. I wanted to keep the momentum.
    I do rest at the weekends now though.

  4. Keep good form
    As soon as your form goes or you fail a rep, stop!
    If your back begins to arch or you struggle, stop.
    This is vital for improving your performance.


  5. Record your results
    Each day, write the date and your reps for each set. I write my results in my journal. That way you can track your progress.
    It’s really great to see the increase in reps week by week.

    I often added one extra rep every few days.
    I would very rarely do fewer reps than the day before. My mindset was ‘if I could do X press-ups yesterday, I can do X or X+1 today.’
    This was a very powerful practice for me and helped increase the numbers quickly.

FYI: I didn’t get picked for the TV programme, but I am really thankful I was chosen for the audition because now I can do proper press-ups.

Notes

  • I took creatine and BCAAs during the time I was training for the TV programme to improve performance and recovery.
  • My max press-ups have decreased to around 15 since I didn’t get picked for the programme, but that is significantly more than before using this plan.
  • I still do 3 x 15 reps as part of my morning routine to wake up my body and mind. I never feel excited about doing them. In fact, I would quite happily not do them, but getting them done always feels better than not doing them.
  • I would like to use this approach with other exercises such as pull-ups.

If you try this method or have any other advice for improving press-ups, I’d love to hear from you. Find me on social media and drop me a message.

Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing about your press-up progress 💪🏼