I Feel Passionate About Push-Ups

They may be tough, but push yourself to do the real thing, and you'll get better FAST! Credit: Port of San Diego, Flickr

They may be tough, but push yourself to do the real thing, and you’ll get better FAST! Credit: Port of San Diego, Flickr

When Jenn came to visit recently, we got to chatting about workouts, of course. I was talking about how even the idea of her gym intimidates me, what with the people doing pull-ups and crazy fitness feats right and left. She mentioned that even though there are crazy-fit people there, there are some women who go there who still do modified push-ups.

Cue a passion about push-ups that had been laying dormant within me.

I couldn’t believe it. With the crazy stuff those people do, it didn’t seem possible that anyone in that facility wasn’t pumping out hundreds of one-armed push-ups on a given day. How could they be doing modified push-ups?

Now, I hate to bag on modified push-ups — the ones you do from your knees. Or incline push-ups that you do against a wall. They have their time and place, for sure. For beginners, they can be a great first step to gain the building blocks needed for killer upper-body strength. I’m as guilty of the modified push-ups as anyone else. They used to be my thing. I used to think they were just fine; that they were enough. But then I had a trainer who told me in no uncertain terms that I should be doing the real deal. That it didn’t matter if I could only eke out a few, but I should do as many real push-ups as I could do and build from there. And wouldn’t you know it? Ever since then — when I could only do one or two — I’ve been able to consistently do several sets of 10 or 12.

I definitely don’t mean to come across like a push-up snob, but ladies, you can do real push-ups. You really can! You just have to try. Just like Jenn’s pull-ups, she didn’t get there overnight. But you’ll never be able to push yourself to do unmodified push-ups if you’re not even attempting them. And once you master them, you’ll feel silly for holding back for so long. So if you’ve been working out for more than a month, give it a try. Do one. You’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll improve, and you’ll be rocking out multiple sets of 10 in no time!

Do you do modified push-ups or have you tackled the real deal? —Erin

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  1. I have a love/hate relationship with push-ups . I see the modified version as a way to build strength and as a stepping stone to doing actual push-ups. BUT THEY’RE SO HARD!! Haha. I’ve always wanted to do the 100 push-up challenge!

  2. Suzannah says:

    I think about the real vs modified push-ups every time I do them. I have always struggled with push-ups. So is it better to do a few real push-ups than a lot of modified ones? For instance, I take group fitness classes and sometimes we do push-ups for ages. I would never be able to do real push-ups for the entire allotted time they have dedicated for push-ups (even if it is only for a minute). My form goes out the window and I feel like I am doing head dips instead of push-ups. At this point, I usually switch to modified push-ups. What are your thoughts on switching part way through?

  3. Erin says:

    They ARE so hard!

    Suzannah – I absolutely do switch to modified if I’m doing set after set after set in a class! For me I do as many “real” ones as I can and then switch to modified. Like I said, no shame in modifying anything, ever, but it’s always good to push and challenge yourself!

  4. Cat says:

    It is my goal over this winter to finally work up to sets of real push-ups. I’m going to follow a progression similar to what Jenn did to get to real pull-ups: using a staircase! Start as high as you need to, where you’re able to do a couple sets of 10, then work your way down to the next step, and the next etc until you are on the floor. THEN if you’re doing really good, put your feet up on to the bottom step and hands on the floor and continue to progress your feet higher and higher. That’s the plan, anyway.

  5. Annah says:

    I used to have a push up challenge with my boyfriend. Week one: (at least 4 times a week) do 4 real pushups. Week 2: do 5. Then every week we added 1 or 2. You’d be surprised how quickly you’ll be able to do 10,11 and even 20.

  6. Mally says:

    OK. This has inspired me. I have been working out hardcore and consistently for about 4 months, all while incorporating modified push-ups. Next time, I’m attempting the real deal! Although, I’m a bit worried about my form. Do I have to go all the way down and touch my nose to the floor in order to really count it?