Negative Push Ups – How To Do Your First Full Push Up With Ease!

If done with proper form; negative push ups can be a stepping stone to full range of motion push ups.

But what’s holding you back from transitioning  from push up negative to full push ups?

Let’s find out!

In this article we’ll discuss:

  • The benefits of push ups negatives – Why and how beginner as well as advanced calisthenics athletes can use negative push ups to their benefit.
  • Negative push up form – The BEST way to do negative push ups for quick results, including (and more importantly) what you are doing wrong!

Benefits Of Negative Push Ups

The negative push up is an excellent training tool. It can even be used by both beginner and advanced trainees alike.

The following are the unique benefits that make push up negatives such a versatile exercise:

1. Eccentric Loading:

The most important aspect of negative push ups is the eccentric (negative) portion of the movement.

This is because our muscles are always stronger in the eccentric (negative) or “lowering” phase of any movement.

Negative push-ups use of your muscle’s additional eccentric loading capacity; thereby enabling you to build strength in the negative portion of the movement, even though you are not strong enough to perform the “positive” (concentric) portion of the movement.

This is the mechanism by which negative push ups build size and strength.

2. Push up negatives can be used for advanced calisthenics training

Push up negatives are often viewed as a beginner friendly exercise. But this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Push up negatives can be effectively combined with advanced calisthenics training techniques like mechanical drop sets, to inflict additional metabolic damage to the muscles.

For example an athlete can perform several reps of decline push ups to failure. Rest a couple of seconds, then perform full push ups to failure. Rest a couple of seconds and then move on to negative push ups to failure.

This is known as a mechanical drop set. After reaching failure, the exercise being performed is made easier by changing the leverages.

Mechanical drop sets are used to achieve a certain number of reps in a short period of time, thereby achieve a ‘pump’ and working the muscle beyond failure.

If you’re a beginner, you don’t need to be performing mechanical drop sets to failure just yet.

Simply keep drilling your current push up progression with perfect form and focus on getting stronger by the day!

3. Builds “core” strength that carries over to full push ups:

As mentioned in my push up progression guide linked below, there are two methods to achieve full push ups.

The first method is via the incline push up progression system, while the second method is via the knee push up progression system.

Read More: My Ultimate GUIDE To Push Up Progression Systems

Read More: Knee Push Ups, How To Do Them Properly

While the incline push up method is preferred to progress with push ups, knee push ups are also an effective way to build up to full push ups.

Read More: Incline Push Up Benefits, Why I Use Them Too

Although knee push ups do not have the “core” building capabilities of the incline push up.

This is where the negative push up shines, it fits neatly into the ‘knee push up progression method’ and builds “core” strength right before moving to full push ups.

Building the appropriate “core” strength to perform full push ups is of paramount importance and the negative push up facilitates this by forcing you to create full body tightness throughout the movement.

4. Overloads the positive aspect of the knee push up:

The negative push up also overloads the positive aspect of the knee push up for those that just progressed from this exercise, as recommended in my push up progression guide.

In fact, this is how negative push ups can help build more muscle and strength for beginners over time.

This means that the positive portion of the exercise becomes harder due to the added fatigue on the muscles from performing full negatives. 

The Best Way To Perform Negative Push Ups

If you’re able to do negative push ups, then you’re only one step away from performing regular push ups.  

Unfortunately negative push ups aren’t always performed properly.

Form errors particular to negative push ups are what is holding you back from progressing to full/regular push ups.

Here are some mistakes beginners make, specific to performing negative push ups:

1. Hips making contact with the ground:

There can be a tendency to allow your hips to drop and make contact with the floor at the bottom of the negative push up.

Do NOT allow this to happen.

Allowing the hips to touch the ground at the bottom of the negative push up releases tightness (tension) in the abdominal muscles, thereby defeating one of the main benefits of the eccentric push up – building core strength.

Instead of allowing the hips to drop to the floor, make sure to leave them up in the air at the bottom of the push up.

Allow only the chest to touch the floor. This will ensure that you are keeping your abs contracted throughout the entire movement.

2. Elbows flaring out:

Don’t allow the elbows to flare out as this will injure your shoulders.

You want to keep your elbows in a position that is comfortable for your shoulder anatomy.

A general guideline is to tuck your elbows in, trying to create an angle of 60 degrees or less between the shoulders and the torso.

If you’ve made these adjustments and your elbows continue to flare out, you might not be strong enough to perform negative push ups.

3. Neck dipping forward:

If you cannot perform push-up negatives without your neck dipping forward, you probably don’t have the strength to do so.

Go to my push up progression article (linked above) and look for a push-up variation appropriate to your current strength level.

Make sure to keep the chin tucked in when performing your push ups.

Allowing the neck to dip forward not only reduces range of motion, but can also injure the neck.

Tucking your chin in will take care of your neck dipping forward during this exercise.

4. Not Performing Negatives to full ROM:

ROM (range of motion) is extremely important when it comes to acquiring maximum results from any movement.

If you cut your range of motion, you are leaving gains on the table (both in terms of size and strength).

Make sure to take your negative push ups through a full range of motion, trying to touch your chest to the floor at the bottom, before dropping your knees down and pushing back up from there.

Half reps lead to half results.

5. Trying to achieve Quantity over Quality:

Since you are so close to performing full ROM push ups, there can be a tendency to rush things.

Performing repetitions with poor quality will not allow you quickly transition to full push ups and will hinder progress instead.

This is because the negative push ups are utilized to learn the proper mechanics of the push up.

Performing negatives with improper form and technique will not only hold you back, but will also inculcate bad habits when you transition to the full push up.

Make sure to perform this exercise with a controlled tempo and with the form mentioned below.

The negative push up is the gateway to the full push up. Think of it as imparting both strength and skill training to your full push up.

Keeping your form strict will have you performing full push ups faster than you know.

Negative Push Up Form:

Common errors aside, this is the correct way to perform negative push ups:

  1. Get into the high plank position, making sure to stack your shoulders, elbows and arms above each other.
  2. Take a grip width that is just about shoulder width apart.
  3. Making sure to squeeze the abs and glutes (keeping the ‘’core’’ tight), lower yourself under control, till your chest makes contact with the floor.
  4. Once your chest makes contact with the floor, drop your knees down to the floor and push yourself up.

Performing your negative push ups this way will not only build strength in the negative (or eccentric) part of the exercise, but will overload the positive (concentric) part of the exercise.

If you have been performing push ups according to my push ups progression guide, then this will work as progressive overload for you, thereby making you stronger.

Conclusion:

Negative push ups are an excellent exercise for both advanced as well as beginner calisthenics athletes.

Unfortunately, negative push ups are not used to their fullest potential. Beginners tend to perform this exercise with imperfect form, thereby leading to subpar results.

Performing push up negatives with the form mentioned in this article will allow you to transition quickly to full push-ups.

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