The Strength Builder Puts You in the Right Position to Improve at Push-ups

Navy push-up
Cadence push-ups and planks will be required when prospective Navy and Marine Corps officers take their biannual fitness test. (U.S. Navy photo)

The "Push-up Push Workout" article caused quite a stir, with many people emailing me their progress in a two-week period. Many people saw 25%-50% increases, with their scores going from 50 to 75 push-ups in many cases. One female Army ROTC cadet increased her push-ups from the minimum standards of 20 to 40 in a two-week period. Now with a foundation of successful push-ups, to maintain and increase your reps from here is a weekly commitment to a regular PT program.

But there were a few who emailed me back with little or no progress, and we discovered that the hand positioning was incorrect. The common error in push-ups is to place the hands too high while in the down position, making it nearly impossible to lift yourself off the floor when performing a push-up.

The most effective position for your hands in the down position of a push-up is just outside your shoulders and chest high. If you can look to your left and right when on the floor and see your hands even with your face, your hands are in the wrong position.

To take this proper push-up form training to the next level, I thought of developing a push-up mat with painted hand placement for the variety of push-ups in my workouts. In my research, I found something that not only helps with hand placement for push-ups, but also has the ability to aid in strength building.

Very rarely do I recommend a piece of fitness equipment, since many of my workouts are calisthenics based and require only a pull-up bar from a playground. In fact, this is only the second piece of equipment I have liked, other than standard weight equipment in a gym. But I was intrigued with The Strength Builder, because it helped me with two major issues:

  • Hand placement for a variety of push-ups

  • Building strength like push-up bars can do, but the Strength Builder is safer because it is a stationary product.

Since the Strength Builder is slightly lifted off the floor, it enables you to receive a better stretch and upper-body flex while performing a push-up. This movement taxes the chest and shoulders more than the regular push-up, making the push-up test easier when pushing in a two-minute period.

We tested the Strength Builder with a group of three SEAL candidates and myself. Here is the workout we did:

The Standard PT Pyramid is a foundation workout that, when performed from one to 10 and back to one, gives you 100 pull-ups, 200 push-ups, 200 dips and 500 sit-ups or crunches.

We did the following:

  • Set 1: One pull-up, two push-ups, two dips, five sit-ups

  • Set 2: Two pull-ups, four push-ups, four dips, 10 sit-ups ...

Keep going up the pyramid to set 10.

  • Set 10: 10 pull-ups, 20 push-ups, 20 dips, 50 sit-ups

Then repeat in reverse order back to the first set.

I found that each set, we were able to place the push-up bars in different holes on the Strength Builder and do full range-of-motion push-ups. This tired the group out faster than the normal push-up, and we all could feel the workout the following day because of the added stretch involved in the structure of the Strength Builder.

Best of all, the Strength Builder website gives a significant military discount when shipping to any FPO/APO address. Good luck with your PT workouts.

Shop for the Strength Builder.

Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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