Modifying Push-Ups and Pull-Ups

Most people when they are just getting started out with P90X can’t do a ton of pull-ups or might not be able to do that many push-ups.  But that’s why you’re doing the program, right?  If you could do a ton of pull-ups and push-ups you probably wouldn’t be needing to do P90X.  When I started my first round of P90X, I could only do 2 pull-ups unassisted.  It was something I wasn’t super happy about.  I used to be able to do around 10, so I knew I had lost a lot of strength.  And I know this can be discouraging for other people just starting out too.  There are a ton of pull-ups and push-ups in P90X, so if you can’t do many or any, is it really worth doing the program?  In my opinion, yes!  You just have to modify the moves.  There is no shame in modifying the moves.  Pretty much everyone has to when they start, so it’s very normal.  With that being said, here are some tips on modifying push-ups and pull-ups.

Tips For Modifying Push-Ups

Push-ups can be difficult for a number of reasons.  The main two that I’ve read about are a lack of the necessary upper body strength and pain in your wrists.  Both can make it extremely difficult to do push-ups.  I actually broke my right wrist a few years ago and it still gets stiff at times or gets a little “tweaky” at times.  It doesn’t always feel great, but there are a few tactics I use to make sure I don’t re-injure my wrist and keep it feeling good.  So if you’re struggling with the move, try these tips for modifying push-ups.

-Do the push-ups from your knees.  If you are struggling to do many with your feet on the ground, then try putting your knees on the ground.  This should take some weight off your upper body.  I know it can be frustrating at first to not do them on your feet, but this way you are able to do many more and you can build up your strength.  When you continually do them from your knees with proper form, you’re going to get stronger and eventually will be doing them from your feet no problem.  A note here, if you are doing them from your knees, just make sure to have a padded surface under your knees.  I workout on a hard-wood floor, and doing push-ups from your knees on hard-wood doesn’t feel to good!  So either do them on carpet or put a mat or towel under your knees when you do them.

modifying push-ups-Use power stands.  I have a pair of Beachbody’s Power Stands and absolutely love them.  You can read my review here, Power Stands Review.  If you have wrist issues, these are awesome.  What I really like about them is that your hands and wrists are in a much more natural position.  Your hands are not flat on the ground anymore, which I know can be painful.  These eliminate pretty much all the wrist pain I ever get, so in my mind they are well worth it.  The one thing that I think really makes these stand out is that they have a round base.  There are a ton of different push-up stands or bars out there, but I haven’t seen another one that is as sturdy as these.  And it’s critical that they are sturdy, because if they roll out from under your hand you could easily break your wrist.  With the wide, circular base that’s much less likely to happen.  So if you have wrist issues, this is my number one recommendation on modifying push-ups to keep that wrist pain away!

-Do the push-ups on a padded surface.  Again, focusing on people who get wrist pain.  But if you do push-ups on a padded surface, you’re going to make your wrists feel much better.  Ideally you could do them on carpet, but if you’re like me and workout on hard-wood or maybe cement there are a couple things you can do.  I like to wear gloves which provide a little extra padding and also like to do push-ups on a yoga mat.  With those two things, I get a lot of extra padding which helps my wrist out quite a bit.  Otherwise you could just grab a towel and fold it up so you have enough padding under you.  Either way, you want to create some sort of cushion to help protect your wrists.

Tips For Modifying Pull-Ups

This is probably the move that is the most frustrating for people.  Pull-ups require a lot of upper body strength.  And the heavier you are, the more weight you have to pull up which makes it that much harder.  So when you’re initially starting out with P90X you’re probably going to struggle a bit.  The idea with P90X is to lose weight and get stronger.  So over time, pull-ups should get easier.  But like I said, when I first started, I could only do 2 unassisted pull-ups.  Now I can do 17, which is a big jump and something that I’m pretty happy with.  But I still use these tips for modifying pull-ups when I need a little help.

-Use a chair.  This is probably the most common way to modify pull-ups.  It’s also the way I modify pull-ups when I can no longer do unassisted reps.  Basically, you just put one foot up on a chair, and when you can’t pull yourself up anymore, you apply pressure with your foot onto the chair to help you pull yourself up the rest of the way.  The tough thing with this method is that it’s really easy to just use mostly leg strength to get the rest of the way up.  If you do that, you won’t see much improvement in your pull-ups.  You want to only apply enough pressure to get yourself moving up slowly, but you still want it to be hard on your upper body.  So if you use this method, don’t push too hard with your leg.

-Use a pull-up assist.  This is probably going to be the next piece of equipment that I get.  The pull-up assist is probably the best way to modify pull-ups.  Basically, it’s a resistance band that attaches to your pull-up bar with a loop for your foot.  So in a similar fashion as the chair, you apply pressure with your foot to help pull yourself up the rest of the way.  But the pull-up assist helps make sure you don’t use too much leg.  You can adjust the length to determine how much help it will give you.  The longer the pull-up assist is, the less help it gives you.  So you can make sure that you’re still using your upper body instead of getting all the movement from leg strength.  This will give you a much better workout and really help you improve your pull-ups.

-Use resistance bands.  If pull-ups are just too difficult for you right now or you don’t have a doorway that holds a pull-up bar, then you can always just resistance bands to modify pull-ups.  It’s a great way to build up your strength and work towards using a pull-up bar.  Basically all you need is a door attachment to make this work.  They have door attachments that go around your door hinges, or ones that have a ball one one end of a loop that secures the attachment when your door is closed.  Resistance bands can work very well, and this is a great option for modifying pull-ups if you really struggle with them or can’t get a pull-up bar to work in your door frame.

There is no shame in modifying push-ups and pull-ups.

I just want to make that one point clear.  If you struggle with push-ups or pull-ups, don’t feel bad!  Everyone struggles at first!  That’s why we are doing the programs.  If you don’t want to improve, I don’t know why you’d bother doing the workouts.  So hopefully these tips will help you modify push-ups and pull-ups if you need to.  I still do plenty of assisted pull-ups and I always use my power stands for push-ups, so I’m right there with you.

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