I've been out of shape for several years, but finally starting to get back into exercising.

I've been doing pretty heavy aerobic exercises for the past two months. For the most part, I'm doing ok - not in tip-top shape yet, but definitely doing a lot better than I have in years.

One thing that still gets me - whenever I try to do push-ups (or anything else where I'm facing the floor), I seem to have a lot of trouble. It's hard to describe, but it just seems like I'm not able to breathe right, and I lose energy fast. I can run, jump, do all kinds of things standing up, but as soon as I hit the floor I'm only good for a few seconds before I crash or have to stand up.

Is this common, or indicative of any problem? Or do you think it's just something I need to work through and gradually learn how to overcome?


  • 1
    I doubt this type of question will receive a satisfactory answer, as you haven't--and really can't in a forum setting--provided enough information to diagnose the problem. Keep at it, and if it doesn't get easier after a consecutive month, see a doctor. If it really worries you, see a doctor sooner.
    – eykanal
    Dec 21, 2011 at 4:49
  • @eykanal Thanks for the comment. I know I won't get a full diagnosis or totally accurate personalized answer - just hoping someone's had similar experience and can describe techniques that helped them.
    – Joe Enos
    Dec 21, 2011 at 11:50
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    Does this only happen with push-ups? What about lying completely face down on the floor with no support? Or on your back? Does it only happen after doing aerboic activity or does it also occur when you're in a non-active state? What other things do you do that face the floor?
    – user241
    Dec 21, 2011 at 14:04
  • @MattChan Push-ups, in-and-out's (or whatever it's called when you're in a push-up position and jump in and out or side-to-side), or even just in the push-up position and staying still. It seems to be when I'm exercising heavily, so my heart rate and breathing are already high - if I'm starting at rest, I seem to be able to get down and do some push-ups, but I haven't tried pushing myself right away from rest. I don't notice any problems while just lying at rest face-down on the floor, or while on my back. Thanks.
    – Joe Enos
    Dec 21, 2011 at 15:28
  • I too have this problem. I'm fine with standing exercises, but burpees, prolonged pushups, planks and I just run out of breath. If I'm on my back, it's not as bad either. Abs don't cause this out of breath problem. It's not a function of conditioning either. I've been exercising for years. I've asked my doctors, but they don't really seem to have an answer. It seems that if my core is heavily engaged, I can't get air in and out of my lungs.
    – user15991
    Jun 11, 2015 at 23:32

2 Answers 2


It might be that you're getting your lower body in shape, with the focus on aerobic, but not your upper body - the difference between doing jumps/running and pushups is that you're using your upper body chest, arms, back. Sounds like you need a full body workout plan and one that includes more weight training to increase strength as well as your endurance levels. Include all the basics: squats, deadlifts, bench and overhead presses. Start light and work your way up. Make a goal of doing x pushups by a given date. Don't give up and good luck.

  • Thanks - I'm looking into some more formal training, so hopefully that's all it is, that I need to work a little differently.
    – Joe Enos
    Dec 21, 2011 at 15:31

I know this is a very late answer, and to a question that already has an accepted answer, but two things come to mind. First, you may want to look to your core. Human beings are built rather oddly due to our evolution from quadrupedal to bipedal movement. In some ways, we're still adjusted to be horizontal (hernias are in part due the bracing not being entirely in places for vertical stacking) and in some ways, we've adjusted entirely to being standing (our spines do better at stacking in place than being stretched out horizontally. A push-up position, or as you say, things face down, forces you to work more muscles just to keep straight. Planks can be useful for this, although going past 30-60 seconds is seldom much use. If you hit that point, experiment with maintaining more muscular tension so that you're getting more workout for the same amount of time.

Second thing to consider is how you breathe. I'm sure you've heard all of the talk of "belly breathing" and how beneficial it is. Consider that, in push-ups, your chest is already having to do a lot of work to do the pushing up and slowly letting down. Because of that, it's going to be harder to draw breath if you're used to breathing higher in your chest. As a caveat, letting your stomach expand is going to put more stress on your core, since you're having to juggle the muscles there. Try experimenting with shifting where you breathe and see what works for you. Personally, I try to use both, much the same as how I generally inhale and exhale with both nose and mouth during heavy exercise.

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