Let's Do a Strict Pushup!

Trying to Get Your First Pushup? We're Here to Help.

Pushups are one of my favorite things to do. Right up there with going to the movie theater in the afternoon (because there's nothing better than having the whole theater to yourself). 

Pushups are an essential part of any full body fitness regimen. Pushups are also a part of many different exercises, like burpees or any pressing movement.

If you can achieve a set of 20 straight strict pushups, you're doing excellent. In fact, there's not that many people that can do it, so if you do, consider yourself a high level of fitness if you can. 

Pushups don't have to be out of the realm of possibility for anyone. Every RPG out there allows to understand the leveling system. It can be slow for some games, faster for others. The same can be said for the pushup. Some people will just "get it" and some people will labor over it for years until they get their first strict pushup. But the journey is the key. The goal will always change but everyone's journey will look similar. Let's help out with that. 

Doing one strict pushup correctly involves not just your chest, but your back muscles, core and overall stability.

In the beginning, pushups are difficult and frustrating. A lot of people have to start simple and that's exactly what we want. Simple movement that's done under control with great form. Learning that correctly for your specific body type is the real challenge. We never want you to compare your progress to anyone else but you. How people progress through movement is 100% subjective and everyone is different. Everyone is different. Everyone is different. 

Did I just say that three times? I did. Because it's important. Too many of us compare ourselves to Instagram, to magazines and to even people at the gym. Do you know what they did to look or perform at the level they do? Probably not. So, why compare yourself to them? It's pointless. 

Okay, back to the pushup! Let's do this!

So, Nerdstrong, I can't even do one pushup! Where do I start?

Quite a few of our members push themselves every workout in order to get better at particular movements. By far, the pushup is one of the top movements that Nerdstrongers want to perfect.

Now, a pushup is available to anyone regardless of weight, height or anatomy. Let's look at that anatomy. So, this weird skinless dude is showing us the primary muscles utilized in the pushup, tho, focusing on the pectoralis is only part of the plan. The back of the arm, the triceps, are our accessory muscle group, helping the major muscle group perform the movement. The Anterior Deltoid (the front of the shoulder) is helping us stabilize the Pectoralis during the press. As you finish the movement, you'll be utilizing the scapula (shoulder blades) to help at the end of the press off the ground. Don't neglect those back muscles! 

Anatomy Of A Push Up Push Up Muscle Anatomy Workout And Bodybilding Pinterest

The Pushup Setup

The setup for the pushup is actually a High Plank Hold Position. Now, let's break that down:

  • Place your hands on the ground a little wider than shoulder width apart.

  • Press through your shoulders. Don't look forward. Look down between your fingers but keep your chin slightly up.

  • Brace your core by pulling your belly into your spine.

  • Set your feet by posting up into the balls of your feet, placed about hips distance apart. (Remember, wider stance is easier, narrower is more difficult)

  • Squeeze your glutes and take a small breath right under your ribcage.

THE Pushup


Let's begin in the High Plank Position and slowly take OUR CHEST to the floor FIRST! Lots of people I've seen do this movement for the first time, well, let's say they're not exactly doing it with proper form. (I try not to put things into terms like 'right' and 'wrong'.) Proper form will always serve you right. Some people will lead with their forehead, their elbows will flair out and their bellies will hit the floor first and then they kind of worm their way down to the ground. Uugh. That just doesn't build the right muscle for the movement. It isn't wrong, it's just practicing poor form. 

Pushup Leveling

Level 1: Perform 3 sets of 5x Kneeling Pushups

Level 2: Perform 3 sets of 5-10x Kneeling Pushups

Level 3: Perform 3 sets of 5x Strict Pushups

Level 4: Perform 3 sets of 5-10x Strict Pushups

Level 5: Perform 5 sets of 10x Strict Pushups

Level 6: Perform 2-4 sets of 20x Strict Pushups

*All of these sets are to be performed with 30-60 seconds of rest between each one and unbroken sets of reps. Challenge yourself!!*

Make pushups more demanding by performing them using other equipment. Wear a weight vest adds more gravity to your pushups. Pushups can also be done with yoga blocks in your hands, press your chest between the blocks for extra depth and challenge to your pushup.

scale it down

So, if you need to regress or scale down the movement, let's do a KNEELING PUSHUP!


