Push-ups: They Aren’t Just For Men!

Many women and their view of push-ups frustrates me more than pretty much anything else in the fitness field.  I don’t know where the mentality started, that women can’t do push-ups and need to do them on their knees.  That is such a victims/low-expectation mentality.  Within 3 months of training with me, most women are able to do at least 20 perfect push-ups on their toes.  My philosophy, is that every woman should be able to do 20 push-ups.  Many of the moms I train can do at least 40 perfect push-ups.  Guys should shoot for at least 50.

Push-ups are such a great exercise, because they don’t require any equipment, are great for toning the chest, arms, and shoulders, and can be a great test to see improvements in upper body strength.

Once you are able to do more than 15, you need to come up with ways to make them harder.  You can put your feet on a ball or a chair, like Jody did when she was on NBC with me. Another way to challenge you in the push-up is to do an explosive push-up.  This type of training will stimulate the type 2 fast twitch muscle fibers.  One variation is the clap push-up, which many of you are aware of.  Not only are these great for the upper body, but put a tremendous amount of pressure on the core, so your abs will get stronger from it as well!

Today, John Hall and I are going to share with you another fun variation.  I have been using it with my clients the past month and they love it!


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It is usually a good idea to work up to this exercise, but is great to add to your exercise collection.

Try it out and let everyone know how it goes by adding a comment below!


  1. I like this one Dustin!! Even though you were not in a lot of pain, it was still good! 🙂 Bring on the push-ups!

  2. we have a song that incorporates 4 push-ups in my zumba class. you would think i asked them to scale a mountain that first night! Now, most are doing it and we do a set of ten however they can before cool down to build those muscles. my class ranges in age from early 20s to late 60s. all women! thanks for teaching me how to do push-ups so i can teach others!

  3. Alicia,

    You are welcome, I am glad they are now doing the push-ups. Many men and women, need to be empowered to believe that they can and then they can!

    On my cruise I had a women come with who was 65, she was able to do 15 pushups with her feet up on a bench! We have grandmas in bootcamp doing 25 push-ups. If you train the body correctly, it has no choice but to respond and get stronger!

  4. What do I get the feeling we’ll be trying these in class this week?!?! 🙂 Honestly, I think they’ll be a good challenge! Lookin’ forward to it!

  5. Kristi Hackenmiller says

    Actually, for me, push ups have been one of my true tests of getting into better shape. I mean, you really are controlling he entire weight of your body.

    While I might not be able to do a ton of push ups yet I find I am able to do more without losing form and I have also noticed that I am able to lower myself farther down to a more complete push up.

    Still not my favorite because they are TOUGH and I want to do better, but they definitely help me feel much better about my progress!

  6. Another neat way to do a pushup is to do yoga pushups — or what we call chattarunga. The hands are close in by the lower ribs and the elbows are hugged in as well. We do them a lot in yoga classes and its a true test of strength for sure!

  7. Dustin,

    I’m out of breath by just watching you and John Hall do explosive push-ups. I can’t say that I’ll be able to do 15 of these, but I think it will be good to give it a try. It will be a good challenge.


  8. Given the severe arthritis in my knees, upper body is all I’m being allowed to do now, except for riding a bike. (Ugh!) However, (besides being ~100#s overweight), I have an old and unresolved rt.shoulder injury. Is there a way to position my upper body/arms/ shoulders that would allow me to do any type of push-up?

  9. Dustin Maher says


    First focus on the eating, you can lose most of the weight through healthy eating choices, as for pushups, try putting your hands on a table or even a wall and having your feet a couple feet away from it. That way you are pushing very little of your actual bodyweight, which will in turn put less pressure on the rotator cuff muscle.


  10. I love the baby above (o: Push ups rock!

  11. I’m going to try these in my routine tomorrow. Thanks for sharing Dustin. I’m a big fan of pushups. I do all variations of pushups-spiderman, alternating front delt touch, BOSU, staggered med ball, resistance band, etc, I’ll add these to my arsenal.

  12. This is a really tasty healthy feel good food.
    2 1/2 cup water
    1 cup vegetables chopped small of your choice.I combine things like onion, green bean and sweet potato.
    1/3 cup quinoa
    1/3 cup basmati rice
    1/2 cup mung dal
    1 tsp- dry roasted black mustard seeds
    1 tsp dry roasted cumin seeds
    1/4 teas cumin
    1/4 teas coriander
    1/4 teas turmeric
    1/8 teas dry ginger
    1/2 teas salt
    2 Tablespoons olive oil
    Mix all of these together in a microwave rice cooker or covered microwave bowl and microwave for about 10 minutes.Decrease microwave to defrost mode and cook about 5 minutes. Stir in one more cup of fast cooking vegetables such as chopped fresh spinach, parsley, cilantro. Cook 5 more minutes on defrost.
    There are lots of healthy variations to this recipe. I love to top my portion with a soft boiled egg.

  13. Dustin, I am working on the weight thing (down 70 pounds, 60 to go). I lift weights (not the Barbie ones) but because all of my weight is in my hips and behind, push ups are still difficult. I have been doing knee pushups. I have been doing the “Perfect pushups” routine because it stresses my wrists less. The routine involves Navy Seal sets (progressively lower numbers in under 2 mins). I currently do 4 sets of 30 (14-10-6 reps) 2 regular 1 wide 1 narrow. But a regular pushup is still very difficult. I can do maybe 3 or 4.

    So to my question: Should I switch to doing regular pushups and only do a very few per set? Or would I benefit from another round of the knee pushups with more weight or higher reps first?

    • Jill,

      Great question! I would mix it up, so some days try to do a couple pushups on your toes… Congrats by the way on all your weight loss! Another trick I use is staying on your toes on the way down (you are 30-40% stronger on the lowering phase), and then drop to your knees and push yourself back up. You can also grab onto dumbbells to keep the wrist straighter and put less pressure on your wrists!


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