Here are four routines that will get you strong enough to do pushups.

With the right training, women and “weakling” men can get strong enough to do many solid pushups.

Pushups are difficult for beginners, including men, so always warm up the shoulder joints before entering into chest routines.

The following are chest-session samples that will, over time, yield the strength to do pushups.

Dumbbell presses on minimally inclined bench: 5 sets, 8-15-rep max. Example: 30(weight of each dumbbell) X 15, 35 X 12, 40 X 8, 40 X 8, 40 X 8.

The weights chosen here demonstrate progression; the weight actually used will vary from individual to individual depending on their strength.

Just make sure that these are truly 8-15-rep maxes. If individual sometimes can only make it to six or seven reps, that’s fine.

Take two-minute rests in between sets. After fifth set, rest and stretch five minutes before next set cluster below.

Seated chest press, any selectorized equipment, or weight-plate-stacking equipment:

Choose a machine with handles relatively close together; avoid wide-grip chest press apparatus because this puts undue stress on shoulder joints.

Five sets, 6-12-rep maxes. Take 90-seconds to two-minute rests.

Gently stretch shoulders and chest in between sets.

Incline barbell press: Three sets, 8-15-rep max


Pec-deck (“butterfly” machine): Five sets, 70-90 percent 8-12-rep maxes. These machines have an adjustment for range of motion.


It’s not necessary, especially for the poorly conditioned, to set the hand-grips all the way back.

Use the first, second, or with experienced people, the third “hole.” Hold the peak contraction for two seconds before releasing.

These four stations are the foundation of getting strong enough for pushups. Within these four routines are many possible variations.

For example, all or some of the dumbbell presses can be followed by the seated chest presses for supersets.

The rep ranges don’t have to be adhered to exactly each and every time; they are guidelines, but don’t stray far from them.

Another variation might be to follow the dumbbell presses with the incline barbell presses for supersets.

You can even throw in a few rounds involving a superset of stability ball dumbbell presses right on to 50-75-degree incline bench dumbbell presses with a 15-rep max. The individual can also do drop-sets with the peck deck.

What these exercises are doing is priming the chest muscles and shoulder joints for the stress of a pushup.

Pushups are usually thought of as a major chest routine, but actually, they also recruit the shoulder joint, and even some triceps.

Wide-hand pushups are not a smart idea because this can hurt shoulders.

The ideal distance between hands for pushups is about the distance between your hands that would result if you were to get down on all fours without thinking about what you were doing, as though getting into this position to look for a coin that rolled under your desk.

Your hands will naturally, automatically settle on the floor-not too far apart, but not too snug, either.

As you over time increase strength in these routines, you can then try a pushup. Do not permit a sagging body.

Do not get fancy with using medicine balls or wobbly core-challenging gadgets as the pushup surface.

Stick to plain, standard pushups. If you can’t do one without sloppy form or struggling, postpone the attempt until additional strength gains in the weight routines are achieved.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified through the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained women and men of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 



Top image: Pushup Woman, Racool_studio