The Push up Progression Guide (With Variations)

New to training or workouts? Or invested good enough effort but left out with sprains and no gains. Well, let’s get back to the basics of training. Well, Push up progression is very vital in physical training and push ups are one of the most basic and fundamental exercises in strength training. This exercise can be found in everybody’s workout routine but also most people get it wrong and perform incorrectly.

Throughout this article, you will learn everything there is to know about push-up progression and also rectify any errors in your exercise itself as well.

Muscles Involved

This exercise involves muscles from your entire body but some play a much more predominant role than others, so let’s see what those are and how do they work:

We can increase the involvement of these specific muscles by modifying the position of your arms and the angle at which your body takes, but these are for advanced trainees. For beginners, make a commitment to perform at least 3 sets of 10 reps with proper form and no muscle fatigue before advancing to other variations of push-up progression.

Primary Muscles

  1. Triceps: these run on the backside of your arm from the shoulder joint to the elbow.
  2. Pectoralis Major: The chest muscles, in simple words, this muscle is spread across your chest area in a sort of fan shape.
  3. Anterior Deltoids: Muscles located at the front of your shoulders. These help you in the movement of a push-up.

Secondary Muscles

Other muscles which are involved in balancing your body and also giving support for the primary muscles in the movement of push-up exercise:

  1. Biceps: Supports your arms to carry bodyweight.
  2. Abdominal Muscles (Rectus Abdominis, Obliques): Balances your body to keep it in a straight line.
  3. Erector Spinae: These work along with the Rectus Abdominis.
  4. Quadriceps: These support your lower body to keep in a straight line with your torso.

Proper Push-Up Form and Movement

As it goes with any exercise, maintaining proper form is imperative to gain results and develop strength. Doing 5 reps with good form is highly effective than 10-15 reps with inadequate, inconsistent form.

Additionally, if you can do 10 reps on one day and later get around to do 20 reps with your hip collapsing or butt lifted high. There is no proper way to measure your strength with this kind of careless approach. And addition to that, inconsistent form will put uneven pressure and this can lead to injuries.

So, let’s learn the correct form of a push-up.

  1. Place your hands at a distance that is shoulder-width apart or slightly wider. The angle of your palms most probably should be pointing forward, a slight tilt in the angle is fine, though. Find which is comfortable and go with that.
  2. If you are someone who is dealing with wrist pain, then it is better to do it on knuckles or use push-up handles.
  3. Maintain body in a straight line. You have to balance your entire body weight on your arms & feet and when I say balance, maintain a straight line from your head to ankles.
  4. Movement, let’s see how this is done. If you are set up in your proper push-up form, now we can go ahead and start the actual exercise.

But I want to emphasize a critical step. During the push-up movement, your arms shouldn’t be too wide. When you are down during the push-up, your arms should be in an arrow shape instead of a T-shape from Top-view.

Common Mistakes

Generally, there are 3 big errors commonly seen with beginners are:

  • Error -1: Unstable Shoulders

You have to keep your shoulders active, dropping them in this movement when all your body weight is carried on your arms with shoulder acting as a single joint, it can lead to serious injuries & sprains in your shoulder muscles.

  • Error-2: Dropping your hips

You have to maintain a neutral straight line throughout your body. This indicates you are not engaging your core and lower back muscles. To prevent this fall, you need to tighten your abs.

  • Error-3: Your Butt Sticking Out

This is on the other side and instead of dropping, it is lifted high. You might assume your form is alright and continue with it but this can increase the load on your arms and badly affect your back muscles.

To rectify this, you need to clench your buttocks and at the same time tighten your abs. Do this gently, if you put too much pressure then it will strain your muscles in these locations.

It is much better to record a video of yourself and watch how you are doing. This will give a great insight into where you must improve.

A Complete One-Repetition of Push-Up Motion

Arms straight & shoulder-width apart, butt and abs engaged with your upper torso and legs.

  • With your arms not flaring away to the side, slowly drop your body until the chest is 2-inches closer to the floor. And bring it back up in the same plane and motion.
  • The entire movement has to be controlled without any jerky motions.

How to Breathe During Push-Ups

The most commonly observed issue among beginners is they tend to hold their breath to maintain a straight form. This is totally unacceptable.

