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How can I build up to 20 push-ups? Add to ...

The question

I want be able to do at least 20 push-ups. I can’t even do one and I’m starting to feel discouraged.

The answer

The ability to do a proper push-up depends on the strength of the large muscles of the upper body and the shoulder stabilizing muscles.

Your chest, shoulders and triceps need to be strong enough to push up your body weight.

To strengthen the shoulder stabilizers, try these two exercises.

Lying rotator cuff work: Lie on your side. Holding a one- to five-pound weight (palm down), bend the top arm to 90 degrees and rest the arm on your top hip. Draw your arm bone slightly back in your shoulder socket. Keep your arm at 90 degrees and rotate the arm so that your knuckles face the ceiling. Take four seconds to lower the arm back to its starting position and repeat 10 to 15 times.

Plank hand “step out” with band: Start in a plank position on your hands and feet. Make sure your shoulders are over top of your hands. Make a loop with a band and tie the band around your wrists. Without letting your hips or shoulders rotate, reach one arm out about 30 centimetres to your side. Do five reps and switch sides. To make this exercise easier, perform the plank from your knees.

Trainer’s Tip

To be good at push-ups, you have to do push-ups. This may sound like obvious advice, but often people don’t regularly include exercises they are not good at in their routine. Don’t just gripe about being bad at push-ups; practise them!

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 Your name will not be published if your question is chosen.

Read more Q&As from Kathleen Trotter

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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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