Instructions | Benefits | Form Tips | Mistakes | Variations | FAQ
If you’ve been following BuiltLean for a while, you know I love push ups.
Push ups are a staple upper body exercise that demand core control and full-body strength.
You can do push ups anywhere to stay fit and strong. You can even start your day with push ups to get the blood flowing and make you feel empowered.
While I’ve written extensively about push ups in several articles and multiple youtube videos, I decided to synthesize them together into this one post.
Push Up Benefits
1. Do Push Ups Anywhere – You can do push ups anywhere because they only require your body weight. No fancy or expensive equipment required.
2. Build Upper Body Muscles – Push ups engage your chest, shoulders, triceps, and core for a complete pushing exercise. If you are doing a bench press with weights, you won’t get the same core activation.
3. Build Pushing Strength – By keeping your body as one stiff plank while pushing away from the ground, you are building full body pushing strength that carries over to other fitness and athletic activities.
While pushups can be extremely beneficial to help improve your physique and muscle endurance, even people who have exercised for years may have improper push up form.
Push Up Instructions
1. Drop to the ground on your hands & knees.
2. Step both feet backward so your arms & legs are straight
3. Lower your body until your chest grazes the floor.
4. Push away from the ground until your arms lock, then repeat.
Push Up Form Checklist
Here’s a 7 step checklist to make sure you use perfect push up form every time you do a push up.
1. Head & Neck Neutral
This is a common mistake for people who are not strong enough to complete a push up or have poor posture from working on a computer all the time. The head is forced forward and down in an effort to make the push up easier. Do push ups on an incline until you can easily keep your head in line with your torso as you do the push up in a slow and controlled motion.
2. Shoulders Back & Stable
Most beginners shrug their shoulders towards their ears, which forces more pressure on the triceps. Typically this is a result of weak chest muscles, or similar to the neck position, poor posture. Keeping your shoulders down, back, and stable will make the exercise more effective.
3. Hands Below Plane Of Shoulders
If you have not developed pushing strength, you will likely start with your hands above the plane of your shoulders and flare out your elbows. The air-push up is a brilliant tip that I learned from Brett Jones of StrongFirst to help you feel proper push-up form without actually doing a push up.
While standing straight, extend your arms in front of you so that the top of your palm is in line with the top of your shoulder. Pull your hands back toward your chest, then push out forward again. You’ll notice that your elbows are staying closer to your sides where they belong to help generate maximum power.
4. Pressure on Outside of Hands
While push ups are a great exercise, they can easily cause overuse injuries, especially in the wrists. Put the pressure of the weight on the outside palm of your hands, not the bottom of your hand/wrist, which is what I did for years.
The outside of your hand is very stable and strong, which explains why MMA fighters strike with the outside of their palm. You can pretend like you are gripping the floor to help keep the pressure off your wrists.
5. Hips and Torso Straight Like A Plank
In an effort to make the push up easier, beginners slouch their hip downward, or pushing their hips upward. By not keeping the hips and torso straight, the abs are almost taken out of the equation. Keep your hips in line with your torso to properly engage your abs and properly recruit the muscles as they were intended (chest, shoulders, triceps, and abs).
6. Full Range of Motion
I’ve heard a million times how you should never let your body dip below a 90 degree angle in your elbows. I think this came about because of shoulder concerns. In my opinion, I think you should use a full range of motion (just as with every other exercise) as long as it doesn’t hurt your shoulders.
In fact, if I couldn’t get the full range of motion and get that stretch in my pecs and shoulders at the bottom of the rep, I probably would never do push ups. Try to get your chest to slightly graze the ground, or come within an inch of the ground.
7. Controlled Tempo
I think this applies to most exercises along with the full range of motion. Control the descent and push up forcefully. It’s cool if the positive phase is very quick in the beginning, but in general, a 1 second up, 2 second down count is ideal. Controlling the tempo dramatically reduces risk of injury and substantially increases muscle stimulation.
Push Up Common Mistakes
These top mistakes are the inverse of the proper form checklist above.
1. Hands Too High Above Shoulders
Improper hand placement is probably the most common mistake many men and women make.
Start with your hands closer to your body and below your shoulders. A proper push up with your hands below your shoulders while keeping your elbows near the sides of your body is harder than most people realize, so don’t be discouraged if this is very challenging at first.
