Pushups are hard, no doubt about it. Especially if you are a woman, since we naturally lack upper body strength. But they certainly aren’t impossible. If you are committed to your health and fitness, then having a solid set of pushups should definitely be one of your goals. They are one of the most efficient bodyweight exercises as they challenge every muscle in your upper body – your abs, obliques, chest, arms, and back. Below I’ve outlined a plan that can help you get your first set of pushups in just 4 weeks.
Note: This plan is specifically designed for women, but anyone can use it.
Week 1: Half Pushups and Plank
A lot of people think of pushups as being an arm, chest, shoulder and back exercise. While this is true, pushups are also majorly effective for strengthening your core. Which is why when you are working up to being able to do full pushups, you need to focus on improving your core strength first. Plank is one of the most effective exercises for core strength. For Week 1, I would recommend planking for 3-5 minutes total every day. You can space it out throughout your daily routine, just doing 20 seconds at a time, or you can do it all at once, resting as needed. If you need to modify this exercise to make it a little more manageable, hold plank from your knees instead of your toes. If at all possible though, even if it’s just for 10 seconds at a time, try to hold a full plank.
Of course, you will also need to start working on your upper body strength. When I was working towards mastering pushups I did a lot of half pushups, where you do a pushup from your knees instead of your toes. This requires less core strength, making it much easier than a regular pushup, but it’s still effective for building some upper body strength. For Week 1, you should aim to do 30 half pushups per day. Like the plank, you can spread 3 sets of 10 reps out throughout your day, or try doing them all at once. This exercise along with some plank work will have you much stronger (and probably quite sore) by the end of this first week.
Week 2: Incline Pushups and Plank
This week you are going to master a version of the pushup that is a little bit harder than a half pushup, since it requires more core stability. You are going to perform a full pushup with your feet on the floor and your hands on a couch, chair, counter, or some other raised surface. Try to do at least 3 sets of 10 reps every day. Really focus on keeping your core tight and your body in a straight line (like a plank). If you can do more than 3 sets of 10, feel free to do more sets or more repetitions.
You also want to keep building your core strength. This week, try to plank for 5-7 minutes total per day. Your goal should be to consistently increase the amount of time you can hold plank before you need a break.
Week 3: Plank Pushups and Half Pushup Holds
It’s time to step it up a notch. Plank pushups are an excellent way to build pushup strength. They challenge every muscle in your core and upper body. Start on your forearms, then move up to your hands by pressing yourself up with one hand at a time. Alternate which hand you start with each time. Try to keep your hips from rotating. Make it your goal to do 3-5 sets of 10 reps each day.
To give yourself an extra upper body challenge, do half pushup holds. This is where you get on your hands and knees and lower yourself to within 3 inches of the ground (like you are about to do a half pushup), but instead of pushing up, hold yourself near the ground for as long as you can. Do this 3 times per day, and try to increase your max hold time by a few seconds each day.
Week 4: Pushups!
This is it! By now you should be able to do at least 1 full pushup. If you aren’t quite there yet, don’t worry about it, just keep working on the previous weeks’ exercises and you will get there in no time. Everyone progresses at a different rate. The hardest part of this process is getting your first set of 3 pushups. Once you have 3, it’s much easier to keep working until you can do 10, 20, or even 30. On week 4, start your workout by attempting a full pushup. If you can do one, great – try two. Repeat this several times per day, trying to be able to do at least 3 by the end of the week. If you can’t quite get your first pushup, keep doing lots of incline pushups and plank pushups, and you’ll get there before you know it. Eventually you will even be able to add more advanced pushup techniques, such as diamond pushups and clapping pushups. Just don’t give up.