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.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 💪🏼