Wall Push Ups – Is There A Better Way To Build Upper Body Strength?
Wall push ups are a decent place to start if you cannot do any other form of push ups.
BUT, they aren’t the BEST way to build upper body strength strength.
In this article, I’m going to show you how to make the most of your wall/standing push ups such that you can:
- Build upper body pushing strength
- Perform Wall Push Ups with proper form pain free
- The BEST way to perform the wall push up
- Progress to next push up variation
Why You Should And Shouldn’t Perform The Wall Push Up
The wall push up is the easiest push-up variation to perform. It requires you to perform push –ups with your hands on a wall, while standing on your feet.
The wall push up doesn’t require a lot of upper body pushing strength to perform and is a good starting point for those who cannot do any other variation of the push up.
In fact it is the first step in the push up progression system.
If you want to learn more about the complete push up progression system – going from novice to advanced, read my article – Push Up Progression Systems.
Vertical push-up variations like the wall push-up are easier to perform because most of your bodyweight is held up by your legs.
Unfortunately, the wall push-up isn’t the best way to perform a vertical push up.
Here’s why you shouldn’t be performing the wall push up:
1. Reduced Range Of Motion:
Wall push-ups will not develop pushing strength throughout a complete range of motion.
This is because range of motion is cut short by the head (or face) coming in contact with the wall far before your shoulder joint can move through an effective range of motion.
Using gymnastics rings mitigates this problem and moving away from a wall onto a high incline surface, like a tall chest of drawers or a low cupboard will allow the head to travel forward and enable a more optimal range of motion in the exercise.
Taking your muscles and joints through reduced ranges of motion will not build strength effectively and this is the biggest problem with the wall push up.
2. The wall push up is far too easy for many people to perform:
Most of you will have more than enough strength to perform a push up on a high box, table or any other elevated surface.
Starting off on the wall is usually unnecessary and finding an elevated surface that is challenging enough for you to get full range of motion will get you closer to performing a push up than arbitrarily starting on the wall.
Note: Both shortcomings of the wall push up can be rectified with gymnastics rings as you’ll see below!
The BEST Way To Perform The Wall Push Up
The best way to perform a wall or vertical push up is with a pair of gymnastics rings.
Remember, the wall push up is nothing but a vertical push up.
Contrary to popular belief, gymnastics rings are a beginner friendly piece of kit that anyone can use to learn the proper mechanics of a push up.
This is more so the with the vertical wall push-up.
As we’ve discussed before, the wall push up, does not adhere to regular push up mechanics.
But performing a vertical push up on gymnastics rings can perfectly mimic regular push-up mechanics.
This is because the height of the gymnastics rings can be varied in such a way that the rings are perfectly aligned with your lower chest (as mentioned in the “How to perform wall push-ups section down below).
Rings are an inexpensive, lightweight, portable piece of equipment that will last a lifetime and can be used for a variety of different exercises.
Regardless, if you are serious about building your upper body strength, get a pair of gymnastics rings, even if you cannot perform a single push up.
Progressing from vertical push ups on gymnastics rings is as simple as lowering the height of the rings in order to make the exercise harder.
Once you are comfortable performing a couple of sets of vertical push-ups on the rings, simply lower them enough that the new progression is hard enough for you to perform with perfect form.
How To Perform Vertical Push-Ups
In order to perform vertical push ups on rings, set the ring down to about hip height or to arms length when standing with your arms straight by your side.
With straight arms (locked out/extended elbows) bring the rings up to the level of your lower chest.
Keeping your arms straight, create tension in the straps by leaning on the rings. Your arms should be only about shoulder width apart.
Create tension throughout your entire body by squeezing the muscles of your glutes, quads and abdominals.
Lower your chest to the rings, by bending your elbows. Make sure to keep your elbows tucked into your sides, almost touching your torso.
Once your chest is at the level of your palms, push hard against the rings to bring yourself back to the star position of the vertical push up.
NOTE: You can make the exercise easier or harder by changing your angle of inclination.
Increasing the angle of inclination, by walking toward the rings will make the push up a lot easier. While walking away from the rings will make the push up a lot harder.
You can only walk so far forward or backward until the movement becomes awkward.
Remember, you want the level of your palms in the outstretched position to at or just below the level of the lower chest.
Common Form Errors When Performing Wall Push Ups Or Vertical Push Ups
When performing wall push ups it is important to keep the following cues in mind:
- Make sure to keep your elbows tucked into your sides at all times. Do not flare your elbows out.
- Do not pull your torso back away from the wall/rings/inclined surface. Instead make sure to push through the rings such that you get back to the start position with your arms stretched out in front of you. Using momentum to swing back instead of pushing yourself back defeats the purpose of the exercise.
- Make sure to squeeze the abs, glutes and quads. This will ensure that you do not allow the hips to drop or sag as you perform the push up.
- Do not bend at the hips. If you are bending at the hips, you are not staying tight throughout the body and you are cheating the movement by creating a shorter lever arm.
This shorter lever makes the movement a lot easier.
How To Progress With The Wall Push Up
The biggest problem with the wall push up is its progression system. You are not going to get very far performing the wall push up all day.
In order to make any push-up variation harder (wall push-ups included), you must place more weight on the arms. In order to do this, you will have to lower the lean angle on the wall (i.e reduce the angle of inclination of your torso).
Unfortunately, lowering the lean angle on the wall push-up changes the mechanics of the push up and compromises on form.
The next logical step of progression will be to find a surface a couple of inches lower than where you used to place your hands on the wall.
This can of course be hard to find as different objects come in varying heights.
Trying to keep a set progression system – lowering your angle of inclination step-by-step, is the best way to progress with wall push ups.
This is where gymnastics rings come in handy. Rings allow this step-by-step progression from the wall push up to the regular push up, with relative ease.
Rings will also strengthen the abs and lower back due to the element of instability that they add to the movement.
Types Of Wall Push Ups And What NOT To Do
There are several types of wall push ups but they are all a waste of your time.
In order to progress with the wll push up, continue finding surfaces that are low enough to give you a challenge while performing push ups.
If you don’t have the strength to perfrom a regular push-up, don’t waste your time trying to perfrom:
- Single arm wall push ups
- Staggered arm wall push ups
- wide grip wall push ups
- Feet elevated on the wall push-ups
Just keep lowering the height/angle of inclination of your torso.
This places more and more of your bodyweight on your hands, thereby making the wall push up harder and building maximum muscle and strength in the process.
The wall push up is the starting point for anybody who is struggling to perform push-ups at even a slight angle.
Although, they are not the most optimal way to build your push-up, walls are extremely accessible. In fact, you don’t only need to use a wall.
Any elevated surface works to perform the wall push up (which is essentially a vertical/incline push up.
Gymnastics rings will help you transition from your vertical push up to an incline push up to the regular push up and even advanced variations of the push up in a systematic way. Use them if you can.
Make sure to transition as soon as you are comfortable with a particular angle of inclination fo the body. Continue reducing the angle of inclination of your torso in order to make the wall push up harder to perform.
Don’t stay on the wall performing ridiculous versions of the wall push-up if you cant even do one regular push-up.
Wean yourself off that wall as soon as possible!