Once upon a time I HATED push-ups. And when I say I hated them, I mean I loathed them, and not in a love-to-hate kinda way. I just sucked at doing them.
But guess what?
Push-ups are by far my favorite exercise now, even over the squat, which says a lot coming from someone like me who lives for the power rack and sprints.
Push-ups are a total body movement, and I didn’t master the movement overnight. I learned the tricks of the push-up trade. After nine months in the Army ROTC program, here’s what I’ve learned that can help you perfect the form, get stronger and therefore crank out more push-ups.
I went from being able to do 25 push-ups in two minutes to being able to crank out 62 push-ups in two minutes on last month’s PT (physical training) test by using these techniques.
Graphic by Brianna Kolota
1. Look straight ahead while performing the entire movement.
In other words, DO NOT look down at your hands!
2. Pull in your glutes.
a.k.a. Don’t sag in the middle or make yourself a tepee. Your body should look like one straight line from the heels to the top of your head.
3. Find the distance between your hands and feet that naturally allows you to perform the greatest number of push-ups . . .
4. . . . and change that stance when it becomes difficult.
Changing your stance will engage different muscle groups and will allow you to crank out a few more push-ups than you thought you had left in you.
5. Enagage your quads (a.k.a. the tops of your thighs) and push your heels backward.
6. Engage your core muscles (a.k.a. your abs).
7. Don’t forget to breathe.
You don’t want to pass out in the middle of a push-up, do you?!?
8. Take a 10-second break when you’re nearing complete muscle failure.
After your 10-second break, perform two or three push-ups and then break again for five seconds. Repeat this pattern of two or three push-ups followed by a five-second break until you can do no more push-ups or your time expires (if you’re being timed for a test).
Basically every other day I crank out 100 to 200 push-ups. I usually complete it circuit style by alternating between 20 push-ups and a 1-minute rest. I do these push-ups a few hours before or after a workout to give my body enough time to rest.
Some days I go MUCH slower with these reps than I would during a test. Slowing the upward and downward motion of a push-up allows you to focus on form rather than speed and builds the muscles needed to push out as many reps as possible on test day.
Other days I focus on an explosive upward movement as I would during the test. This trains the muscles of your upper back for power and speed.
Note: If you can’t complete 20 push-ups in a row without resting, focus on doing 5, 10 or 15 at a time. Rest 1 or 2 minutes. Repeat as many times as possible.
10. Lift heavy things (body weight and added weight).
In addition to practicing straight push-ups for muscular endurance, I lift and pull heavy things.
I bench press or do incline presses. I do pull-ups. I perform military presses, goblet squats, dips, and biceps curls. In other words, I hit it all.
I like to stick with three or four sets of five heavy reps for each of the exercises. I focus on strength here as opposed to endurance with the 100 to 200 push-ups every other day.
Feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions related to Army ROTC, military PT training, or PT tests. I’d be happy to share my experience! 🙂
- What’s your trick for performing as many push-ups as possible?
Related HGG Posts:
Lately + 5×5 Circuit Workout
10 Goals to Improve Overall Fitness in 2015
50-Rep Upper Body + Abs Challenge