10 Exercises to Prepare Kids for a Proper PUSH-UP!

Strength training for adults and kids is paramount to any workout program.  Whether your goals are to improve your posture, balance, core strength, or simply strengthen your upper body, the one exercise that will help is the push-up.

Proper push-up form can be difficult.  Several muscles in the chest, arms, shoulders, triceps, back, and neck all have to work in concert to perform this exercise with the proper form.

Push-up muscles

As a physical education teacher, I’ve observed the good, the bad, and the just plain ugly when it comes to push-ups.

The Just Plain Ugly (PE teachers know what I’m talking about)

  • Micro Push-ups – rapid fire head movement with very limited, if any, flex in the arms throughout the movement
  • Dipsy Doodles – arms remain extended, chest up, lower body thrusts up and down
  • Halfsies – nice straight body but arms only flex a fraction throughout the movement  (can be a good lead-up to a proper push-up)
  • Floppy Fish – legs and waist flat on the ground, push up, then completely flop to the ground

Each class usually will have a couple of students who are push-up masters.  They’re often the students who are gymnasts, take a martial art form, or they’re just extremely active and possibly practice push-ups at home.

However, many students simply haven’t developed the necessary muscle strength to fulfill a proper push-up, and this is fine.  Especially since there are hundreds of simple exercises that can assist kids and adults in developing their strength, and allow them to eventually perform a perfect push-up.

10 Exercises to Build the Strength for a Perfect Push-up

Count-it-Down Negatives

Shoulder and Knee Touches

Incline Push-ups – begin with a wall and work your way down to a chair or step as you become stronger.


Army Crawl

Walking Plank

Alternating Knee Push-ups

Crab Walk

Plank Twister

Flexed Arm Plank

“We must learn to walk before we can run.”

Let’s get rid of the bad and ugly push-ups and go for the perfect form one step at a time.

Share some of your ideas on how students can increase the strength in their upper bodies to complete a perfect push-up!

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  1. Push-ups are one of the many exercises I struggle with. I know they are a great strength building exercise and they’re great b/c you don’t need any additional equipment, I just have a hard time with them. Great post! Thanks for your dedication to keeping our kids strong and fit!


  2. Good article. I’ll take a look at the videos later. The push-up: easily the most prescribed exercise we give to students and athletes yet I’ve never seen that same coach or physed teacher teach it. Good on you for showing regressions and progressions. I know @mobilitywod and @youthfitnessguy teach it to their children and athletes.

    Dave – @APQenclasse


    • Thanks David. I remember my early years of teaching when I expected my students to do flawless push-ups without even teaching them form or allowing them to build strength first. Wisdom comes with experience, although looking back, where was my common sense? Thanks for the comment


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