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Pushups are one of the most old school calisthenics you can do. However, nobody wants to be the guy or gal that can only do a few. Below are some tips on how to get better at pushups, as well as how to use them in your overall routine.
If you want to know how to get better at pushups, the most common sense answer is still going to be the best one – just start doing them. You can get better at pushups by getting stronger or losing weight (meaning you have less body mass to lift). The latter is more diet related, but the former can be amended right away by simply just integrating pushups into your program right away.
Pushups are a very versatile exercise that could be utilized in quite a number of ways. One of the most common ways pushups are used is in calisthenics conditioning circuits. You could do them with body weight squats, burpees, mountain climbers, and an ab exercise, one after another. Do 10-30 reps of each with no rest between, for 3-6 rounds.
Pushups could also be used as an alternative to the bench press to get stronger and build muscle, using a strength-based hypertrophy protocol of sets of 6-8 reps. However, this will only work if the exercise provides the appropriate resistance. If regular sets of 6-8 reps are hard for you as is with no modifications, then you can go ahead with no alterations.
However, if they’re too easy, you’ll have to increase the resistance somehow. You can elevate your feet to make them harder, and you can add extra weight. You could do this by having someone place weight plates or draping heavy chains across your back. However, if you train by yourself, an alternative could be to wear a heavy weighted vest.
Another great fit for pushups is as a finisher at the end of your chest workout. Do 2-3 sets of max reps for an intense pump. This effect is best achieved when you do a lot of reps, so you’ll need to be able to do 30-50 reps or more non-stop in your first set.
Another method of how to get better at pushups is to vary your hand placement. While a common adaptation would be to change up how wide you go, another version is to change what direction your hands are pointing.
Rotate your hands outward such that your fingers were pointing to the “10:00” position with your left hand and the “2:00” position with your right hand. Doing this will put your elbows closer to your sides, putting quite a bit of emphasis on the triceps. This can also be more advantageous for the shoulder if you have a history of rotator cuff issues, but also can change the difficulty, too. Some lifters actually find they can do more pushups this way.
Conversely, you could rotate the hands inward such that your fingers were pointing to the “2:00” position with your left hand and the “10:00” position with your right hand. This would be like a wider grip modification of a diamond pushup, a common variation used by combat athletes and in bootcamp settings.
Pushups should always be a staple of your program, no matter what your strength level. They’re versatile, need no equipment, and can easily fill in any gaps you have in your workout. If your pushup game isn’t yet up to par, use the above as a guide, and you’ll be banging out more reps in no time.