Push up challenge for beginners

Push ups are a multi-tasking exercise that work the chest, shoulders and upper arms as well as the core muscles. They also need no equipment and can be done pretty much anywhere. So they’re a great choice to get started with upper body strength training. A full press up needs quite a lot of strength, so isn’t a beginner’s exercise. But there are plenty of variations that you can do to build up your strength. This workout uses the wall press up and the knee press up. As you go through the challenge, you’ll increase the number of knee press ups and decrease the number of wall press ups so that you gradually build more strength. The exercise instructions and challenge chart are here in the post and you can also download a copy of the push up challenge for beginners PDF – see below for how to get a link.

Push ups challenge for beginners PDF

Info box beginner

Warm up and safety

You should do arm circles as a quick warm up before doing the challenge each day.

Arm circles

  1. Stand with your feet about hip distance and then rotate your arms all the way round in front of your body.
  2. Do 5 in both inward and outward directions.

Please also read these safety guidelines before doing the challenge.

For the knee press ups, you’ll need some sort of cushioning for your knees. If you don’t have an exercise mat, then use a folded blanket or something similar.

Exercise instructions

Wall push up

This is the easier of the 2 exercises and a good one to get you started with push ups.

Push ups challenge for beginners WALL PUSH UP

  1. Stand at arms length from the wall, feet hip distance apart.
  2. Place your palms on the wall at chest height, a bit wider than shoulder distance.
  3. Allow your arms to bend at your elbows as you lean towards the wall, keeping your body in a straight line.
  4. Push yourself away from the wall back to your starting position.

Knee push up

Technique is important with the knee push up to get the most out of it and to avoid causing knee pain. Your legs and back should make a straight line and your weight should be resting just above your kneecaps, not on them.

Knee push up

  1. Start by getting into an all 4s position on the floor, with your hands below your shoulders.
  2. Now walk your hands away from your legs, at the same time as you lift your feet into the air. You are aiming for a position in which your body and upper legs form a straight line and the top part of your knee is in contact with the floor.
  3. Bend your arms at the elbows so that your head and upper body lower towards the floor. Look down at the floor so that your head stays in line with your body.
  4. When your chin is an inch from the floor, reverse the movement and come back up to your starting position.

Challenge chart

These are the reps for each day. Once you get up to 24 reps of wall push ups, the number goes down each day, while the number of knee push ups increases.

Push ups challenge for beginners PDF chart

Get the push up challenge for beginners PDF

Sign up for My Fitness Planner updates and get the free printable download link e-mailed to you:

After you sign up, you’ll get 2 e-mails, one will have a link to your printable download and the other will be a welcome e-mail.

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Challenge FAQs

The first day of the challenge should feel like it needs a bit of effort, but not too much. If you really struggle with day 1, then you probably won’t get through the challenge. The idea with the challenges on this site is that the first few days get you used to the exercises and the daily habit. Usually about halfway through the challenge the effort levels start to increase more quickly.

Avoid challenges that increase effort levels very quickly – they’re simply not realistic. It’s unlikely that, for example, you would be able to increase how many squats you are able to do by 10 a day for 30 days, or increase your plank hold time by 10 seconds a day for 30 days.

In general, allowing muscles 48 hours between workouts is good because it gives our bodies time to recover and adapt. Challenges are generally short workouts and for a limited period of time (usually 30 days), so not having many rest days won’t be a problem. With challenges that alternate exercises each day, it’s not an issue, because you’re using different muscles.

Fitness improvements don’t always happen in a predictable way. Sometimes we’re just not as strong or energetic for no apparent reason, or we hit a plateau. If you get to a point where you’re struggling to complete the day’s challenge, you can try one of the following:

  • Take a couple of days off and start again where you left off
  • Do the challenge on alternate days rather than every day
  • Instead of increasing the effort every day, stay at the same level for 2 or 3 days and then go onto the next day of the challenge

Obviously these solutions mean the challenge will last longer, but you’ll still benefit from doing it.