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Can’t do a single push up?

Everyone knows that push-ups are a foundational exercise when it comes to calisthenics. It is the very first exercise everyone would expect you to do when you first start your fitness journey.

However, if you can’t do a single push up, it may be senseless to try to do a full push up to build up towards one. Just like any other calisthenics skills, you wouldn’t jump to the hardest progression if you know you can’t even do a quarter of a rep. It should be regressed (make easier) and gradually build your way up from the very beginning.

Here are ways you can regress to work towards to being able to perform your first proper push up!

Wall Push-Ups – 3 rounds of 5-8 reps

For those of you who are just getting started or coming back from an injury, wall push ups are a great way to start. The closer you are to the wall the easier the exercise will be, and the further you are the harder it is. 

From the very beginning, you are going to want to focus on keeping a straight line of tension (toes to shoulders). This will drastically increase your potential to get stronger faster while also reduce your chances of getting injured.

When you can comfortably do 8 reps move on to the next progression.

Incline Push-Ups – 3 rounds 5-8 reps

Incline push-ups are easier due to the lessen amount of weight and resistance your upper body and core has to handle by placing your hands on an incline. The higher the incline, the easier it is, and the lower the incline the harder the push up will be. This is also a great way to track your own progress. 

A good indication to know when you are ready to lower the incline is when you can comfortably do 8 reps without struggling too much.

Floor Push-Up Negatives – 3 rounds 5 reps

When you are ready to move on to the floor, one of the best ways to build up strength is through eccentric contraction. This just means only doing the lower portion of an exercise where gravity is resisted. Start from the top position of a push up and control the motion down as much as possible. 

As it is a lot easier going down, you can control the movement and get more time under tension (TUT) while also having more resistance under you.


One of the reasons why we did not recommend knee push ups is largely due to the difference in the leverage. The knee push ups simply does not require as much support from the body as a regular push up would. A regular push up would need the support starting from shoulders, hips, knees and to your ankles. Whereas a knee push-up would only need the support from shoulders to knees.