For many fitness-minded folks, performing a perfect push-up with proper form is the holy grail. Perhaps that's because push-ups — which engage your muscles from head to toe — are one of the most telling tests of full-body strength.
In fact, this challenging exercise requires you to lift upward of 75 percent of your body weight, according to Harvard Health Publishing.
That's probably why so many people struggle to succeed at nailing proper form. But those of us who still want the total-body benefits of push-ups will often look to modify this mighty movement.
You've likely tried one of the many alternatives out there that make this exercise easier, like knee push-ups or kitchen counter push-ups. But one push-up modification that you likely never heard of — looping a mini band around your arms just above your elbows — stands above the rest.
This push-up hack not only makes the move more manageable but also helps you build strength and improve your form, so, in time, you'll be able to tackle the traditional push-up once and for all.
Mini Bands We Love
How to Do a Push-Up Using the Mini Band Hack
- Loop a mini band around your arms, just above your elbows.
- Get into a high plank position with your core and glutes engaged. Your shoulders should be stacked over your wrists and your hips should be in line with your head and heels.
- Bend at your elbows at about a 45-degree angle from your torso and lower your body toward the ground.
- On the way down, squeeze your shoulder blades together.
- When your chest hovers just above the ground (or however far down you can go), press into the ground and push your shoulder blades apart to return to the starting position.
To make the move easier, you can drop down to your knees and perform the push-up this way.
4 Reasons to Try the Resistance Band Hack for Push-Ups
1. It Provides Support
For many people, the toughest part of the push-up is, well, pushing your body back up from the ground. This is where the resistance band hack comes in: using the mini band in this way serves as a support to help you lift your body weight, Rosalind Frydberg, a group fitness instructor and active aging specialist at Life Time ARORA, tells LIVESTRONG.com.
Here's why: Once you lower your body, the band comes across your chest. So, when you're ready to push back up, the resistance of the band works with you, giving you a little lift (think: a slight slingshot effect). This makes you feel lighter and the movement easier, Frydberg says.
2. It Promotes Good Form
Sometimes the strenuousness of a push-up prevents us from performing the movement with proper form. For example, we may compensate for lack of strength by letting our hips sag or our elbows flare.
But looping a mini band above your elbows, which lightens your load a little, can help you focus and fine-tune your technique.
Specifically, this hack helps keep your chest supported, which enables you to maintain a flat back throughout the exercise, which is necessary to nail the perfect push-up, Frydberg says.
The band's resistance also restricts flared elbows, a common mistake that places pressure on the shoulders (and can produce pain down the line).
Once you begin to perfect your push-up posture, your range of motion will even improve, Frydberg says.
To focus on fostering fantastic push-up form, try slowing down your tempo, Frydberg says.
3. It Strengthens Your Triceps
Wearing a mini band above your elbows can also be terrific for training your triceps.
That's because the band — which keeps your elbows tucked in tightly — puts your body in the perfect position to target your triceps, Frydberg says.
This narrower arm placement activates your triceps and makes them work harder.
4. It Boosts Confidence
Not only will the mini band hack give your body a little extra lift, but it might also elevate your morale a bit.
"I find a lot of people are afraid of the push-up in any form. They fear they aren't strong enough, and they don't trust themselves," Frydberg says.
This lack of confidence holds them back from even trying and reaping the many body benefits of push-ups. But the mini band hack will also help you gain trust in your ability to perform (and eventually perfect) regular push-ups, Frydberg says.
Think about it like learning to ride a bike: First, you used training wheels, and once you felt confident with those, you were self-assured enough to try without the wheels.
If you’re still struggling to do a push-up with a mini band, try shifting from the floor to an incline (think: placing your hands on a bench or a step). This elevated position makes the move more manageable (read: easier) because it lessens the distance your body must travel, Frydberg says.
You can even use a staircase to build strength incrementally. For example, start on the third step from the bottom, and, over time, work your way down one riser at a time until you no longer need the incline as an aid, Frydberg says.
How to Progress to a Traditional Push-Up
By using the mini band hack, your goal of cranking out unsupported push-ups is within reach. To build strength, you must increase repetition and load. In other words, you need to work progressively (i.e., add weight), Frydberg says. That means slowly weaning yourself off the mini band, so you'll eventually support your own body weight entirely.
Here's how you can go about doing that:
- Week 1: Use your thickest (i.e., strongest) resistance band for optimal support and add reps each day, Frydberg says. For instance, try doing five assisted push-ups on day one, six on day two, and so on and so forth.
- Week 2: Try a medium band and repeat the same as above.
Follow this plan until you've mastered push-ups with your lightest resistance band and then try them without any support.
"You might surprise yourself on how quickly you've gained the ability to perform the push-up on its own," Frydberg says.
“The key to push-ups is just a little bit of rest and stretching between sets. It will do wonders,” Frydberg says.
One strategy is to work your opposing muscle groups. So, for example, because push-ups primarily work your chest, you can do a set of reverse flys (with light weight) to open up the front of the body and target your back muscles, Frydberg says.