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Push-Up Progression for Beginners

    Total beginners and overweight people usually find it hard to perform push-ups with the correct technique. It seems to be easy, but push-ups are compound exercises that require strong chest, shoulders, and arms. It’s logical since we have to press about 60-70% of our body weight.

    With the help of beginner push-up progressions, we can strengthen the required upper body muscles. These are easier exercises from which we can do more repetitions, sets, and we can perform them correctly. But, they work the same muscles as basic push-ups.

    Within this guide, you will learn:

    Let’s start.

    Push-up variations for beginners

    1. Wall Push-up

    Wall Push-up

    • Face in front of the wall and put your hands on the wall with shoulder-width apart.
    • The distance between you and the wall should be so long that your elbows are slightly bent.
    • Align your back.
    • Slowly bend your elbows and go until your forehead slightly touches the wall. During this phase, inhale.
    • By focusing on your chest, press yourself back to the starting position and exhale.

    The lowering phase should take about 2 seconds, stop for a second at the wall, and press yourself back in 2 seconds. Don’t rush, or use the momentum. Since this is a mild variation, try to do high reps 15-20 or more.

    2. Incline push-up

    Because of the incline position, the upper body gets more load compared to the wall version. For this exercise, you need something elevated, such as a table or chairs. Of course, the higher the object, the easier the practice is. So choose the angle to your fitness level. In this example, we use a table.

    • Place your hands shoulder-width apart at the edge of the table. Straighten your arms, and align your body in such a way that your arms are right-angled to your torso and bit of under the pecs.
    • Keep your back in a straight line and tighten your stomach.
    • Slowly lower yourself until your chest almost touches the edge of the table.
    • Stop for a moment, and press yourself back to the starting point.
    • Repeat.

    If you start with a high elevated object (50-60 degree angle), gradually increase the reps up to 20-25. If you can do 3-4 sets with 25 repetitions, pick a lower thing, for example, use the stairs or a smaller chair for the elevated push-ups.

    3. Knee push-ups

    • Get into a plank position and place your knees on the ground. Your hands are shoulder-width apart, and they are a bit under your chest. You can also lift your feet, so when you go down, your lower body pivot on your knees.
    • With straightened back and spine, slowly lower your chest towards the floor until your pecs are about 1-2 inches from the floor, during this phase inhale.
    • Stop for a moment at the bottom and push yourself back to the push-up position.
    • Repeat.

    Compared to the previous push-up techniques, this exercise is much harder, so you won’t be able to do as many repetitions. But, gradually increase the reps up to 20-25 reps. If you reach that level, you are ready for the perfect push-up form.

    4. Plank


    Why do I list plank as a progression exercise? The plank works the whole core, which is required to keep your back and abs aligned for stability when you perform the push-ups. Plus, it works the pectoralis and shoulders that are also necessary for the proper technique.

    You can do the standard plank when your arms are stretched, or you can place your forearms on the floor. In the beginning, try to hold it for 10-20 seconds with 1-2 minutes rest between. Then, gradually increase the time.

    5. Bench dips

    Just like the previous one, the dip is another supporting exercise that strengthens the triceps and shoulders. You will need a stable surface, such as a heavy chair or bench.

    • The bench is behind you. Place your palms on it with shoulder-width apart. Your arms and legs are stretched, the feet are next to each other.
    • Slowly lower yourself towards the floor until your triceps are parallel to the ground.
    • Pause for a moment and press yourself back.
    • Repeat.

    If you find it hard, you can bend your knees, which results in less load on the arms.

    6. Negative push-ups

    To increase the power and get them familiar with the movements, negative progression is an excellent technique. In this case, you get into a plank position, then very slowly (4-10 seconds), you lower your upper body, but you don’t press yourself back to the starting point yet.

    7. Full push-ups

    If you have mastered the previous moves, you are ready to make your first push-up with a correct form.

    • Get into the plank position with your hand shoulder-width apart and feet close to each other. Your palms are slightly under your pecs.
    • Tighten your torso, keep your head, spine, and legs inline.
    • While inhaling lower your upper body until it almost touches the floor.
    • Stop for a second and press yourself back while exhaling.
    • Repeat

    To build strength and mass, you should always focus on the correct form. It’s better to do 5 good reps than 10 lazy ones. If you don’t go deep enough, your torso is curved, or your hips sag, etc. that isn’t a correct push-up. Can’t you do it the right way? Go back to the progressions instead.

    Recommended: Common push-up mistakes

    Push-up workout for beginners

    When you create your workout, you need to test yourself thoroughly. Try the push-up progression moves above one by one. If you can easily do 20-25, you may not want to include it in your routine. If fewer, just do it. Let’s say you can already do 10 knee push-ups the right way.

    Here is a sample routine that you can do 2-3 times a week.

    • 3×15 elevated push-ups
    • 3×8 knee push-ups
    • 3×8-10 dips
    • 3×10 negative push-ups
    • 4×max plank

    Or check out the video below.

    Progressive exercises for strength and endurance

    If you read the guides for the activities, I mostly recommended reaching a very high number of reps (20-30) before switching to a more advanced movement. That seems to be too high, but if you reach that level, your muscles have not only strength but also endurance. For bodyweight exercises and correct form, both of them are required. Moreover, such high reps improve the nervous and cardiovascular system. So, you will be ready for more advanced push-up exercises.

    I tell you an example. My cousin is always lifting weight. For chest, he does barbell presses with about 220 lb with 5-8 reps. Can he do 40 push-ups? Not at all, since he has power, but the muscle endurance is low. When he saw me, after 20 years of working out, still doing your kneeling push-ups (3×50-60) and wall push-ups (100-150 reps), he was surprised. But that’s what I want. Not just power, but endurance as well.

    Don’t feel ashamed about doing a push-up progression program. If you master movements, you will have excellent fundamentals.

    Tip: Change the hand positioning for versatility and check out a lot of push up variations here.


    • What muscles does the push-up work?

      The primary ones are the minor and mayor pectoralis and triceps. But, it also engages the deltoids, back, triceps, lats, and core muscles. That is why it’s among the most beneficial strength training workouts for the upper body.

    • Can I do push-ups every day?

      Yes, if your body is prepared. However, I don’t recommend it for beginners. The fibers need time to recover and adapt to the new stress. So, rest is required. A push-up workout 2-3 times a week is enough. Strengthen other body parts instead.

    • Can the push-up substitute bench press?

      No matter if you do weight or bodyweight training, the fibers as long as they get a load that they need to adapt. Weight lifters usually criticize bodyweight exercises because of the resistance is limited. That is true. But, there are such tough calisthenics drills such as single-arm push-ups that most of the bodybuilders can’t do. So, yes, I believe push-ups can replace bench press unless you want to be the next Arnold.

    • Why I have wrist pain during push-ups?

      If you experience pain, you can try push-up equipment that lets you twist your wrist. That usually helps. However, with time wrists get used to the load.

    To conclude

    If you do the push-up progression for beginners above and you are dedicated, you will be able to do your first push-up faster than you think. But don’t forget to train your entire body. One exercise isn’t enough to build a fit and balanced body.


    James Wright

    James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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