Why women find push-ups so hard – and how you can get better at it

Women and push-ups, it’s often not a love story. And yet it’s an impertinence that the much simpler variation of the exercise classic, where the knees are placed on the floor, is called “women push-ups”. This must stop! We will work on this together. Every woman can do push-ups, and real ones at that!

However, we must first get rid of a bitter truth. It’s true: A lot of women have trouble with the traditional pushups. There are several reasons for this. What they are – and above all, what you can do about it – is explained here:

How are push-ups performed correctly?

Before we get to the bottom of the question why women often find this actually simple exercise so difficult, take a look at how it should ideally look:

  1. Rest your hands below your shoulder, with your index fingers pointing forward.
  2. Stand feet up so that the body forms a straight line from head to toe.
  3. Inhaling, bend your elbows and lower your body straight like a board towards the ground. (Don’t cheat by moving your head forward – the neck also stays straight).
  4. Exhaling, push up again with the force of the upper body.

Tip: If you avoid push-ups because they hurt your wrists, use Push-up grips. With it you push yourself upwards from a grip position – many athletes find this more comfortable.

What must never happen when doing push-ups: that your bottom shoots up or your hips sag. So much for the theory. In practice, however, these No-Gos are often the rule. The compromise is then often: “Take your knees off, you don’t have enough strength yet.” Is that true?

Strong is the new sexy! How to get beautiful muscles Important: Keep your elbows close to your body! © Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com

Which muscles are used in push-ups?

Basically, push-ups are not particularly complex – but: they require strength and activity in many different areas of the body. When you push yourself upwards from the low push-up position, the Chest Muscles (Pectoralis) and your arms. However, during the whole exercise, when performed correctly, much more happens to other muscles:

  • The Rhomboidei and the Trapezius pull the shoulder blades towards the spine.
  • The anterior serratus anchors the shoulder blades in the back.
  • Biceps and Trizeps stabilize the elbows.
  • Back extender and Abdominal muscles stabilize the hull.
  • The Ilipsoas tilts the pelvis slightly forward.
  • The Gluteus stabilizes the hip.
  • The Quadriceps stretch your knees.
  • The Calf Muscles dampens the recoil.

In other words: your whole body is under muscle tension. The push-up is a full-body move!

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Why are push-ups heavier for women?

The real reason is not, as often claimed, pure physical strength, but the female anatomy. Compared to the male V-shape, with broad shoulders and narrower hips, most women have rather narrow shoulders and a wider pelvis. This inverse relationship between hips and shoulders shifts the centre of gravity further down the body in women – making it harder to maintain a straight line in the support position. The result: the pelvis tends to sag.

Or you work against it and therefore stretch your bottom a little too high.

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Another obstacle on the way to cleanly executed push-ups is mobility in the shoulder girdle. The shoulder joint is the most flexible joint of the body and especially women often lack the necessary stability in the shoulder girdle.

So that’s the problem. Of course, you can simply switch to the lighter version instead and put your knees on instead of your feet. But better is: You train the supporting and auxiliary muscles so that you soon master the push-up. We will tell you how!

3 exercises that improve your push-up power

With these simple additions to your workout, you strengthen the parts of your body that are stressed during push-ups:

1. lateral support

The Side-Plank strengthens the shoulder girdle and promotes your body tension, as you keep the whole body in a straight line under tension.

  • Place one hand under the shoulder and “stack” your feet on top of each other on the outer edge.
  • Your body forms a straight line from head to toe.
  • If this is too intense for you, you can put your lower knee on the floor or place your feet in front of each other.
  • Hold for 30 seconds, then change page

The side plank strengthens the shoulders and trains the body tension. © Jacob Lund / Shutterstock.com

2. dumbbell flys

These strengthen the upper back, which gives you more stability in the push-up position.

  • Grab two light dumbbells and bend your knees slightly.
  • Bend forward slightly with your back straight.
  • Raise your arms stretched out to your sides and pull your shoulder blades together. Slowly lower again.
  • 10-15 repetitions, 3 sets

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3. triceps sections

This exercise strengthens the backs of your arms without putting strain on your shoulders. A strong triceps helps you to control the downward movement of the push-up better.

  • Standing shoulderwide, lift a dumbbell over your head with arms stretched out and hold it with both hands.
  • Lower the dumbbell slowly behind you. Keep your elbows close to your head.
  • Exhaling, stretch arms back to starting position.
  • 10-15 repetitions, 3 sets

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Push-up variations that you should try out

1. tight push-ups instead of wide push-ups

Ideally, your wrists should be directly under your shoulders when doing push-ups. The more you deviate outwards or inwards (diamond push-up), the heavier it gets. To protect your shoulder joint, you should keep your elbows close to your body when lowering.

Good beginner’s variation: Push-up against the wall. © Dirima / Shutterstock.com

2. play with the inclination

Instead of supporting yourself on the floor, you can also support your hands higher up – on a bench, table edge or wall. This makes the push-ups much lighter. Attention: The other way round, it becomes heavier with raised feet. Try’s!

With a few stabilizing exercises for the shoulder girdle you will push your push-up performance. But there is one exercise in particular you should not neglect when preparing for your first push-ups: Believe that you can do it! Forget terms like “female push-ups”. They suggest to you that real push-ups are not feasible for women. That’s nonsense. You can do it!