This Is How You Progress To Push-Ups On Your Toes

Push-ups are deceivingly tough. The good thing is - so are you. Try these tips to make progress on this effective bodyweight exercise.

Erin Fisher Author Image
Erin Fisher

July 1, 2024 - Updated July 1, 2024

Kelsey Wells push up on knees

People often think that bodyweight exercises are easier because they don’t involve any additional load, but there’s a reason classics like push-ups are go-to movements in the world of strength training and Sweat programs - they’re effective and they’re hard. So, if you can’t do push-ups on your toes or can only manage one rep, don’t beat yourself up. Seriously.

Although push-ups look like an upper-body exercise, it only takes a single rep to quickly realise that they challenge a much wider range of muscles than just your arms. Get ready to feel the burn in your chest, back, core, legs and glutes.

Here are six ways to get better at push-ups. Even if you can’t do a single rep right now or feel like completing a solid set of push-ups on your toes is a pipe dream, trust us - you can get there. Soon enough you’ll be asking, how can I make them harder?

Drop to your knees

As our co-founder and head trainer Kayla Itsines often says, there’s no such thing as “girl push-ups.” You’re either doing push-ups on your toes or your knees and there’s never any shame in opting for a modification. Lowering your knees to the ground takes some of the load off your arms and shoulders, helping you to master your form and build the strength to progress to push-ups on your toes. Focus on keeping your shoulders over your wrists, your arms at a 45-degree angle to your sides, and your body in one straight line.

Try incline push-ups

Another simple way to modify a push-up and build your strength is to position your hands on a wall, step or sturdy box to elevate your upper body and reduce the difficulty by taking even more of the load off. Everything else stays the same - your hand positioning and your body are still moving as one in a straight line - you’re just lowering your body on an angle.

Woman doing pushup

Straighten up

There are plenty of ways to make push-ups easier that involve sacrificing proper form, and not one of them is worth it for the sake of a few extra reps. When you perform a push-up with proper form, your body should form a straight line from your head to your toes or your head to your knees if you’re taking a modification.

You might have seen people doing push-ups with their hips high in the air, sagging down towards the floor, or their neck straining forward towards the ground during each rep. You’re not trying to kiss the floor here!

It doesn’t matter if you’re on your knees or toes - you want your body to be in a straight line. Think about your body moving as one unit with your arms as the levers, rather than initiating the movement from your head or leaving your butt behind. Although it’s easy to think of push-ups as an upper-body exercise, bringing your core and lower body to the party is key to maintaining this alignment. Engage your abs and squeeze your glutes and quads - your reps should immediately feel stronger and more stable.

Not sure if you’re doing it right? Finding a mirror, a workout buddy or filming yourself can be a huge help. If you realise your form isn’t as good as you thought and you need to lower to your knees or try incline push-ups on a box, do it! You’ll be better for it in the long run.

Skyrocket your pushing power

There are two easy ways to develop more strength in your push. One is to start your push-up from flat on your belly and push through your hands to lift your body off the floor - either on your toes or a modified version on your knees. With practice, these can also become hand-release push-ups where you lower your body completely to the floor, lift your hands off the mat briefly, then push back up. This can also help to improve your push-up depth.

The second way to accelerate your strength is to incorporate a chest press or bench press into your workout routine - these upper-body exercises will work wonders to build the strength needed for full push-ups.

Woman doing pushup on knees

Work on your full-body strength

Doing regular sets of push-ups each week is definitely going to help you make progress, but if you want to do yourself an even bigger favour to improve your strength, committing to an overall strength training routine is a great idea. Push-ups require strength in your chest, back, core, glutes and leg muscles, too!

Whether you’ve got access to a full range of equipment in a gym, some basic items at home or are working your bodyweight alone, there are plenty of programs in the Sweat app to help you boost your muscle mass and smash out more push-ups with perfect form.

Focus on quality and consistency

No matter where you are in your push-up journey, always go for quality over quantity. If your workout says 10 push-ups and you can only do five with good form and depth, great. Make a note of your maximum reps, then take a modification for the remaining reps if you can. Strive for a consistent routine (you can’t expect to improve without multiple sessions each week), maintain that amazing form and the strength will come with time.

You’ll feel so proud when you get to six, seven and eventually 10 or 20! Going about it this way is so much better than doing more reps with poor form, building bad habits and increasing your risk of injury.

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Level up your push-ups

Push through your limitations and go from one rep to 10 with these simple tips. Remember, everyone starts as a beginner, and one day you’ll look back on this and feel so proud that you started today.

Erin Fisher Author Image
Erin Fisher

Erin is a writer and editor at Sweat with years of experience in women's publishing, media and tech. She's passionate about the power of movement, and you can often find her on a yoga mat, a hike, a dance floor, in the ocean or the gym.

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* Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended to replace the advice of a medical professional. The above information should not be used to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or medical condition. Please consult your doctor before making any changes to your diet, sleep methods, daily activity, or fitness routine. Sweat assumes no responsibility for any personal injury or damage sustained by any recommendations, opinions, or advice given in this article.


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