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.
One trick to help you master this foundational exercise is to do them against a wall and build the strength you need to eventually get horizontal. Here are five things you need to know about wall push-ups to get you started.
1. Master Proper Wall Push-Up Form
Set yourself up for success! To do a wall push-up, follow these steps:
- Stand arm's distance from a sturdy wall with your feet under your hips.
- Place your palms on the wall shoulder-distance apart at shoulder height.
- Bend your elbows and bring your chest toward the wall. Keep your elbows pointing down, rather than out to the side.
- Press back to the starting position.
Or try a wall push-up variation, often taught in yoga classes, where you start out with your hands on the wall and your fingers pointing toward each other. Keep your heels on the floor throughout the entire movement.
2. Activate Your Core Muscles
The key to a perfect push-up is keeping your core muscles — abs, obliques and lower back — tight and engaged. This makes it easier to maintain ideal push-up posture — plank position, with your shoulders, hips and heels in alignment. It also prevents your hips from sagging, which is especially important in a standard, horizontal push-up, as it protects your lower back from injury.
3. 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. Your inhalations and exhalations also act as a type of metronome, keeping you at a steady rate of push-ups. Inhale as you bend your elbows and exhale as you straighten them.
4. 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.
5. Increase the Challenge
Once you can do three sets of 15 wall push-ups, it's time to up the ante. Making a wall push-up harder is as simple as walking your feet farther away from the wall. The further your feet are from the wall, the more horizontal your body is. Stop when you're no longer able to keep your heels on the floor.
After that, you're ready for incline push-up using a box, step or bench. Keep lowering the support you use until you're horizontal. Even after that, you can angle your body the other way to do decline push-ups (feet on a box or step).
You can also try a plyo variation that gives you more bang for your buck. Assume the starting position described above and lean toward the wall. 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.