Whether you have a specific reason for doing more push ups, or you’re just going for increased workout efficiency/ultimate bragging rights, I think you’ll get a lot out of this article. Enjoy!
How To Do More Push Ups – 5 Tips
1. Do LOTS of push ups
The principle of Specificity implies that to get better at a specific exercise or skill, you must perform that exercise or skill. This is the skill-based component of exercise – the more of a specific movement you do, the better you get at it. You could liken it to swinging a golf club or throwing a ball.
With this is mind, you also need to program your workouts properly, get proper recovery time, etc. That’s why it’s so important to follow a logically and soundly designed program -and not take the ‘shotgun approach’ (you can read more about that concept here).
2. DON’T train to failure
If you’re trying to up your push up numbers by going all-out and doing as many push ups as you can at every workout, stop!
Among other things, when you train to failure, you put a tremendous stress on the central nervous system. The nervous system takes much longer to recover than your muscles do – and it ends up being impossible to train with enough frequency to make push up number gains.
Every once in a while, you CAN go all-out – but you have to be very careful. PUSH yourself hard (no pun intended :)), but leave one or two reps in the bank 90% of the time.
3. Use perfect form
It drives me CRAZY when I see folks doing push ups with a partial range of motion, with a ‘chicken neck’, with a soft core and collapsing hips, etc. They’re not only increasing the likelyhood of injury and perpetuating muscle imbalances, they’re not doing anything to get truly better at push ups …
Check out this video for some basic push up form tips:
4. Use the appropriate progression(s)
If you can’t do a legit from-the-feet push up, it’s all good – accept it and work on progressions that work up to it. Just PLEASE don’t do 1/4 reps and claim you’re doing full push ups 🙂
Here’s an example of a basic progression for your push ups, moving in the direction of easy to hard (I cover this in much more detail in the No Gym? No Excuse! Body Weight Strength Manual):
- knee push up
- regular push up
- feet elevated push up
- lever/shifting push up
5. Use a progressive, periodized routine
Again, it’s critically important that you don’t just go out and do whatever you feel like for the day for your workouts. You want to systematically increase the total number of push ups you do with each workout until you reach your push up goals.
Let’s say you can currently do 20 standard push ups non-stop, and your goal is to work up to 50. Here’s a simple push up ladder that illustrates this concept of systematic progression:
- week 1 – Do 10 push ups. Rest as long as the set took you to complete. Do 9 push ups. Continue in this fashion all the way down to 1.
- week 2 – Same ladder routine, starting at 11.
- week 3 – Same ladder routine, starting at 12.
- week 4 – Same ladder routine, starting at 13.
- week 5 – Same ladder routine, starting at 14.
- week 6 – Same ladder routine, starting at 15.
If you feel like you still have ‘gas in the tank’ after one of these workouts, you can also work your way back up the ladder. I would do this workout 3-5 times per week.
In summary, push ups are a fantastic body weight exercise. I’ve written lots about them on this site, but today’s article specifically addresses how to do more. I hope it’s a great starting point to get you going!
Additional Recommended Resources
No Gym? No Excuse! Body Weight Strength Manual – Learn how to get super strong using just your own body weight
No Gym? No Excuse! – My original body weight – based training system
The 10×10 Kettlebell Solution – A program to transform your body in 10 weeks using just 10 workouts and 10 kettlebell and body weight exercises