If you can do 20 half-push ups with your hands and elbows out wide, you may be able to only do 5 or 10 with proper push-up form. The push up requires that you create “full-body tension”. If just one area lacks tension (i.e. has a leak), it will make the push up much harder.
I recommend starting with an incline push up where you use a bench, bar, or chair to elevate your body a couple of feet off of the ground. Then, gradually work down to the floor over time. You must build your strength.
Again, push ups may look easy, but when I teach men & women how to do push ups with proper form, they do A LOT fewer reps than they’re used to.
2. Shoulders Shrug Towards Ears
Similar to the first common mistake, shrugging your shoulders towards your ears can happen even if you have the proper hand placement. To prevent this from happening, you must contract your lats – the muscle underneath your armpits – to pull your shoulders away from your ears and into a stable & locked position.
If you’ve never done this before, it can take some time to figure out, and for your body to stabilize and build strength. But in the long run, you’ll learn how to “pack” your shoulders down and away from your ears, which makes you much stronger. When you are pushing or pulling heavy weight, your lats should always be contracted and your shoulders packed.
3. Not Keeping Hips & Core Stable
When you perform a push-up, the only parts of your body that should be moving are your arms. Everything else should be stiff as a board like a plank.
Ideally, your head, neck, shoulders, hips, knees, and feet should be roughly in one line that is completely straight and does not change. The push up when done properly is a very strong position that can help improve your core strength and stability.
If you lack core stability, or the ability to keep a rigid plank, push ups are not an appropriate exercise for you yet. Consider building your core stability by holding a 30-second forearm plank with your glutes contracted before working on push ups, or try push ups on an incline first.
To keep your hips and core stable, the trick is to lightly squeeze your glutes (butt muscles) and contract your quads as you do the push up. At first, this makes the push up harder, but also more effective.
You also want to avoid letting your hips slouch or drop as you do this. Contracting your abs, glutes, and quads will help prevent this. This is a subtle change that makes you much stronger, and is one of the ways that gymnasts build exceptional strength.
Push Up Variations
There are nearly endless variations of the standard push up, which can keep you engaged and building more strength.
Here are a few of the most common:
Push Up FAQ
1. How do I build strength to do push-ups?
Start doing push ups on an incline. Over time, lower the incline so that eventually you can do push ups on the ground. A slow and steady progression is superior for making push ups feel easy. Avoid knee push ups.
2. Why can’t I do push-ups?
You lack (1) pushing strength, (2) core stability, and (3) practice. Push ups get easier the more you practice them. Pushups are hard because you have not built neuromuscular coordination through practice.
3. What muscles do push ups work?
Push ups work your chest, shoulders, triceps, & core muscles.
4. How to get better at pushups?
Practice, practice, practice. The more push ups you do with proper form, the better you’ll get. If you practice poor form, you will continue to struggle.
5. How long does it take to be able to do push-ups?
It depends on your starting point. It could take a couple of weeks to a couple of months. Start on an incline, lower the incline over time, then do them on the floor.
6. How many push ups should I do a day?
A few sets push ups a day for a total of 20-30 reps is a good starting point. Over time, you can do more push ups, eventually 100 or more in a 3 to 5 sets as you progress.
7. How do I add push ups to a workout routine?
If push ups are easy for you, do them as a warm up or at the end of a workout. If they are difficult, build them into your workout for 3 sets. Here’s a full-body workout you can do with push ups.
So is it better to keep your hands wide so your arms move out perpendicular, or keep your hands in line and keep your arms parallel to your body?
@Dave – That’s a great question. I think it depends on your hand positioning, but for the normal pushup hands slightly wider than shoulder width apart, next to your chest, your elbows should be at about a 45 degree angle. (in between perpendicular and parallel).
ITS BEEN A LONG TIME, BUT I TRIED IT, TOOK YOUR SUGGESTION ON THE TECHNIQUE, DID 10, FELT PRETTY GOOD. HOPE TO CONTINUE EACH DAY. I REMEMBER MANY MANY YEARS AGO, WHEN I WAS AROUND YOUR AGE, PUSH UPS AND PULL UPS WERE PART OF THE PHYSICAL REQUIREMENTS FOR A JOB I DID IN NYC.