Breathing is a critical part of your exercise along with your form. As your muscles are working, they’ll be demanding more oxygen and if you fail to supply that, it can cause dizziness and muscle fatigue.

The right breathing technique is to breathe in as you lower your body and exhale while carrying the load/weight, which in push up is to push your body back to starting position.

Beginner Training for Proper Push-Ups

Make sure to do at least 3 sets of 10 reps in each level. If you face any trouble or difficulties in doing a regular push-up with the form mentioned above, you need to work in an easier to harder push up progression.

The form is the same as mentioned previously but the difficulty will be modified easier and difficulty increases to normal push-up.

Push up Progression Guide

Level-1: Wall Push-Up

  • Get into a push-up form but not on the floor but do it on the wall with your feet as the only base on the floor.
  • This pretty much standing but it eases out the work involved and gets your muscles ready for more work.
    1. Stand in front of a wall. Your body engaging the core, hips & butt and keeping everything in a straight line.
    2. Talk 2-steps or more back from the wall until your arms are fully extended and supporting your weight. Now, in a controlled motion, lower yourself close to the wall and then push back to normal position.

Level-2: Inclined Push-Up

Maintain the same form but you have to drop yourself on an inclined position. Pick something that will bring a 45-degree angle with the ground.

Try to work at least 3 sets of 10 reps with good form. You can use the staircase in your house, this would be a perfect fit. If you are able to do at least 3 sets, then you are good to go for the next level.

Level-3: Knee Push-Up

This is the closest to a regular push-up. You have to get on the floor in your proper push-up form but instead of using your feet, you will need to use your knees as a base for your lower body.

Level-4: Regular Push-Up

Now, if you are comfortable doing knee push-ups for 3 sets of 10 reps, you are good to go and perform regular push-ups.

We have already seen the form and movement of this regular push-up above, so go ahead and try it.

Variations of Push-Ups

Close-Grip / Diamond Push-Up

Bring your palms closer to each other and rotate your hands outward at a comfortable angle. Keep your elbows firm, this workout will make your triceps get involved like crazy.

Wide Grip Push-Up

Here, we can extend the arms beyond the shoulder width but not so wide. Too much width can put more stress on your shoulders, do this at a comfortable position for 2 reps and see how it feels & adjust the width accordingly. This variation will work on your pecs incredibly.

Decline Push-Up

This is the opposite version of inclined push-ups. Now, the difficulty level is much higher and the load increases, and try to consciously maintain a good form in a straight line.

Side-to-Side Push-Up

Get into the regular push-up form and keep your hands farther apart than usual. Now, lower your body on only one side of the arm. Much of your body weight must be supported on one arm.

To complete the rep, in the bottom phase slide to the other arm and push-up. The farther apart your hands, the harder it will get.

Spiderman Push-Up

This version is much harder and involves your whole body movement including push-up muscles. The muscles which were previously only supporting will now get into the foreground. The core muscles, glutes, and obliques will fire up in this workout.

How to Improve your Push-Ups

  1. Drop those extra pounds: Most of the time, push-ups can get much harder with the excess weight in your body. If you are one of those, change your diet and incorporate some fat-reduction training in your workout regimen.
  2. Complete every set: Do not work out with negligence! Maintain a finishing attitude and get through every set with proper form in every rep. Try to improve after you’ve got comfortable with the number of sets and reps at present.
  3. Take good enough rest: Give rest to your muscles during the workout and also get your 6-8 hours of sleep. Your body has experienced something abnormal, so you need to let it recover. Do not push to the extreme too quickly. This can bring fatigue and injuries.

When you reach the level where push-ups can get as a part of your warm-up. You can do them every day.

  1. Protein- intake: During the workout, your muscles put in a lot of effort and they need a good amount of protein to recover after the workout. Protein will help in rebuilding these muscles after a workout and also makes them stronger.


Push up progression is a wonderful way to build strength and also get your chest, triceps, and shoulders in shape. These don’t require equipment or any gym. They are very easy to incorporate into your regimen and also most important & one of the basic exercises.

So, build a good enough training plan with push up progression guide. Set a target and do it with discipline and consistency, this will help you reap good benefits for your body shape and building muscle.