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How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

Tricep push ups (also known as military push ups) are a great exercise to learn, and a challenging twist on the regular push up if you ever get bored of doing those (but like, who would get bored of regular push ups, AMIRIGHT?!… hehe). They are different from a standard push up in a few ways:

1) In a regular push up, your elbows are a 45 degree angle from your torso, and your hands are about shoulder width apart. In a military or tricep push up, your elbows are tight to your body and thumbs are close to your armpits.

2) The tricep push up also works the muscles at the back of your arm (your tricep!), whereas regular push ups focus mainly on the chest! It is interesting how a slight change can completely alter an exercise.

3) Lastly, military push ups are quite a bit more difficult to perform than regular push ups, especially if you’re not someone who has focussed on their triceps previously. Personally, I could probably pump out 30 regular push ups in a row. If I were doing tricep – 15-20 would be my max. Huge difference!

This article is to help you work your way up to doing these tricep push ups – and properly! One of the biggest issues with regular push ups in that people tend to let their hips drop, or don’t go far down enough. There are three Common Push Up Mistakes, and that is definitely one of them. With tricep push ups, the focus is to make sure that your body is straight like a plank, and that your nose can almost reach the ground.

The most important part of learning this exercise is to have a bench or something on a rise that you can place your hands on.

Step 1: Incline Push Ups

Stand in front of a wall (for the most modified) or a bench, like I am here. Back your feet a few feet away from the bench so that your body is at an angle. Keeping your body in a straight line, slowly lower your chest towards the bench. Push up, to extend your arms back into starting position. If this is too challenging, you can perform this exercise from your knees, with hands on the bench (see below). Ensure your back is straight and spine is neutral. Repeat 3 sets x 8-12 reps

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

Step 1B: Incline Isometric Tricep Plank Hold

This exercise is difficult but is a great way to build the muscle in the back of your arms by keeping the muscle under tension for as long as you can! Place your hands on the bench and hold yourself in a low plank position with your back straight and neck neutral. Try holding for as long as possible (until failure). Repeat 4 sets to failure

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

Step 2: Step/ Lower Inclined Push Up

This next step is quite similar to the first one (except in your case, the first one would have been against a wall) but this time your body is at an even closer to parallel with the ground. This places more pressure on your triceps as you put more body weight into the push up. Repeat the same steps as the first exercise, making sure that your back is neutral and hips aren’t sagging. Push yourself up so that your arms are extended. If this is too challenging, perform on your knees Repeat 3 sets x 8-12 reps

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

Step 2B: Isometric Tricep Plank Hold

This exercise is the same as above except this time, with your hands on the ground. Hold yourself in a low plank position with your back straight and your eyes staring slightly ahead of your hands. Try holding for as long as possible (until failure). Repeat 4 sets to failure

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

Step 5: Full Tricep Push Ups!!!!!!!!

This is the final step and the one that you have been working so hard for! Begin in a plank position with your hands slightly lower than chest height, and elbows tight to sides. Slowly lower yourself down while keeping your spine and back in one line, so that your chest almost reaches the ground. Exhale, and push yourself up into your starting position.

How to Progress to Tricep Push Ups

Beginners: Repeat 4 sets x 3 reps
Intermediate: Repeat 4 sets x 6 reps
Advanced: Repeat 3 sets x 10 reps


  1. Susan M

    6 February

    I have been struggling with how to approach these for quite some time. This is encouraging – thank you!

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