I did pushups daily for many years and was surprised to see how much benefit it had for my abdominal muscles. Your tip about the effect on the core can not be overemphasized. Great job!
Loved the visual. It helps to see the technique. Thanks for the great tips.
Great video, I learned alot. I never really knew the correct form. I will print this out to use as a guide.Very helpful thank you.
@Valerie – Thanks for the kind note! Happy it was helpful.
Nothing is better than going to the gym and seeing some buffoon hump the ground at 60 miles per hour in a pathetic attempt to do a ‘push up’.
Hey Marc, I really liked the tips and video. I have seen some push up device on sale what do you make of these? are they effective? Thanks for the tips.
@Bob – That’s a great question. I prefer old fashioned push ups, hands on the floor, or knuckle push ups (on a mat) if you have wrist problems. I never have been a fan of push up bars with handles (such as perfect push up) because I don’t like how they feel on my wrists (even though they put less pressure on your wrists than normal push ups) and the muscle stimulation doesn’t feel as targeted as when I do pushups without the device. Furthermore, it’s harder to do variations with the bars, and they are kind of a pain to take around in case you are traveling etc.
Ultimately, you should go by feel. If you feel the push up bars/products better than a normal push up, by all means go for it. I’m very big on feel when exercising. If something doesn’t feel right, I don’t do it, no matter what anyone says, or any research report says.
Hope that’s helpful!
Mr. Perry very well explained but while doing pushups i get tired after 4-6 reps. Anyhow, i will continue to hit the target of 10 atleast soon. Could you please help and guide me how to do the bar pull up. I can hang and lift my legs towards belly; but cant push my body and my weight up to the bar. I would be grateful if you can send me your guidance on my email address. With best regards.
@Anwar – I do plan on doing a video and tutorial on pull ups soon, so thanks for the reminder!
Very nice video. Your explanations and demonstrations really make it very easy to follow. Now I know the correct form. Thank you!
Hi, Thank-you; very well done video and instruction on form.
last spring and summer I was doing about 6 sets of 20-25 per day; then I hurt my left shoulder. I don’t think it was related to the push-ups; but wanted to check on whether or not I should resume now, if there was shoulder damage from something else. I was limited in range of motion from mid-October to about two or three weeks ago, a long time! But it’s much better now; and have been using machines at the gym w/less weight, but to regain full range of motion, and that seems to have worked. Any comments are greatly appreciated.
@FJM – Thanks for leaving a comment. I would definitely see your doctor/physical therapist to get your shoulder evaluated in terms of mobility and stability of the joint. The shoulder has the greatest range of motion of any joint in the human body, which is why it’s so prone to injury. If you don’t already warm up your shoulders before you workout, that’s also something you should consider doing. Arms circles forwards and backwards can help out a lot. Finally, if you do push ups again, instead of extending your elbows horizontally from your shoulder as you press up and down, keep your elbows closer to your torso, which will help take pressure off the shoulder. Best of luck!
Marc – Thanks for the push up explanation. Very good. I haven’t downloaded your video yet, but I will, because I didn’t see anything in your instructions that addressed the relationship of the forearms to the floor. My understanding is that proper form calls for the forearms to be perpendicular at all times during the push ups. Otherwise, the elbows move outward during the motion, putting stress on them. What do you think about this?
@Lou – Yes, I agree the forearms should be perpendicular to the ground for the standard pushup, which gives you maximum leverage to lift your body. For example, if you put your hands too wide and your forearms are at an angle to the ground, some of the force will be dissipated (sideways), instead of a focus on pushing up your body. Definitely check out the youtube video of me because I show the proper form in detail and you can see my forearms are perpendicular to the ground.
Great concise explanation and video – thanks. One question – do pushups put any strain on the cervical spine?
@ThomNJ – Push ups do require your neck muscles to help keep your cervical spine stable, but I wouldn’t say in general push ups put a lot of pressure on the cervical spine. If you have weak neck muscles, it is possible that holding your head in the upright position as you complete a push up could put pressure on the cervical spine. If you experience any neck pain while doing push ups, I would see your medical doctor and see what he/she says. Thanks for the question!
