Gotta Run: Everyone can do pushups

Published 12:00 am Sunday, September 26, 2021

I am a pushup nut. I love doing them, and normally will challenge myself each morning, right after my run, to reach a certain number completed properly.

We all need to maintain a certain level of strength, especially if not involved in regular physical work. The two best ways, in my opinion, to maintain acceptable arm strength are planks and pushups. I’ve written about planks recently, and today we’ll cover pushups.

Pushups are for everybody. No equipment needed, except comfortable clothes. Honestly you can do pushups in about anything. I wear shoes instead of doing them barefoot.

Here is what makes a proper pushup. With your arms straight, glutes clenched, and abs braced, steadily lower yourself until your elbows are at a 90-degree angle or less. Try to keep your elbows relatively close to your body and keep note of when they start to flare out as you get tired. Once your chest (or nose/chin) touches the floor (or your arms go down to a 90-degree angle), pause slightly and then push back up until you’re at the starting position. I count the pushup to be complete at the 90 degree angle of the arms, but pushing below that is even a better workout.

Admittedly, many folks can’t do a proper pushup from the floor. Here is a plan where almost anyone can do progressive pushups to strengthen their arms. Even at the minimum level, strength will improve and your arms will look better too. Your balance will improve too.

Beginners with little arm strength should start with a wall push up. Stand next to a wall, place both hands flat with palms open against a wall. Start with feet shoulder width apart, about two to three feet from the wall. Lean forward, resting with your hands against the wall and then push your shoulder away from the wall. Try to do 10 reps, 3-4 sets of each.

Counter level: Try a counter pushup. Find a solid counter or shelf at or just above waist height. Back away from the counter or shelf and try the 10 reps, 3-4 sets at this level.

Bench level: Use a solid or anchored piece of furniture and follow the same routine.

Knee pushups: Hold yourself up on your hands and knees, with the body in a straight line from shoulders to knees. Lower down to the ground before pushing back up.

The goal of this progression of pushups is to get your body closer and more prone with the ground. Here is an estimated percentage of body weight lifted at each level.

• 4-foot elevated pushup (wall): 9%

• 3-foot elevated pushup (countertop): 20%

• 2-foot elevated pushup (bench):  36-41%

• Knee pushup: 49%

• Regular push-up: 64%

Do these pushup workouts every other day, with a rest day in between. It will be normal for a little upper arm and chest soreness to develop. That just means you are waking up muscles, either seldom used or under used. Be consistent and be committed. Progress to the next level when you can do 3 sets of 10 reps each. Good luck, you are on the way to your best possible level of pushups and increased arm strength!

Races are just ahead. We have the T-Man’s 5K race in Mooresville on Oct. 9 and the Spooky Sprint 5K at Catawba College on Oct. 31. The Butterball 5K at the Forum on Thanksgiving Day is on, as well. Currently, we have two December races with more details later. Complete details at

Three of the nation’s most popular marathons are happening live. The Chicago Marathon on Oct. 10, the Boston Marathon on Oct. 11 and the Marine Corps Marathon on Oct. 31.