How to Do Pushups After 50

How to Do Pushups After 50

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Knees or no knees? Err on the side of caution and progress slowly.

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You've passed the half-century mark, but that doesn't give you license to forgo weight-bearing exercises such as pushups. This kind of exercise can help you build muscle and bone as you age. Being able to do a set of pushups has another advantage for people older than 50: Not only do they work the chest, arms and wrists, but they also build the muscles that can help you break a fall, says biomechanics researcher Dr. James Ashton-Miller in an article in "The New York Times." While doing pushups can be a smart addition to your exercise repertoire, it's important to take it slow if you're just starting out.


Warm up before you start your push-up routine -- or any strength training routine for that matter -- to deliver more oxygen to your muscles and help you get a better workout. Walk, cycle or do some other type of light cardio for five to 10 minutes, or until you break a light sweat.


Stand near a wall with no pictures or wall hangings, and place your hands on the wall about shoulder-height in preparation for wall pushups, a less-intense version of the classic pushup. Space your hands about shoulder-width apart and your feet about 1 foot apart. Bend your elbows and slowly lower your chest toward the wall. When your nose is nearly touching the wall, press away from the wall and back to standing. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends counting to four on the way down, and then counting to two on the way back up. When you can complete two sets of 15 repetitions of this style of pushup without struggling, move on to the next step. If this style is difficult for you, do as many repetitions as you can in a row, take a short break, and then do a second set of as many as you can.


Get down on all fours in preparation for the assisted pushup. Place your hands on the floor about shoulder-width apart and straighten your arms, leaving your knees on the ground and flattening your midsection so that your body creates one long straight line from your knees to your shoulders. Tighten your abdominals and lower your chest toward the floor, avoiding arching your back. Lower yourself down to the count of four. When your face is near the floor, press your body back upward -- keeping your abdominals tight -- to the count of two. Repeat the process, completing a total of 12 to 15 repetitions. When you can do two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions without struggling or using improper form, move onto the next step. If you can't, do as many as you can during each set and add more repetitions until you can do a full 12.


Move up to a full pushup with your knees off the floor when you can do the assisted version successfully. Start on all fours and then place your hands on the floor, shoulder-width apart, arms straight and toes resting on the floor. Lower your body down to the count of four, and then press upward to the count of two. Aim to do two sets of 12 to 15 repetitions. As you get stronger, add more sets or repetitions as you so desire -- though one or two sets is more than enough to build muscle and bone and maintain upper body strength as you get older.


  • Do push-ups two to four days a week, giving yourself at least 24 hours of rest in between sessions. Be patient and stick to your routine; it may take several weeks or months to progress from the wall pushup to the full pushup.
  • To monitor your progress, get a notebook you can use to write down the amount of time you spent doing things like walking or riding your bicycle, but also the number of pushups you're able to do and the types of pushups you did on a specific date. Tracking this information over time will help you see how much progress you're making as you stick to your routine.


  • After age 40, it's especially important to get your doctor's OK before starting a new exercise routine -- and even more crucial if you have any chronic health issues such as diabetes, heart disease or osteoporosis.


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  4. Roderick

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