Marc Interesting points! I know you talked about pushup tempo briefly. What are your thoughts about performing the regular pushup to increase muscle tension but using different muscle actions (i.e. Static (core stability), Static– Dynamic (core stability & form), Dynamic Slow (muscular strength and muscular endurance), Dynamic regular (muscular endurance & speed) etc)?
Thank you for the post.
@Fatstanding – I think adjusting the the tempo of the push up certainly can alter the intensity. Definitely something I play with every once in a while!
Thanks for the help! Thanks!
i have one question regarding breathing system…………
when u r going down u should inhale or u should exhale?
plz reply when u read…..
@devendra – When you are going down, which is called the eccentric phase you should be inhaling. As you are pushing up, which is called the concentric phase, you exhale. Another way to think about it is as your muscles contract forcefully, you should always be breathing out.
How to reduce the size of hips??
@Ginni – You mean love handles? The size of your hips is a gender/genetic thing, but if you are trying to lose weight/fat on your love handles, focusing on losing fat without losing muscle can help you eventually lose fat off the “stubborn” areas. If you are taking any medications that can effect your hormones, that may be an issue as well.
Can you advice some exercise please??
@Ginni – In terms of figuring out what exercises are best for your fitness level, I would recommend seeing a personal trainer if you can. You can check out this circuit workout, which is a basic workout to help maintain muscle and burn calories: https://www.builtlean.com/2010/09/11/20-minute-full-body-circuit-training-workout/.
What is considered the outside and the inside of the “hand” ? The video does not show much difference between the two.
Side question, it is told that knuckle push up are bad for you in a long term. Is it true?
@Sam – Good question. What I mean is that the pressure of the push up should be on the part of your hand that is on the outside, such as the right side palm of your right hand, not on the left side palm of your right hand. The outer part of your hand is stable and strong, which is why I mention MMA fighters will sometimes strike with the outside of their palms. It’s hard to tell this difference in the video, but you can try it for yourself and feel there’s a big difference (less wrist pressure).
I don’t know about knuckle push ups being bad long term. Never heard of that before. My guess would be to check with your doctor and see what he says, but my best guess is that as long as you are using proper form, kuckly push ups should be fine. I did them for years when I developed a cyst in my wrist from doing pushups normally.
Thanks for the push-up tips. I’m leaving for military boot camp in a month and have been trying to do push-ups every day to make sure I’m somewhat prepared when I leave. I’ve been concerned about my form, but thanks to this guide I see that I’ve been doing it right for the most part aside from hand positioning. Very helpful and I think I’ll be able to use this to push myself even further now.
@Chris – Thanks for the comment. Best of luck with the boot camp!
Just came across your video. It’s the most helpful I’ve found on proper push up form. Thank you! I’m still having trouble figuring out where to place my hands. Is there a marker I can use like laying on my stomach first and placing my hands somewhere (side of armpit, next to chest, etc.) to make sure they are in the right place? Embarrassingly enough, I can’t really tell when my hands are directly under my shoulders in the starting position.
@Sarah – Really happy to hear you enjoyed the push up video. When you are laying down face down on the ground, place your hands right underneath your armpits while facing the floor. Then move your hands out 2 inches. That’s the “standard” push up position. The idea is that your hands will be slightly below the plan of your shoulders as I show in the video and slightly wider than shoulder width apart. This really helps maximize stimulation to the pecs/shoulders/triceps.
I have never done a push up before. I really want to learn but I have tried to do it and I can not do it. Is there anything that I can do that will help me in this?
@Mrs. Flagler – When trying to teach a new exercise, it’s ideal to use “pogressions”, which means the exercise is modified to be easier, than gets more challenging over time. For example:
Doing push ups on your knees on an incline is the easiest type of push up. Then doing push ups on your knees on a flat surface is harder, than doing push ups without the help of your knees on an incline is a little harder, then of course, you have the standard push up on a flat ground. See where you are within this progression and over time graduate to the next progression. finally, slowly increase the volume of sets/reps and you will get stronger. Just remember it takes time and practice like anything else!
What a wonderfully detailed page.
