Incremental improvement

Incremental improvement

My love for push ups is well documented. It is a terrific exercise. It’s scalable and you can do them anywhere. You can make them harder and easier without too much fuss (think incline, weighted, one arm, pike, handstand or dips). We made a video about how to work towards your first push up that I have linked to below. 

Today I am going help you visualize how two to six months of progress on a push up would look.

We get a lot of newbie strength trainees who cannot do a floor push up. They lack the coordination, stability and strength to perform one. And we don’t like knee push ups. They do not encourage you to use your upper back and shoulders as well as you can. 

To help people progress on push ups at our gym we built a push up and pull rig to accommodate all strength levels. You stick a pipe on a frame at any height you desire in 2.5 inch increments starting from 6 inches off the floor all the way through 30 inches off the floor. The advantage is simple: when your arms are at a higher point relative to your legs, there is more load on
your legs and less on your arms. As you reduce the height at which your arms are positioned, you shift more weight to your arms and this increases the load on the push ups. 

You start at a height that you can perform 6-8 counts comfortably for 3-4 rounds. You keep working your way down incrementally. 


Making things harder gradually and incrementally has multiple advantages:

*Gives you a chance to start at a comfortable position that lets you focus on getting it right. 
*Once you have nailed down the basics, scaling in 2.5 inch increments avoids jarring increase in load on the shoulders. This lets you progress smoothly without letting your technique be tested drastically. 
*Teaches you effective weight transfer on a plank. A good push up sees you maintain a steady torso with weight biasing towards your shoulders. Working at an elevation lets you get this right. 

This takeaway of progressing gradually while focussing on execution applies to all exercise and nutrition interventions. Getting it right over the long run trumps aggressive execution that fizzles out in weeks.