In order to use a backpack to do weighted push-ups for safe, you first have to make sure to fill your backpack with the right weights. Although iron weight plates work well, you can also use textbooks, bagged sand, bagged rice, or switch to a weighted vest. Begin with a low weight for weighted push-ups. Make sure you can perform push-ups with good form with the weight. Pull the straps tight to prevent the backpack from sliding and causing injury. Once you dial in the weight, perform a push-up workout tailored for strength or mass. Slowly add more weight as you get stronger. Alternatively, consider performing planche push-ups or one-arm push-ups instead of weighted push-ups.
8 Steps to Do Weighted Push-Ups with a Backpack
Push-ups are an amazing upper body workout, but once you’ve mastered the standard push-up you need to increase the difficulty so that you can get a good workout with fewer reps. Fewer, heavier reps contribute to more muscle size and strength gains than doing more, lighter reps. The weighted pushup is a great way to accomplish your goals. Here’s how to add weight to push-ups with a backpack:
Use the Right Weights
Make sure to fill your backpack with the right sort of weights. Although you can put a few iron plates in the backpack, they can be prone to sliding. If they slide forward and hit the back of your head during push-ups, this can be extremely painful. So, many find it easier to put bags of sand or rice in the backpack. This adds weight but won’t slide around on your back.
- You can use iron plates in a backpack but they may slide, making weighted push-ups uncomfortable or dangerous.
- Consider filling your backpack with bags of sand or rice for weight that will not slide.
- Textbooks are great for adding weight to your backpack for push-ups.
- Consider this weighted vest instead of putting weight in a backpack.
You may want to use a weighted vest instead of a backpack when planning your weighted pushup workout. A weight vest allows you to securely distribute weight. You won’t have to worry about sliding or slipping when you use a weight vest for your push-ups.
Begin your weighted push-up training with a weight that is only slightly higher than your body weight. A 10-pound backpack is a good first step. Adding large amounts of weight to the backpack when you are not used to weighted push-ups can cause you to perform push-ups with poor form, which increases the risk of injury to your back, shoulders, and elbows.
- Begin with a small amount of weight. A 10-pound weighted backpack is a great start.
- Doing too much weight too soon can cause injury to your back, shoulders, or arms.
- If you cannot maintain proper push-up form, reduce the weight in the backpack and try again.
Never use a weight for push-ups that causes you to do push-ups with poor form. If you are not able to keep a flat, tensed back throughout the entire push-up motion, the backpack is too heavy. Remove it, reduce the weight, and try again.
Pull the Backpack Straps Tight
When using a backpack for weighted push-ups, it’s essential to cinch the shoulders straps as tight as they can comfortably go. You want to center the extra weight high up on your back, preferably at your shoulder blades. This helps to put the load on the shoulder, arm, and chest muscles you want to target with push-ups. If the weight is low on your back it can cause a spine injury. Additionally, the focus of the workout will be moved to the lower back and abdominal muscles, which are not the point of push-ups.
- Make sure the backpack shoulder straps are as tight as they can go without causing chafing.
- Secure any waist or chest straps on your backpack.
- Try to make sure the weighted backpack is situated high on your back.
- If the weighted backpack is low on your back, it increases your injury risk.
If your backpack has a waist or chest strap, use it during your weighted pushup workout. This can help secure your backpack in place. This way, the weighted pushup exercise will target your deltoid, triceps, and pectoral muscles properly.
Test Planks First
In order to determine if the weight you’ve chosen for your push-ups is correct, perform a 60-second plank with the weighted backpack before you attempt any push-ups. If you can maintain the plank position with a straight back, then you can safely do sets and reps with this weight. If your back bows downward due to the weight, it is too heavy for you to safely do push-ups.
- Before doing weighted push-ups, attempt to hold a plank for 60 seconds while wearing the weighted backpack.
- If you can maintain a plank with proper form for 60 seconds, you can use the backpack weight for sets and reps.
- If your back bends during the plank, the backpack is too heavy for your push-ups.
A heavy weight balanced on your back will always be harder to manage, more prone to slippage, and more likely to throw you off balance than using a weighted vest. If you feel that you are capable of doing push-ups with more weight but a backpack is preventing this, switch to a weight vest.
A weighted backpack can slip during push-ups. If it slides upward toward your head, this can cause injury. If it slides to one side, this can throw you off balance. If you feel the weight slipping during push-ups, roll to one side. Do not try to continue doing push-ups if the weighted backpack is sliding upward or to one side.