I’m a great fan of pushups because of their versatility.
hey marc,jedd here ,i was wondering on how to build up your muscles to start doing pushups becuase me and my friends are really sloppy at pushups and kinda didnt get this form thing, we just wanted to know how to build up to doing proper ones like my mate tom, who can do like 10 normaly in under 3 mins and 5-10 one handed ones under 10 mins
@Jedd – I think the best way to learn how to do push ups properly is to start doing push ups on an incline, then over time lower the incline until you are flat on the ground. If you can only get 3-4 reps while flat, then you should be spending more time doing higher reps on an incline. When I say incline, I mean your hands are let’s say 2-3 feet above the ground so that your body is at an incline to the ground. Hope that helps!
i am 17 yrs old and have recently started doing push ups to build muscles. I was wondering hw many i should ideally be doing? Moreover, is super setting basic ab crunches with push ups a good idea for muscle building(particularly abs and arms)? If so, hw many of each should i do per day? Looking forward to ur reply.
@Tan – I think push ups are an awesome exercise to build some strength and muscle in your chest, shoulders, and triceps. I also strongly advise doing pull ups as well. As I describe in my facebook video there are 5 basic movements and it’s really important to do them all. Also, body weight squats, lunges, sprinting, or even hill sprints can go a long way towards building your leg muscles without adding weight. Also consider a weighted vest if you can which will help you get stronger. There are many schools of thought as to what number of push ups is optimal. If you are just doing push ups (not lifting weights), I think you can do anywhere between 3-5x per week for around 100-200 but your chest muscles should not be sore the next day. If they are sore, then you need to rest and not do any more pushups until the soreness goes away. It’s very difficult for me to properly answer your question without an in person evaluation, but i tried my best!
Your reply was very helpful. Also, i wanted to know whether basic ab crunches help in developing abs. If so, how many should i be doing (assuming I super set it with 100 push ups every alternate day of the week)?
@Tan – Basic abs crunches can be helpful, but I would also consider hanging abs raises, v-ups etc. I show a couple different abs exercises here: https://www.builtlean.com/2011/03/05/best-push-up-workout-routine/.
I have done tousands and thousands of pushups over the years through working out at home and doing videos like P90X, but then when I joined a crossfit gym the trainer told me that I was doing them all wrong. I guess my elbows were facing straight out and not working my chest as much as it should. My chest is always sore from DOMS after a good oushup workout so I know it is doing something right…
Anyway, I have tried to adjust my form to the 45 degree from the 90 degree elbow positioning and it feels all wrong. Where I could do like 60 before I can now only do about 15…. witht he new positioning andd my elbows keep wanting to spring back to 90 degrees.
Any tips to get the elbows to stay in?
also, what about wide stance push-ups? are the elbows supposed to be at 90 degrees for these?
@Adam – Because you are learning a new movement pattern, “normal” push ups are very difficult. Over time, you will be able to complete a lot more. One thing on push up form that really tripped me up was that I never kept my shoulders down away from my ears, which for me makes push ups much more difficult. I can usually bang out 75 push ups without much trouble, but keeping my shoulders down makes it a lot harder.
With that said, it’s a matter of practice and getting used to the exercise. It will take some time, but consciously thinking about your elbow position is your best bet. For wide grip push ups, I would say there is a slight angle, but definitely not perfectly 90 degrees. Your hand placement should be in line with your chest and out to the side, not in line with your shoulders. Your chest development should improve from the change in elbow position.
Thank you for your help.This article is immensely helpful.
@Rhea – happy you liked the article and thanks for your comment!
Thank you very much for the video regarding proper push up form. It is very educational and it made me realize that it is not the quantities but the qualities of push ups should be a first order preference. Anyways, my problem is that during push ups, my left pectoral gets more work out than the right one, and this makes it slightly more developed than that of the right. When I felt this asymmetrical problem (which seems invisible to others’ eyes), I stopped doing push ups immediately and wanted to get a professional’s help but couldn’t find one until now :). So, please help me with this problem.
@Asif – Thanks for your comment! I have have heard of this issue before where people like yourself develop muscle imbalances. There are a couple main reasons how this can happen: (1) there are physiological differences between both side of your body (maybe one arm is shorter than the other, or scapula is shorter etc.), in which case there’s not much you can do or (2) your form is different on one side versus another. For example, if you are favoring your right side, your right side shoulder may become elevated relative to the left, which takes pressure off your right pec. The solution is to go back to basics and complete the push ups at a slower tempo and lower volume, making sure to keep your shoulders back and down from your head, so they don’t move at all. Your shoulders should be locked in the same place on both side. Hope that helps!
i cant do ANY pusshups.
