It’s a question I see asked fairly often, “Can Planks Help You Do Push Ups?”
I think we can all agree that push ups are one of the most popular exercises there is.
In fact, regardless of your training goals, push ups will fit in well with just about any workout.
However, if you’re struggling for your first push ups, or perhaps you’ve plateaued in terms of push up reps, you’ll want to find a way to improve strength and endurance.
This begs the question whether planks can actually help you to increase your push ups.
Allow me to explain everything you need to know.
Can Planks Help You Do Push Ups?
Planks will certainly help you do push ups in terms of your core strength. If you have a weak core your midsection is likely to sag, especially as you push yourself out of the bottom of a push up. However, the weak point for many people during push ups is tricep strength. So, it makes a great deal of sense to focus on training your triceps. You should also work your way through the various push ups progressions, including wall, box, and kneeling push ups.
1. Planks Will Only Take Your Push Ups So Far
Firstly, it’s important to note that planks are a fantastic exercise and they will definitely help you to get better at push ups.
With that being said, planks will only help you so much.
By this I mean that I have always viewed push ups as a full body exercise, and this is especially true of the core muscles and glutes.
In reality, whenever you perform push ups you’ll want to keep your core and glutes tight and contracted.
Not only will you feel these muscles working during push ups, but stronger core and glute muscles will help you in a variety of ways.
If you’re someone who is capable of pumping out a few reps of push ups then you may find that your endurance is hampered by weak core muscles.
You’ll typically notice that as you get further into your set of push ups that your midsection starts sagging towards the floor.
This actually makes it harder for you to push yourself out of the bottom of a push up.
So, a sagging midsection will actually make you work harder when pushing yourself up during push ups.
Planks are known for being one of the best core exercises there is.
So, the stronger your core, the better you can expect to be at push ups.
Therefore, if you are struggling with push ups I would certainly recommend that you practice a variety of planks.
The most obvious plank would be the push up-position plank, whereby you simply hold the push up position for as long as possible.
However, I actually view the push up plank as a better exercise.
This involves getting into a plank position on your elbows and then quickly placing each hand on the floor individually, before returning to the elbow plank.
You should continue to swap between elbows and hands on the floor for the desired reps or time.
The reason I prefer this type of moving plank is because you’ll train the main push ups muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps) as well as your core and glutes.
So, while planks are great at improving core strength you may also need to work on strengthening the other upper body muscles involved in push ups.
2. Work On Tricep Strength
I would hazard a guess the main muscle group that holds most people back from performing countless push ups is their triceps.
As I’ve mentioned, the main focus muscles during push ups are the chest, shoulders, and triceps.
However, as triceps are the smallest of the muscles involved they can also often be the weak point of push ups.
In fact, even if your chest and shoulders aren’t particularly strong you’ll probably find that you can still perform a few push up reps.
But, weak triceps may mean that you’re struggling to even perform a single push up.
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There are various ways in which you can work on your triceps strength and endurance.
The most common bodyweight exercise will be tricep dips.
This involves having your back to a sturdy surface, e.g. a bench, and placing your hands on the surface.
You then simply lower yourself towards the floor before using your triceps (and your shoulders to some extent) to push yourself back into the top position.
With that being said, I typically find that tricep dips can place various muscles and joints in a precarious position, so I prefer other triceps exercises.
You could also perform a variety of triceps exercises with dumbbells and cables to improve strength and endurance.
Some of the most prominent exercises include cable tricep pushdowns, overhead extensions, skullcrushers, and tricep kickbacks.
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3. Push Up Progression
For me, if you want to get better at a certain exercise then you should perform that exercise more often.
Okay, perhaps you currently don’t have the required strength and endurance to crank out tens or hundreds of regular push ups.
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However, as with most exercises, there are modified versions, and the same can be said for push ups.
So, in effect, you’ll want to work your way through a variety of push ups progressions.
For most of us this will typically involve starting out with wall push ups.
Therefore, you’ll start by facing a wall, placing your hands against the wall in the normal push up position, and then performing reps.
From here you can work your way up to kneeling box push ups, and then to kneeling push ups.
You’ll also find that the lowering or negative phase of the push up can help to build the required upper body strength.
So, you would literally place yourself in the top push up position (the same position for a plank), and then slowly lower yourself to the ground.
You can then relax and place yourself back into the top position before slowly lowering yourself again.
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So, as you can see, planks will help you to do push ups.
However, in truth, planks will only strengthen the upper body to such an extent.
Planks will be fantastic for providing you with the core and glute strength and endurance required to perform push ups.
But, you’ll want to work on the target muscles more in order to improve push ups.
This is especially true of the triceps, which are typically the weak point for most people.
So, as well as performing planks, you should also focus on a variety of triceps exercises.
Additionally, you’ll only get better at push ups by doing more push ups, and this will generally mean that you’ll need to work through push up progressions.
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Hi, I’m Partha, owner and founder of My Bodyweight Exercises. I am a Level 3 Personal Trainer and Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist through the Register of Exercise Professionals, United Kingdom. I have been a regular gym-goer since 2000 and coaching clients since 2012. My aim is to help you achieve your body composition goals.