Press ups are a staple calisthenics exercise. They are the bread and butter of bodyweight training, predominantly working the chest, shoulders triceps and core. Many people find normal press ups too hard, whilst seasoned gym pros can smash out 50 reps in one go. So here the is the ultimate instructional to making them easier, or harder.
To make press ups easier, there are two main ways of doing so.
1) Elevating the hands or 2) Performing them on the knees.
1) Elevating the hands.
By raising your hands up onto a bench, work surface or wall, your body is in a more vertical position. This means more weight is carried by the feet, and the arms are pushing less of your body mass. Begin by desk press ups and work up to 15 reps. Once you can comfortably do this many, move to a bench or lower position and continue until you can perform them with your hands on the floor.
2) Performing the exercise on your knees.
By doing press ups on your knees, your upper body will be carrying less of your mass, making press ups easier. If these are still too difficult, then elevate your arms up onto a bench or box.
To make press ups harder, there are three main ways of doing so.
1) Elevating the feet, 2) Adding weight/resistance, or 3) Performing unequally loaded exercises
1) Elevating the feet.
This places more of your bodyweight onto the arms, more bodyweight = increased difficulty. Start with your feet on a bench, then once you can comfortably do 15 reps, it’s time to raise them higher.
2) Adding weight/resistance.
By wearing a weighted vest, having a resistance band looped over your back, or by having a gym partner hold a weight plate on your back is a great way of adding resistance. The resistance band will add extra resistance at the top part of the movement, whereas a weighted jacket will give the same resistance throughout the range of motion. Press up experts also perform the movement with their hands closer to their waist, rather than in line with their shoulders. This has the effect of placing more weight on the arms, making the exercise harder. You can also perform explosive press ups and try to lift your hands off the ground.
3) Performing unequally loaded exercises.
Movements such as Archer press ups are a fantastic way of loading one arm more than the other. This increases body mass on one arm, increasing pressing difficulty.