When you feel overwhelmed by your workout routine and the thought of taking on a new type of exercise protocol feels like too much, get back to the basics. Sometimes the best way to improve is to dial down on what you already know—especially because you might find little weaknesses and areas of improvement when you do.
Trainer Charlee Atkins, C.S.C.S., uses those dips in motivation to dial-in on the way she approaches old standards like the pushup, probably the first strength training move most people learn. “Pro-tip when you get in an exercise rut and need some inpso on how to vary your exercises: Go back to the progressions/regression,” she says. “As you get stronger, you can always change up your routine by simply adding pauses (time), different equipment, or elevation to change the intensity of the workout.”
Pushups are trickier than you might think if you’re really focusing on using proper form on every single rep. For example, instead of resting on your hands and slouching your hips forward, you need to make sure to own the plank position, squeezing your glutes and core as if you were training only your abs. Check out this explainer for more essential cues.
If you want that extra challenge Atkins mentioned, strap on a weight vest or put a plate on your back for some extra resistance. If you don’t have a vest, check out this option from 5.11.
Work through these progressions, focusing on your form. Perform 15 to 20 reps of each.
- Lowering Phase (Pause) Pushup
- Hands Elevated Pushup
- Standard Pushup
- Feet-Elevated Pushup
One position that you should not take on when you’re re-tooling your pushup form is putting your knees on the ground. “I learned in my trainer schooling that pushups from the knees are no bueno because it messes with the levers of the system,” says Atkins of the common adaptation. “Mind was blown!” Along with that concern, sitting on your knees takes away the need to squeeze your core and glutes to maintain the straight body line you want in the full move, so that adjustment won’t help once you move up the progression ladder.
Work through 3 rounds of the pushup progression whenever you feel your form is lacking, or you need a finisher for your chest or upper body day. Want to learn more moves from Atkins? Check out our series full of her workout tips.