@Krishna – Start out with incline push ups, then slowly lower the incline over time. Also create progression, which means you will over time complete more push ups, so that if you are starting out with 3 sets of 2, eventually you will be able to do 5-10 sets of 10. I plan on tackling this in a much lengthier article, so sign up for my BuiltLean Newsletter so you can stay posted.
Your video has provided a lot of useful tips. However, I do have an issue that I want to work on. I’ve been do push-ups for several months, and have seen much improvement. I do so according to the general guidelines, however, I have a problem with not being able to gain muscle mass across my entire chest. My lower and upper pecs on the sides seem to be gaining a good deal of mass, but I’ve barely developed any at the entire center-line, thus creating an awkward distribution. In other words, starting right from the lower sternum all the way to the top sternum, and there’s a large gap in development from the left to right side that looks worse moving towards the top.
Is it possible to achieve full, round pecs with only push-ups? I do not do benchpress and push-ups are very convenient for my schedule.
Any tips to correct this issue?
@Vo – I’m not sure if you are doing so already, but ideally if you are doing a lot of push ups, you should be using different hand grips with each set. For example, you can do one set with your hands lower away from your chest and closer towards your body (this helps work the inner chest more), then you can play with going narrower, or wider, higher, or lower with your hands. You can even try diamond push ups as long as they don’t hurt your wrists/elbows. By using different hand positions, it will help you develop a more balanced chest. Even consider putting your feet up on a bench and doing decline push ups with a close hand grip, again be sure it doesn’t hurt your wrists.
Hello author Marc, thanks for this. I learned a lot. Here is my situation, my left arm was dislocated where I were a kid, thus my left and right arm is not balance. I notice whenever I perform push ups, I can feel the pressure more on my left side resulting to imbalance muscle formation. I tried rectifying it by putting more my body weight / pressure on my right side, so I tend to push ups using my right arm and less on the left.
Can you suggest me a better idea on how to do it for a person like me who have imbalanced arms? If I need to consult a fitness coach or medical specialist, please tell me.
@Simon – I would definitely consult a physical, or medical specialist if I were you. Better sooner rather than later.
Could u please suggest some exercises that one can do using dumbells for building stronger arms? If u have posted any videos of such exercises, then please send me a link.
@Tan – I have yet to write an article, or produce a video on arm exercises or workouts. The core focus of my site is on compound exercises that can help increase your arms strength as well. I personally haven’t done an arm exercise in 2 years! With that said, I should and will address some of my favorite arm exercises and how to include arm exercises in a workout.
what should i do my weak is chest,but somebody told me i am not sufficient at my age to work-out. i am starting to work out a couple of days ago. i am 18 yrs of age.
@jarphy – Push ups are a great option for you as a beginner to help increase your chest strength and endurance. At 18 years old, you are definitely old enough to work out with weights.
i want reduce my lower chest fat what to do for that?
@vivek – I think the first place to start is reading my free 20 page Get Lean Guide. No matter what part of your body you want to lose fat, the same strategy applies – lose fat without losing muscle. Where you lose fat from is genetically predetermined, you just have to keep on losing it for it to come off your “problem” areas.
Many people truthfully cannot do push ups properly. This is certainly something worth reading. Even when I was in the military I would constantly see people that didn’t and couldn’t do push ups properly.
sir how to perfect push up on hand stan . give me example for image
Akthar Ali – I would suggest searching youtube for handstand push ups. Not sure I will ever have that on my site.
Hey Marc, After searching around the net I have found this place to be a great resource!
Anyway, Like a couple of the guys above I am 18 years old and have been doing push up and ab exercises for about 2 months now. I feel I am developing muscle slowly, but just wanted to tell you what my routine is and if you could give me any tips on making it better and more efficient.
I do a 3 on 1 off regime so 6 workouts a week. When I wake up I crack out 5 sets of press ups each set doing as many reps I can do. Then in the middle of the day I do several different sit up styles customising each different workout so I feel the burn at the end of it, and again at night I do more press ups which are the same as the morning ( 5 sets each set as many reps as I can go).