The KNEELING PUSHUP is a great way to make the pushup more accessible to those of us that can't quite get a strict version yet. DO NOT THINK OF THIS AS A GIRL PUSHUP!! That's stupid. Guys do this pushup all the time. Fairly certain, all humans have to drop down to a kneeling pushup at some point in their workout. I do it all the time and I'm pretty darn good at pushups, so do them! They're just as awesome and you can PRACTICE YOUR AWESOME FORM! Same metrics apply tho. You want to go CHEST FIRST to the floor and try and keep those hips and thighs off the ground. 

If you need help even in a Kneeling Pushup, I want you to put a book or a yoga block directly beneath your chest and use that as your floor. This is something we do at the gym all the time. We RAISE THE FLOOR to help scale a movement like the pushup. It helps reduce frustration with a new movement and makes the movement accessible in case you're building your strength. As you get better, get a smaller and smaller object until you can reach the floor! 

Next thing you know you'll be doing a strict Kneeling Pushup! Woot!

But Coach, I can't even do a kneeling pushup! What do I do??

Don't worry, I have a solution. Now, this solution requires a barbell or something similar. Any bar will do. Even a counter-top or chair will do. Anything that gets your body off the floor and at an angle that you can handle your bodyweight. 


Coach Anne uses the bar pushup effectively when the pushup reps are high volume. Plus, it's a great way for her to practice her form under safety.

Coach Anne uses the bar pushup effectively when the pushup reps are high volume. Plus, it's a great way for her to practice her form under safety.


The BAR PUSHUP is a great tool to getting access to the pushup. We utilize an adjustable bar at the gym to allow our heroes to access the pushup. They can move the bar up and down as needed. If they want to challenge themselves, they lower the bar closer to the floor. It's really simple and it's something you can do with a barbell at a gym by just lowering the hooks that hold the bar down the rack. Try it! Let me know how it goes. 



So, let's look at helper movements that can build some of that accessory muscles groups that will help you get that first strict pushup. Let's first look at the upper chest muscles. They're just as important to the overall picture. So, here's an easy version in case you don't have an incline bench hanging around...who has that??


Lean back against an object that allows your upper body to maintain a 45 degree angle comfortably. Bend your knees, feet flat, proud chest, look forward. Now, grab a pair of dumbbells and press them overhead. This movement activates the Anterior Deltoid (front of the shoulder) and the Pectoralis Major (middle and top of the chest). 



Add this movement into any workout.

The Guinness Book of Records lists the most push ups in one hour as 2,220 by Carlton Williams from Wales UK. The feat was achieved on 25 July 2015 in Margaret River, Western Australia. This broke his own previous record of 1,874 push ups in an hour.


The tricep press is a great accessory movement to activate the back of the arms and both heads of the tricep. (Tricep Brachii; long, medial and lateral). At Nerdstrong, we use a simple pvc pipe and some strength bands to make this act like a cable press down that you might find a regular big box gym. It works quite well and can be put up anywhere by looping the other end around a solid object. 

  • Keep your core tight.

  • Slight bend to your knees and hips.

  • Keep your elbows tight and packed to your ribcage.

  • Press the pvc into the floor, flexing the back of your arms.

For an extra challenge: resist the band on the way back to the beginning of the movement. 



Add 3-5 sets of Max Reps inside of 30 seconds to your workout.


Once you’re able to do 3-5 sets of 10x pushups, try this out:

  • Increase the volume of your reps

    • Sets of 12x-15x reps

    • Add a weight vest

    • Add pushups to your warmup.

  • Add in more complicated pushup-type movements:

    • Try Barbell Bench Press (with the help of a coach)

    • Add in Spider-Man Pushups or Scapula Pushups or Diamond Pushups

  • Continue to do Dumbbell Bench Press and other weighted movements to contribute to your strength stat.

So, here’s a sample Advanced Workout Routine:

  • 5-10 sets of:

    • Incline Dumbbell Bench Press x15 reps

    • Pushups x12-20 reps


  • 5 sets of:

    • ench Press, Rep Ladder 10 to 1.

    • Scapula Pushup, Rep Ladder 1 to 10.

    • Dumbbell Chest Flys x10 reps between each rung of the ladder.