Building strength in your upper body is a gradual process that can take months or years, but the efforts pay off in better muscle tone, improved posture and the ability to complete everyday tasks with more ease.
The traditional push-up is one of the best exercises you can do to get stronger arms, shoulders, chest, back and abs, says Harvard Health Publishing, but many people struggle to complete even one regular push-up. The trick is to start standing at a wall and build the strength you need to eventually get horizontal.
Use Proper Form
Set yourself up for success. Stand an arm's distance from a sturdy wall free from obstacles, such as pictures and switches. Please your palms flat on the wall about shoulder-distance apart and at shoulder height, according to Go4Life. Start out with your feet under your hips. Bend your elbows, and bring your chest toward the wall. Keep your elbows pointing down, rather than flared out. Press back out to the starting position.
Try a wall push-up variation often taught in yoga classes where you start out with your hands on the wall, shoulder-width apart and your fingers pointing towards each other. Keep your heels on the floor throughout the whole movement.
Activate Your Core Muscles
The key to a perfect push-up is keeping your core muscles — your abs, obliques and lower back — contracted. This prevents your hips from sagging, which will become especially important in a horizontal push up, protecting your lower back from injury. Doing this makes it easier to maintain ideal push up posture — plank position, with your shoulders, hips and heels in alignment.
Control Your Breathing
As you increase your reps and your muscles become fatigued, controlled breathing will help bring oxygen to your muscles and increase your stamina. The proper way to breathe when doing a wall or regular push-up is to inhale as you bend your elbows and exhale as you straighten them. Your inhalations and exhalations act as a type of metronome keeping you at a steady rate of push-ups,
Increase the Challenge
Once you can do three sets of 15 wall push-ups with your feet aligned under your shoulders, it's time to up the ante. Making a wall push-up harder is as easy as walking your feet farther away from the wall. The farther your feet are from the wall, the more horizontal your body is. Stop when you are no longer able to keep your heels on the floor.
ExRx.net suggests a plyo variation that gives you more bang for your buck. Assume the position and lean towards the wall but instead of pressing back to the starting position, push yourself away from the wall with enough force that your hands lift away from the wall.
Do Them Regularly
To build strength, you have to exert force on your muscles regularly. That's what causes them to adapt and grow stronger. Do three or four sets of 15 wall push-ups at least twice a week, but not on consecutive days.