I can see my pecs developing faster than my abs though. Do abs take much longer than pecs to develop or will this be a problem with me not doing the sit ups correctly?
Is this workout a good way to build muscle while losing more body fast as well? I do keep a pretty decent diet so I wouldn’t put on much fat because of it.
Is there anything else you think I should add in here for a more well rounded fitness regime or should I have more rest days etc.
@Latham – check out these articles which should answer your questions:
Can You Lose Fat and Build Muscle At The Same Time?
20 Minute Full Body Circuit Training Workout – The idea is to use 5 basic exercise movements. Right now, you are only using 2.
Abs are made in the kitchen, you need to lose body fat in order to see your abs. I do think abs take a bit longer to develop than pecs. I would focus on fat loss, or muscle gain, not both at the same time. Good luck!
Cheers for the info Marc. On the 20minute workout: I don’t have any equipment to work with which is my problem and I don’t have any heavy weights to substitute. What do I do in this case to reach that 5 movement goal?
@Latham – You can do a squat, or squat jumps with no weight, or you can also get a weighted vest, which is a great way of adding weight to bodyweight exercises to make them harder as you get stronger. You can also do forward lunges, and jump lunges, or even side lunges. There are a lot of different lunges. Pull ups are awesome, so if you can find/buy a pull up bar, it will be well worth your time. The twisting/pushing movements you can cover when doing push ups/abs exercises.
Thanks again Marc for this. One last question: How often should I be working out a week if I am using all 5 movements in each session? (I did take a look around the site to try and find this out but to no avail)
@Latham – The short answer is “it depends”, but generally speaking if you are using all movements in each workout, then you can do it 2-3x per week. The number of times you can workout per week depends on the intensity of the workout on each movement pattern and muscle group. So if you do 9 sets of horizontal pushing exercises one workout, it may be a good 3-4 days of recovery you need before doing another horizontal pushing exercise. If however you only do a few sets each movement pattern, you should be able to workout more frequently.
May as well ask this while I am here too. I have looked over the web on dieting correctly for muscle gain (as that is what I am focusing on since I’m a skinny runt) and to be honest, I am overwhelmed by the amount of information out there. As I said above I am dieting but after a bit of research it is definitely not optimal. I have picked up a few things but I still really want to learn how to diet properly for gaining weight as I don’t want my efforts to go to waste!
So to the question: Do you have any good dieting resources that you could share with me to help me with this. Even planned daily meals would be great. Something to get me heading in the right track in this department!
@Latham – if you are building muscle, you definitely don’t want to be “dieting”. I’m going to be writing a huge article on muscle building eventually, but in the meantime, here are some guidelines:
1) Eat more calories than you burn – this is the most important part. In other words, do the opposite of what this article states – How Many Calories Should You Eat to Lose Weight? Around a 500 calorie surplus should work well.
2) Eat ample protein – Shoot for 1 gram per pound of body weight
3) Lift progressively heavier/more over time – Regarding heavier, if you are benching 125lb for 10 reps, you want to eventually get to 185lb for 10 reps. Every week, or two, you can increase the weight a bit more. Regarding lifting more, if you can do 3 sets of 20 push-ups (60 total push-ups), eventually you can build up to 10 sets of 20 push-ups (200 total push. Your muscles will not grow unless you force them to by lifting more weight, or simply more volume.
…and that’s it. I would strongly recommend tracking your calories with a calorie tracker, or by hand. It’s VERY helpful for you. Good luck and be patient!
Okay, well after more research a better question would be: What is the best diet for circuit training involving the 5 movements you speak about, going on the amount of days I’ll be training a week (which hopefully you can also help me with). At the moment I am thinking 2 on 1 off. Hope you can help and that I’m not being too much of a pain in the behind!
@Latham – Please see my other comment.
I am 18 yrs old. I used to be overweight. But then i took control of my diet and began doing free hand exercises. I have lost a lot of weight and now i look gaunt. I am 5ft. 8 in. tall and weigh 60 kg. I have started eating more and working out with a pair of 5kg dumbbells. I have gained some muscle but not as much as i would like to gain. What kind of food should i eat to enhance muscle build? Does food like boiled rice increase unnecessary fat? What kind of diet should i follow to gain weight by gaining muscle and not fat? I make it a point to eat 2 whole eggs everyday. Is that advisable?