- A weighted backpack can slide forwards (towards the back of your head) or to the side, which may cause injury.
- If you feel the weighted backpack sliding, roll to one side to prevent injury.
- If possible, work out with a friend so you have a spotter.
Whenever possible, work out with a friend. Having someone present to spot the weight or rebalance a weighted backpack that is slipping can be a huge help. You can still do weighted push-ups solo, you just have to be more careful.
Perform Sets and Reps to Meet Your Goals
When performing weighted push-ups it’s essential to perform the number of sets and reps that will enable you to reach your goals. Below is the correct way to use weighted push-ups for strength, muscle mass, or endurance.
- Strength Training: 3–5 sets of 3–5 reps
- Muscle Hypertrophy Training (Mass and Definition): 3–5 sets of 8–12 reps.
- Endurance Training: 3–5 sets of 15–20 reps.
- Perform a push-up workout 2 times per week for optimal benefits.
Choose a weight that is challenging for the sets and reps that you are performing. Working your chest, shoulder, and arm muscles twice per week with weighted push-ups will get the best results. It also allows several other workout days to ensure you train your lower body, back, and biceps.
Gradually Add Weight
Starting with 10 pounds in a weighted backpack may not seem like much of a challenge for your weighted push-ups. However, it’s a great way to begin. Then, add 2.5 pounds each time you successfully complete your goal sets and reps. If you perform weighted push-ups twice per week for 4 weeks, your backpack weight can grow from 10 pounds to 30 pounds.
- Add 2.5 pounds to your backpack each time you hit your sets-and-reps goals.
- Do not add weight if you were not able to complete your goal sets and reps at the current weight.
- If you fail to hit your goal for 3 consecutive workouts, reduce the weight by 10% and work your way back up.
It’s okay if you do not hit your goal sets and reps each time you work out. If you fail to hit your goal at your current backpack weight, do not increase the weight. Try again the next time you work out. If you fail 3 times at your current weight, reduce the weight by 10% and build back up. With time and practice, you’ll be doing heavy weighted push-ups.
Consider Push-up Variations
Adding a weighted backpack isn’t the only way to increase the difficulty of your push-ups. Elevating your feet by 6 inches (15 cm) can increase the difficulty of bodyweight push-ups. So can performing planche push-ups or one-arm push-ups.
- Elevate your feet during push-ups
- Perform band-resisted push-ups.
- Try planche push-ups
- Instead of weighted push-ups, switch to one-arm push-ups
- If you have the opportunity, try doing push-ups while gripping Olympic rings.
If you want to make push-ups harder without wearing a heavy backpack, these band-resisted push-ups provide the same benefit without a bulky backpack to get in the way. For another way to add difficulty to push-ups, try gripping Olympic rings or TRX handles during push-ups. This provides further engagement for core and stabilizer muscles, greatly increasing the difficulty without adding weight.
Is it Safe to Do Push-Ups with Weights in a Backpack?
It is safe to use weights inside a backpack when doing push-ups as long as both the backpack and weights are secure enough that they will not slide. Weights have a tendency to slide forward during push-ups, which means they will hit the back of your head. This can cause serious, painful injury. So, it’s often better to use a soft weight—such as sand or rice—instead of iron weights.
Will Backpack Push-Ups Build Mass?
You can build muscle mass in your chest, shoulders, and arms with weighted backpack push-ups. The best way to do so is to perform 3–5 sets of push-ups for 8–12 reps. This set and rep range is in the zone for muscle hypertrophy. By performing this workout 2 times per week, you’ll trigger true muscle mass gains.
Are Backpack Weighted Push-Ups Effective?
Weighted push-ups can be one of the most effective upper body exercises, provide you follow these tips:
- Fill your backpack with an appropriate weight (weight plates, sand, rice, or books).
- Start with a small weight—10 pounds is best.
- Pull the backpack shoulder straps tight and use any chest or waist straps your backpack has.
- Test to see if the weight is manageable by performing a 60-second plank with the weighted backpack first.
- Roll to one side to bail out of the push-up if you feel the weight sliding on your back.
- Make a plan for sets and reps based on your training goals.
- Gradually add weight to your backpack as you become more advanced at weighted push-ups.
- Consider doing challenging push-up variations—such as one-arm push-ups or planche push-ups—instead of using a weighted backpack.
With these tips, you can build a powerhouse push-up workout. Just remember to remain safe, gradually add weight, and work out with a partner whenever you can.