Want to perfect your pushup? We’ve got the plan to help you master this strengthening exercise.

Exercises like pullups, pushups and planks are bucket-list worthy exercises for two reasons. First: They’re %$*&ing hard. Second: They require strength in muscle groups often weak in female runners—arms, core and back. Although these moves are tough, they’re not impossible. And like anything in life, if you put in the work, you will receive a great return. So, are you ready to accept the challenge? First up, mastering the push up.

It is important that you don’t exhaust yourself in the gym by trying these exercises over and over again. Focus on the step-by-step training a few days a week to help you develop the appropriate amount of strength to master each stage of the push up with good form.

From the start, you will be building endurance and balance for running, and you’ll produce noticeable strength gains.

Master the Pushup

Why? To build upper-body strength in your chest, shoulders, triceps, core and glutes. These gains will help you run faster, especially up hills or during a finish-line kick.
Your challenge: Perform 5 continuous pushups.

Complete these exercises every 2 to 3 days so your runs don’t suffer from full-body fatigue.

(a) Start with standing pushups on the wall. Stand an arm’s length away from the wall with feet shoulder-width apart and hands flat on the wall.
(b) Keeping a flat back, slowly lean in until your chest is almost touching the wall, bending and tucking the elbows close to the body. Perform three sets of 5 to 15 reps with enough rest between each set to keep good form.

Once you can easily perform three sets of 15 wall pushups, move to incline pushups on a bench. (a) With your hands on a bench and feet straight behind the body, (b) perform a normal pushup, keeping elbows close to the body. Complete three sets of 5 to 15 reps.

When you can easily perform three sets of 15 incline pushups, move to a modified pushup with bent knees. (a) Lie on the floor and place your hands wider than shoulder-width apart, weight resting on your knees and ankles crossed. (b) Press your chest off the floor with elbows close to your side and then slowly lower. Perform three sets of 5 to 15 reps.

When you can easily perform three sets of 15 pushups on your knees, you are ready to do the standard pushup. Take as much time as you need to perform 5 pushups in one session (resting in between). At your next session, try to perform 2 or 3 continuous pushups and work your way up to 5 pushups without stopping.

Try one of these tough pushup variations:
(a) feet stacked on each other, (b) feet on a Swiss ball, (c) hands on a Swiss ball or (d) one hand on a med ball.