The Ladder Pushup Workout

Hate pushups? This method may make you love them.

Doing pushups in a ladder workout will help increase your reps overtime. Photograph courtesy of Shutterstock.

Many of the workouts we highlight on Well+Being focus on strength training, cardio, or a combination of the two. But today, we want to talk basics. One of the biggest mistakes trainers see is people rushing into complex workouts or exercise moves before mastering the basics with proper form. Tom Brose, City Fitness Gym general manager and a Washingtonian Top Personal Trainer, says the pushup is a great example of a move that people too often overcomplicate.

“It’s not uncommon to see variations [of the pushup] involving medicine balls, Bosu, [the] use of a single leg, TRX, or twisting. While these can all be challenging, if the actual pushup is not rock solid, it’s a misplaced effort,” Brose says.

How to Perform a Proper Pushup
“To do the pushup correctly, the entire body should lock into a rigid pose, making it a whole-body exercise,” says Brose. “The core, glutes, and quads should all squeeze tight to maintain the posture.”

Once you are properly aligned as Brose suggests, lower your body down in one line. Your chin, chest, and hips all reach the floor together and come back up the same way. With each repetition, you should touch the floor at the bottom and lock your elbows at the top.

The Workout
To develop the pushup, Brose has constructed a ladder approach that increases reps with each set. Brose’s goal is to help you work toward a challenging number of completed pushups, without losing emphasis on proper form.

“Set a stopwatch for 20 minutes, and do one set at the top of every minute. Each minute, do one rep more than the last minute until you feel you are approaching failure. Start the next set back at one rep,” says Brose.

Here is Brose’s example pushup ladder:

1 pushup (rest until 1-minute mark)

2 pushups (rest until 2-minute mark)

3 pushups (rest until 3-minute mark)

4 pushups (rest until 4-minute mark)

5 pushups (rest until 5-minute mark)

Repeat sequence to 4 pushups

Repeat sequence to 4 pushups

Repeat sequence to 3 pushups

Repeat sequence to 2 pushups

Repeat sequence to 2 pushups

Total workout = 47 pushups in 20 minutes

The Verdict

We tried this workout three times last week, sticking to Brose’s example ladder, and personally found that the 47 pushups were much easier to complete by the third attempt than during our first.

Brose says the ladder method is a great way to build a solid foundation around a basic move and then work towards more complex moves. He personally uses the approach to work on handstand pushups, pullups, and ring dips.

“I want to make sure clients can do a pushup to full range of motion and with good alignment before adding difficulty,” he says. “Otherwise, the movement quality gets worse, risk of injury, both acute and chronic, rises, and fitness stagnates.”

For more Well+Being workouts, visit our Fit Check page.