@Tan – I plan on creating a much longer article about how to build muscle and what type of nutrition plan works best, but in short, a split of around 25% protein, 45% carbs, and the balance as fat can work well for muscle building. Then you want to eat more calories than you burn, by around (10-20%) – see calculate your calorie burn. Your comment if rice will make you add fat makes me think you may need to learn the basics. Definitely search around the site and read some of the articles!
Hey Marc. Thanks for an informative article.
For this to be part of exercise, how many reps do you suggest if this is to be done daily?
@john – I think you can do this a few times per week, or daily whatever suits you. I strongly suggest checking out some of my answers to other questions similar to your own in the comment section where I discuss the importance of structuring your workouts in terms of movement patterns. (i.e. squats, lunges, push, pull, twist etc.). Very important to do more than just pushing exercises like push ups.
hi Marc just started doing puch ups i can get to 10 and think i could do more but the muscles in my neck cant take it am i doing some thing wrong or do i need to keep trying and wait for my neck muscles to catch up to my chest and arm muscles.
I’ve been doing push ups daily for about 8 years but recently my throat has been getting tight. After laying off the push ups for a week or two it starts to loosen up. Could I be doing something wrong that is straining my front neck muscles?
@Patrick – that’s very possible. If you have access to a trainer who can check out your form, I would recommend that.
@Patrick – that’s what it sounds like. If you go to a gym, I would consider asking one of the smarter trainers to evaluate your push up form. Push ups do require your neck muscles to work hard with your traps on the back of your neck and your sternocleidomastoid (love that muscle name!) on the front of your neck (actually wraps from the front to the side) in addition to other smaller supporting muscles. One thing that also may be affecting your neck if your shoulders are rounded. Check out these two article for more info (1) correct rounded shoulders and (2) 5 common posture problems.
I am confused about the importance of dividing a workout routine into sets. For example what if i follow this routine: 1.Chest Press- 3 Sets X 12 -15 Reps
2.Dumbbell Rows – 3 sets X 12-15 Reps
3.Squat,Bicep Curl and Shoulder Press – 3 setsX 12-15 Reps
4.Alternate Dumbbell Curl – 3 sets X 12 -15 Reps
5.Lying Tricep Extension – 3 sets X 12 -15 Reps
6. V-ups -3 sets X 12 -15 Reps
the first 5 exercises with a pair of 5 kg dumbbells. Now if i do only one set each consisting of 50 reps, will it make the workout more effective?
@Tan – No, it will not make the exercises more effective, but less effective if you are looking to get stronger. Much above 20 reps on a consistent basis is unnecessary. In general, for maximum strength and muscle gains, I would stay to 6-12 reps and for endurance go 15-20 reps. Overall through, I would recommend the 6-12 rep range for overall health and well-being. From a health perspective, an important purpose of resistance training is to get your body more resilient, increase bone density, and from a fat loss perspective is to increase calorie burn and from a muscle building perspective is to stimulate and tear muscle fibers. 6-12 reps will get you there whereas 50 reps will likely not accomplish this as effectively.
Thanks for the helpful comments. On a different note, i wanted to know ur opinion about health supplements. I have heard of a wide range of muscle enhancers like creatine, whey protein isolates and others. Are they necessary if i want to build muscles? Are they free from side effects?
@Tan – I wrote an introductory article on dietary supplements here – Dietary Supplements 101. Think of whey protein as the powder form of a chicken breast. Doesn’t do anything magical to help you can muscle, but can make it easier to consume more protein. Creatine undoubtedly works to help improve strength and build muscle, but just be careful to drink plenty of water if you do take it.
Loved your video. Very nicely explained.
I have a bulging disk at c4-5 c5-6. I am able to do push ups without any pain. my question is can i do push ups? hope it will not make it worse..
Hi Riz, that question is best answered by your doctor / physical therapist. In general, when I’m exercising with an injury, if it doesn’t cause any pain during, after the workout, or the next day etc., I consider it ok. But again, you should check with your doctor.