how to do your first press up

How To Do Your First Press Up

In this article I’m going to show you how you can build up to your very first press up. It doesn’t matter how rubbish you think you are at them, because with my four-step process, you’ll be able to find a regression that fits your level of strength.

I’m also going to detail all of the common mistakes people make when performing press ups and how you can avoid them.

Finally, I’ll give you some advanced options to practice after you’ve mastered the basic version so that you can press up like a bad ass!

Why Are Press Ups So Good?

Press ups are one of the most well-known exercises out there, with a myriad of benefits.

So, what’s the big deal?

Firstly, press ups can help to improve muscle size and definition, if you want nice toned arms and to say bye bye to bingo wings, then press ups can help.

They can also help to improve strength levels in the upper body.

Press ups are a great way to help improve your posture and protect your shoulders from injury.

They are also extremely versatile and can be done pretty much anywhere, with progressions and regressions to suit almost all levels.

So the burning question…

How Do You Master Your First Press Up?!

Simple.

Follow my four-step process!

Stage 1 – The Full Plank

The first step to being able to perform a full press up, is developing the strength to be able to hold yourself in a high plank position comfortably.

Mastering the high plank will ensure you can stabilise your body weight with your shoulders and core strength.

  • Start with your hands directly below your shoulders
  • There should be a straight line from the back of your head down to your heels
  • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes tight
  • Your head should not dip down
  • Your hips should not sag

Once you can hold this position for 60 seconds, you can move on to stage 2.

Stage 2 – Incline Press Ups

The next step is to perform press ups with your hands elevated so that your body is in an inclined position.


The height of your hands will depend on your level of strength.

You could start with your hands on a wall, a table or on a chair.

The higher your hand position, the easier the press up will be.

The technique is the same as a full press up, but the inclined position means you are pushing less of your body weight.

You can adjust the height of this exercise as you become stronger.

If you have access to a squat rack and barbell, you can set the barbell at a height where you can perform the exercise well. Then lower the bar over time until you master each new depth, all the way until you reach the floor.

  • Lower the chest down and simultaneously squeeze the shoulder blades together
  • Elbows should be 45 degrees from the body
  • Ensure the hips do not sag
  • Press back up keeping your body in a straight line

Once you can perform 10-12 reps with your body at a 45 degree angle, you can move on to stage 3.

Stage 3 – Eccentric Press Ups

Set up in a high plank position.

  • Start with your hands directly below your shoulders
  • There should be a straight line from the back of your head down to your heels
  • Brace your core and squeeze your glutes tight
  • Your head should not dip down
  • Your hips should not sag

Then…

  • Bend the elbows and begin to travel slowly towards the floor
  • As you lower the chest down you should simultaneously squeeze the shoulder blades together
  • Elbows should be 45 degrees from the body
  • Ensure the hips do not sag
  • Aim to take 2 seconds to get from top to bottom
  • Use your knees to get back up to the top position then go again

Aim to do 6-10 reps, lowering yourself down for 2 seconds.

Then do 6-10 reps, lowering yourself down for 4 seconds.

Then do 6-10 reps, lowering yourself down for 6 seconds.

Keep building 2 seconds at a time until you can take 10 seconds down from top to bottom.

You should then be ready for stage 4.

Stage 4 – The Full Press Up

You should now be ready to attempt a full press up.

  • Set up as you would for the eccentric press up.
  • Lower yourself down to the floor.
  • Then drive back up, try to think about pushing the ground away from you.
  • Ensure that you keep your mid-section braced and glutes squeezed, so that your body is in a straight line as you travel back up.

Congratulations, you just did your first press up!!

Common Mistakes When Doing A Press Up

In this section, I’m going to show you the common mistakes people make when trying do a press up.

Press Ups On Knees

Now this isn’t a mistake per se, but in terms of building up to being able to do a full press up, I think that the incline and eccentric only press ups are much better alternatives.

You won’t learn to brace your core and glutes properly if your knees are bent, which leads to poor carryover to a full press up.

Bum Too High

The set-up is wrong from the get go. Hips are way too high and bum is up in the air.

Head Bob

The elbows don’t bend and you bob your head towards the ground, giving yourself the optical illusion that you’re getting closer to the floor.

Elbows Flared Out

The elbows flare out to the side far too much, they should travel at approximately 45 degrees from the body.

Quarter Rep

No-where near full range, your chest needs to come right down to the floor for it to be a full rep.

Sagging Hips

Minimal core control, your hips lower to the ground and the elbows don’t bend enough.

The kind of technique you’d expect from a horny 18-year-old!

Advanced Variations Of The Press Up

Once you’ve mastered your first full press up, the next step is to build to 10-12 reps.

After that you can move on to these more advanced methods.

Press Up Plus

This version is great for strengthening the serratus anterior, which will improve posture and shoulder health.

Perform a full press, press away at the top of the movement, then squeeze the shoulder blades together on the way back down, before pressing away again.

Decline Press Ups

The same technique as a regular press up, but with your feet raised up onto a step or chair.

Clap Press Ups

Perform a full press up, but on the way up drive up as fast as possible.

Aim to push your hands away from the floor and then clap, before landing your hands back below the shoulders and going into the next rep.

Conclusion

Press ups are a fantastic exercise to build into your training regime, whether you are trying to lose body fat, gain strength or keep your shoulders healthy.

They are also extremely versatile with many variations.

Once you’ve mastered your first press up, build to 10-12 reps, then move on to more advanced methods.

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