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The question:

I've been doing lat pull-downs, biceps curls, triceps work and rowing exercises, but I can't do even one push-up. Please help.

The answer:

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No worries - we will get you doing push-ups in no time.

Stage 1: Do exercises that simulate the motion of a push-up, such as flat and inclined bench presses.

Stage 2: Work in a rep range that allows you to lift heavy-enough weights. If you regularly lift light weights for 15 reps, incorporate cycles where you lift heavier weights for six to 10 reps.

Stage 3: Do "negative" push-ups. Get into a push-up position on your knees or toes depending on your level. Lower yourself as slowly as possible all the way to the ground (a count of 8 to 10). Rather then pushing yourself back to the starting position, let your chest rest on the ground, then push your bum back over your feet to get up.

Negative push-ups are useful for two reasons: They get the body used to working in the lower range of the push-up motion and they help build strength because you can always lower more weight than you can lift.

Trainer's Tip: It's likely that after a few months your push-up strength will plateau. When this happens, try performing negative push-ups wearing a weighted vest.

Send certified personal trainer Kathleen Trotter your questions at trainer@globeandmail.com. She will answer select questions, which could appear in The Globe and Mail and/or on The Globe and Mail web site. Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

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The content provided in The Globe and Mail's Ask a Health Expert centre is for information purposes only and is neither intended to be relied upon nor to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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