Pushup Progression

A drawing of a person performing pushups highlighting the muscles that are worked from the exercise.

I’m sure pushups have been a part of your strength training plan for wrestling since you started.

As a result, I don’t want to go into the benefits today.

Instead, let’s get into the technical details behind PROPER execution and how to progress the exercise.

Stage 1

The first stage/progression is the classic pushup. However, for the sake of making the exercise easier to measure, track, and keep consistent, I prefer bar pushups:

In my opinion, bar pushups are superior to standard pushups.


Because you can easily increase and decrease the difficulty.

Have you ever stopped to take a look around a practice room during a high school practice when the entire team is doing pushups?

If you have, you’ve probably noticed a huge difference in the quality of the pushups.

With bar pushups, you can track how many pushups are done and at what height. You can then use that information to more accurately measure progress.

I find this to be A LOT easier than simply eyeballing a pushup and trying to recall if it looks better than what it did a week or two ago.

Anyway, as far as technique goes- the same principles apply as the pushups you’ve been performing, just make sure that your chest touches the bar each rep.

If a set is easy, lower the bar for the next set.

If a set is difficult and you notice your form breaks down, then increase the height of the bar.

Here are the 2 most common breakdowns in technique I see:

Once you’re able to perform 10-15 solid reps with the bar on the bottom of the rack, you’re ready to progress.

Stage 2

This stage is going to encompass a number of options.

I’m not exactly sure which is easier than the other, so I’ll just introduce them all.

Feel free to experiment with all of the variations below and see which one(s) work best for you.

I like to progress pushups two ways.

1. Adding instability.

2. Adding external resistance.

You can also combine the two.

First is the Med Ball Pushup. You can perform it with 2 hands on a Med Ball:

Or, you can perform it with one hand on a Med Ball and one hand on the ground:

Or, you can perform it with one Med Ball per hand:

You can also perform the pushup on a Stability Ball:

Another way to progress the pushup is with Suspension Straps:

…in the case of the Suspension Strap Pushup, you progress the exercise the same way you would the bar pushup- by lowering the straps. The more parallel your body is to the ground, the more difficult the exercise.

Finally, another way to add instability to the pushup is to perform them on Kettlebells. The smaller the Kettlebells, the less stable the exercise:

Another way to make a pushup more difficult (if you want to try something other than adding an element of instability) is to add external resistance.

You can use a band(s):

You can also use Manual Resistance- click here to read the post.

Finally, you can add a weight vest if you have access to one.

A man performing pushups while wearing a weight vest.

A picture of Kyle Dake and Dickie White.
Hi, I’m Dickie (the author of this blog). Here I am with my good buddy, Kyle Dake. While he doesn't have a nice coat like me, he is pretty good at wrestling. Here's what he said about my training system:

Before I began lifting using Dickie's system my wrestling skills were getting slightly better. I've now been lifting under his guidance for more than 5 months and I have begun to dominating ALL of my competition. At first I had little faith in Dickie and his program, but now I would run into a wall if he told me I would get stronger! I know it sounds insane, but I would. The bottom line is Dickie is an expert and knows what he is talking about. If you want to defeat those kids whom you've always lost to and reach a level you never thought possible, I suggest you start lifting using Dickie's system immediately.

-Kyle Dake, 4X NCAA Division 1 National Champion

Want to see what other wrestlers are saying about my training system? Check out my Success Stories page.


Want to learn more about Dickie? Check out my About page.


Want to get started on a program today? Read this post and download your free program- 12 Week Training Program For Wrestlers.


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