One of the most basic but also probably one of the most important exercises a person can master is the push-up. The push-up is used by many strength and conditioning specialists, physical therapists, sports medicine professionals, and even the military to gauge upper body strength and strength endurance.
Once you’ve gained enough upper body strength to do 20+ body weight push-ups with perfect form, a great way to overload the push-up is with the weighted push-up.
In this guide, I will be going over how to do the weighted push-up, coaching points, common mistakes, and different ways to load the movement.
Table of Contents
How To Do Weighted Push-Ups
Obviously, no equipment is needed for regular push-ups. Here are possible implements that can be used to add resistance:
- Bumper or Iron Plates
- Med ball
- Lifting partner (To help apply resistance)
- Lie face down on the floor.
- Have a partner place the implement of resistance on your mid-back. Do not put the implement too high or too low.
- Pull your toes in so that you’re on the tip of your shoes.
- Eyes should be focused straight down or slightly up.
- Pull your hands close to about the nipple line of the chest and bring them out about 2-3 inches away.
- Take a deep breath, engage the core and brace.
- Push yourself up in one unit. There should be no sagging of the waist. The entire body from head to toe should move up and then back down in unison.
- Feel your scapula upwardly rotate and make sure the antagonist muscles (Back and biceps) are fully engaging.
- Lock out your push-up and pause.
- Slowly lower yourself back down and get ready for the next repetition from just above the ground. Do not fully relax at the bottom of the push-up unless your program specifies.
Take your time and master the body weight push-up before overloading. The benefits of doing sound push-ups will pay dividends for your shoulder health and the potential to maximize your upper body strength.
Be mindful of where you put your weight. If you put it too high, you may inhibit good scapula movement. If you put it too low, you may cause your low back to sag and the core to disengage.
Control your push-ups. If you go too fast, the weight may move around causing coordination to be thrown off and most likely your form will deteriorate.
Keep the elbows at a 45-degree angle. For maximal chest, shoulder, and rotator cuff engagement, do not let the elbows flare out away from the middle. Also, do not let the elbow hug right next to the torso.
I would highly recommend this movement to any athlete. It provides all the benefits a pressing movement can offer with minimal risk.
By far the biggest mistake I see in the push-up is lifters not using a full range of motion. Push all the way up and slowly lower yourself back to about an inch of the ground.
Elbow angle. Another common mistake in pressing movements is lifters letting those elbows flare. Remember to keep your elbows at 45 degrees to keep your shoulders healthy.
Weighted push-ups are generally programmed for strength. Keep the reps between 5-8 and focus on quality movement as you go up in weight.
- Biceps (Isometric and eccentric contributors)
Weighted Push-Up Overloading Options
There are a few options for overloading your push-ups.
Bumper or Iron plates
Using Bumper Plates is the most common way of doing weighted push-ups. This is the best option in my opinion. It is easy to calculate how much external weight is being used and can be progressed over time.
Chains are another great option to overload the push-up. As long as the chains are challenging you appropriately, I would recommend them as much as the bumper or iron plates. I do recommend weighing them prior to use so that you can track your progress.
Drape them over your mid-back and crush your push-ups. I also find these to be the most friendly implement in regards to stability as they don’t really slide or move around during the movement.
Have a partner give you pressure as you lower yourself down in the push-up. Then have the partner resist as you push up. This is a great option during a hypertrophy phase when time under tension is a priority. As a partner, do not give too much or too little resistance. Communication is key.
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