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Want to Get Better at Pushups? Focus on These 3 Exercises

close up of hands of a person in a plank position
A pushup exercises more than just your upper body muscles. This full-body movement is perfect for gym-goers of all levels!
by Mary Lambkin

The pushup is one of the most tried-and-true, classic exercises out there. You'd be hard-pressed to find any fitness fad or philosophy that wouldn't encourage everyone to get better at pushups as part of a well-rounded workout routine.

Although the pushup is a great move to support full-body fitness, it can be challenging for beginners who are just starting out at the gym. Thankfully, there are a number of exercises you can perform to strengthen the muscles involved and get better over time!

Why Pushups Are so Popular

Pushups require a lot of upper body strength, especially from your shoulders, chest, and triceps. The fun doesn't stop there, though; pushups also work your core, glutes, and back. During your next workout, see if you can include a handful of exercises that target these pushup-specific muscle groups.

By focusing on a collection of individual movements (like a mix of upper body and lower body exercises) — as well as some core-specific movements — you can make progress toward achieving a perfect pushup. Think of these exercises as a special mix of ingredients that, when combined, create something super powerful!

Want to develop your ability to complete a set of pushups on your own? Try out the three exercises listed below.

1. Chest Press

You can increase your chest strength with a basic chest press. When starting off, make sure to keep your hands shoulder-width apart and lower the dumbbells toward your chest with control. If you feel yourself wobbling, don't be afraid to lower your weight load or ask for a spot from a workout buddy or friendly trainer.

Over time, this exercise can help you get better at pushups and also serve as a great building block for other weighted (and non-weighted) strength movements. A strong chest can benefit you by helping out with other lifestyle activities like lifting up small children, moving furniture, or carrying heavy grocery bags to and from your car.

2. Plank

A pushup requires solid strength from head to toe, including your abs, back, and obliques — a.k.a. your core. You can really work these midsection muscles with a simple plank. Best of all, this beginner-friendly exercise can easily be modified to meet any fitness level!

To start, try lowering yourself down to your knees to reduce the intensity, or ramp things up by lifting one arm (or leg) during the exercise while keeping your knees off the ground. If you can hold a plank for a full minute, that's awesome. If you can only hold it for five seconds, that's great, too! Either way, you'll be developing your muscles and working toward getting better at pushups.

3. Triceps Dip

Triceps are a typical weak spot for many gym-goers, especially beginners who haven't completed many triceps-focused exercises before. You can target this small-but-important muscle group by completing a set of triceps dips on a raised surface like a sturdy bench.

As you support yourself from behind, slowly lower your backside toward the floor. To make the movement easier, you can bring your feet closer to your body. Or, for an added challenge, try to straighten your legs completely. You'll be amazed at how much this simple exercise can help you get better at pushups and even improve your overall performance at the gym over time!

As always, please consult with a physician prior to beginning any exercise program. See full medical disclaimer here.