Why can't I do push ups (lol) but I can perfectly do 13 kilos 4series 30 reps, in a tricep or bicep workout? Plus it's a compound movement meaning I'm not enfoquing everything on just one muscle?

If you have recommendations on how to begin on push ups feel free to help me please.

  • You should increase the weight on those exercises and do a max of 8 reps, doing 30 reps isn't going to help you get stronger. Also on top of arm strength, a push-up requires chest, shoulder, core and legs so you'll need to work on those.
    – MJB
    Commented Jan 16, 2019 at 11:59

4 Answers 4


If you can perform 4 sets of 30 reps using a machine, it's time to

  • Increase the weights on the machines. Performing 30 reps of any weight-based exercise isn't recommended as it doesn't really serve any useful purpose.
  • Ditch the machines and use dumbbells and barbells. Using machines solely usually gives you the impression of being stronger than you actually are, part of the reason being that the machines assist you in the lift. Free weights lets you know your true strength; either you can lift it or you can't.

Pushup Progression

Since you can't perform at least one pushup, you can start with a knee pushup.

Once you can perform about 5 - 10 reps with good form, you can progress to planks.

Try to hold it for about 3 - 5 seconds.

Once you're comfortable with that, switch to half pushup (not sure what it's actually called though). From your lying position, you lift yourself up into the plank position.

The next stage is lowering your body to the ground from the pushup position.

At this point, you have enough strength and ability perform one pushup. Attempt it.

This progression should help you with your push up in no time.

  • Before Zod Do machines assist you if they are not pullies, say it is one that had actual plates on it with no pulley, such as this: images.duckduckgo.com/iu/… Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 22:52
  • @RobSterach I'm trying (without success) to understand your comment. Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 23:05
  • Before Zod I am trying to ask if there is a difference between machines using real barbell weight plates and the new machines with square ones attached to a pulley. Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 0:17
  • @RobSterach I'm an advocate for free weights; I'm more familiar with free weights and weight-based machines than with pin-based ones. In my experience, weight-based machines are better than pin-based ones because the range of motion is usually less restrictive than the pin-based ones; YMMV though. I only use pin-based machines for exercises with no weight-machines or free weight equivalent. Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 0:38
  • Kudos for not starting your answer with a cheap joke to "get on your knees...". Great answer. Using my knees doubled my push up count and I had to use it as part of a routine to get up to and maintain +100 under two minutes.
    – Jason
    Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 20:56

To become proficient at a movement requires practicing the movement. Proficiency in one movement will not necessarily transfer to others even if they seem to be using related muscle groups. Your case demonstrates this. To become proficient at pushups requires practicing pushups.

To become able to do your first pushup, try starting with incline pushups (search the web for this phrase and you'll find plenty of results), decreasing the incline as your ability improves, until you are able to do a pushup on the floor.

  • Thanks, I don't wanna go to the gym and do good workouts, without being able of doing a push up lol thanks Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 3:22
  • Good luck. You'll get there. And accept my answer if you found it helpful. :) Commented Aug 27, 2015 at 3:27

You're not telling us how much you weight, but pushups require you to push a quite large portion of your body weight, my own unscientific measurements with my hands on a scale in pushup position tell me ~60%.

Doing 13 kg in bicep/tricep workout doesn't really tell us anything. Different types of exercises vary a lot in how heavy they are due to the different mechanics of the exercises. I can deadlift about 160 kg, but I'm struggling with 8 kg in standing shoulder flies.

Regarding compound lifts, the fact that they use more muscles doesn't mean that the muscles share the burden, it means that the movement is more complex and requires a larger amount of work in total. It's like a chain, every link has to be strong enough, that's why they are popular.

My recommendations would be to do pushups on your knees, negative pushups (just do the lowering, first half of the movement, slowly, you are 40% stronger in the exentric phase than in the concentric so it should work better), dumbbell presses and planks.


Perhaps it could be in part because a push up is using primarily chest muscles, while apparently you are working your biceps and triceps. Maybe those are stronger for some reason for you. Also, 13 kilos(28 pounds) is chump weight(no offense). But if you are doing 30 reps of that, you should be able to lift 1-5 reps of 35 kilos, or 77 pounds, which still isn't a whole lot for a one rep max. I'd say try either eating more if you're skinny or less if you're fat, if you're medium or muscular I don't know how push ups could possibly pose a problem. Also, try doing bench press(using a spotter), begin with just the bar.

  • 1
    Not nitpicking, but push ups exercises primarily train the chest and tricep muscles. From the top position to the elbows being parallel to the group activates the triceps; parallel to the bottom position activates the chest. That's why an incomplete ROM won't be effective for the chest. It's similar for the dips exercise as well :). Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 23:17
  • 1
    Also, I couldn't help but notice that a lot of your answers usually mention eating more/less. I'm curious to know how eating more/less affects someone's ability to perform a push up? Commented Sep 5, 2015 at 23:23
  • @Kneel Before Zod If somebody is very thin(we're talking under 90 pounds) they might be so weak a single push ups would be a challenge, and they need to eat more to get stronger. Vice versa, they could be so heavy(over 300), that it's a struggle, as stated in me and Dave Liepmann's conservation: fitness.stackexchange.com/questions/26029/… Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 0:10
  • Unless the 90 lbs fellow is starving or sick, he actually has a better chance of performing pushups than a 300 lbs fellow. But more importantly, based on the information provided by the OP, there's little reasoning that eating more/less would help him accomplish his goal. :) Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 0:26
  • Eating and bulking, of course, my friend Commented Sep 6, 2015 at 0:33

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