Perfect Practice for Perfect Push-ups

Perfect Practice for Perfect Push-ups

I received an e-mail from a young lady who aspires to join the military in the next year. Knowing she has a lot of physical fitness tests in her future, she wants some advice on improving her performance of push-ups. She says she has never practiced push-ups the "traditional way," which is what I call the regular push-up as opposed to the knee push-up.

First of all, there is no reason why women cannot do the regular push-up. All it takes is practice. I have several men and women clients who started out doing push-ups on their knees but now can easily do 40 to 50 regular push-ups without stopping to rest. Here are some simple tips and workouts to help you get above-average scores on the PFT.

Related Video: gets a demonstration of the Army’s new pushup technique that will be used for combat readiness tests.

Proper Full-Body Warm-Up

Get the heart pumping and the arms warmed up by doing the following warm-up (repeat three to five times; it only takes 2 or 3 minutes):

- Jumping jacks, 10 - Push-ups, 10

After warming up, stretch the triceps and chest and shoulders:

Triceps / Shoulders Stretch: Place both arms over and behind your head. Grab your right elbow with your left hand and pull your elbow toward your opposite shoulder. Lean into the pull to also stretch your back/oblique muscles. Switch arms and repeat. Chest / Shoulders Stretch: Grab onto a bar or wall with one hand, turn and twist so you feel a stretch of the chest and shoulder connection. Pull your shoulders back and stick your chest out. Hold for 15 seconds. Switch arms and repeat.

Techniques and Workouts

Go Fast: For maximum points on the PFT, do the push-ups as quickly as you can. The slower you go, the more gravity will affect your strength. Adhere to proper form however. Proper Stance: Your hands should be about shoulder width apart. Lie on the floor with your hands even with your shoulders. Too many people place their hands too high or too low, which will weaken your push-ups tremendously. Stay on Your Toes: Once you burn out, it is OK to go to your knees in order to finish the workout.

The following workouts are taken from the eBooks found at the Fitness eBook Store. Not only is the super set one of the best ways to increase your push-ups, but while you "rest" your push-up muscles, you can also increase your sit-ups.

Push-Up/Crunch Super Set

Do five to 10 cycles of:

- Regular push-ups, 10 - Regular crunches, 10 - Wide push-ups, 10 - Reverse crunches, 10 - Triceps push-ups, 10 - Left/right crunches, 10 each side

The timed workout is another way to increase your push-ups and sit-ups that also helps prepare you for training with the clock -- good practice for the PFT. Being timed is what leads to most people's PFT anxiety.

Timed Workout

Repeat twice: - 1 minute of push-ups - 1 minute of sit-ups

Repeat three times:

- 30 seconds of push-ups - 30 seconds of sit-ups

Repeat four times:

- 15 seconds of push-ups - 15 seconds of sit-ups

Try these workouts only resting while you do your crunches or sit-ups. These workouts are challenging and only take a few minutes to do. I recommend that you try to incorporate push-ups and crunches into your workout three times a week and every other day, if you are not following a detailed program.

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Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at

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