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The Fitness Two FAQ: Push Ups & Failure

Programs like P90X, Insanity and Turbofire spawn all kinds of questions– especially if this is the first time you’re really clamping down on getting fit. With that in mind, I wanted to crank up a weekly/semi-weekly feature that takes two great questions I’ve received in the week (Fitness Two FAQ… see what I did there?) and unleash them into the wild for the benefit of the whole HDIGF team.

After all, I had a ton of questions when I kicked off “The X” almost 4 years ago and a question should NEVER be the cause of a hangup on your journey to Hotty-ville, USA.

So a couple questions this week, one centered around form and “feeling” the work in the right places and the other on jumping right into a hard program and knowing what’s normal.

Push Up Form

Question: [When I do push ups] I don’t really feel like I’m working out chest and it feels like most work is on the arms/shoulders.

Answer: I know EXACTLY what you’re talking about with feeling it in your arms and shoulders. Usually, that’s an indicator your arms are too far forward, as are your shoulders. There’s a few way around this:

  • Remember to “keep your shoulders back”. In stress or work, we often tense our shoulders which pushes them up toward our ears. Remembering to keep your shoulders back (or at their natural resting place) keeps your shoulders in proper alignment as opposed to pushed forward, which will make them do more of the work.
  • Remember to keep your arms under your shoulders and think of pushing with your chest. Sounds strange, but making a conscious thought to use the muscles you’re working goes a long way.

Here’s a couple posts that cover each of these in more detail:

Push Up Form

Muscle/Mind Connections

Muscle Failure In P90X

Question:Yesterday I just started P90x. Is it OK if my muscles give out and I can’t complete the video? For instance in “P90X Chest and Back”…. I get to the point where my muscles get weak and I can’t do any other moves. Is this normal?

Answer: Good news! It’s VERY normal.P90X is a program of failure- IE- you should be failing (muscles giving out) on almost every set.

Doing your best in the videos is what matters. As Tony Horton always says- “Do your best, forget the rest”. Of course, your best always includes pushing a little beyond what you may have thought possible- that failure we talked about last email.

Fact is, you’re starting P90X in a “deconditioned” state- (IE- your muscles aren’t used to being worked at that level) so your muscles will definitely be tired. That’s the point. And by being pushed to failure, they’ll grow stronger to compensate.

When/if you do fail and have a hard time moving forward with the usual form, you’ll want to modify so you can complete the workout. To keep going, do pushups on your knees, drop your weight a bit, use a chair on pullups, etc. You will get stronger week by week as you continue to push yourself. From there you’ll see improvement faster than you might think. :)

Helpful links:

Modify, Modify, Modify

Why P90X Works

Got questions? Send ’em on through– you’ll not only help yourself, you’ll help countless others! Email me here or at You can also receive the additional one on one support you need by making me your free Beachbody Coach right here. 

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