Whatever your fitness level, having a daily exercise goal will keep you motivated, accountable, and in great shape.
From the most experienced gym-goer to the total novice, all of us have attempted a few push-ups in our time. Whether you do them on your knees, or with your feet elevated on the sofa, there’s much to be gained from the classic move including core stability and increased strength in your shoulders, back, chest and arms.
And, although it can be tricky, building up from 10 to 20 or even 50 at once (or over the course of a day) can offer huge rewards. “Goals are great in fitness as they give us something to strive for and keep us on track to progress week on week,” explains Mitch Raynsford, strength and conditioning coach for P3RFORM.
That said, only fools rush in. “Goals need to be smart and attainable,” says Raynsford. “Don’t think you can just rock up to the gym and rep out 100 press-ups on day one!”
Ready to take the journey? Then let’s begin.
“Traditional push-ups are beneficial for building upper body strength, predominantly in the chest (pecs), shoulders and triceps,” explains PT & movement specialist Tom Cuff-Burnett. “They are a fast and effective exercise and can be done from virtually anywhere, not requiring any equipment and offering a number of scaling options for a variety of abilities.” In other words, whether you’re looking to bulk up, tone up, or just build strength for everyday life, there’s something to be gained.
“All of these benefits can translate to improved athletic performance: almost all sports require an element of upper body strength,” Cuff-Burnett continues. “You’ll also gain postural improvement which can help in numerous activities found in daily life from lifting boxes to picking up our kids.”
Of course you don’t, but having a goal is still good – even if that’s doing five press-ups per day. “Goals aren’t important in fitness, they are essential!” explains Robert Utley, founder, Real Body Performance. “How can you create a plan without a goal? What do you aim for? How do you know when you’ve achieved it and to aim for something new?” he asks.
The key, Utley explains, is to set a lofty goal (like 100 press-ups) then break it down into smaller, more achievable goals along the way. “Make the goal so big it’s near impossible and focus on hitting all the little milestones,” Utley advises. “Who doesn’t like accomplishing things? Who doesn’t like endorphins?”
“The benefits of working at the same thing every day are that you will undoubtedly improve your efficiency, technique and capacity, both in terms of strength and endurance. It also helps to embed the activity as part of your routine, which in turn makes it something you are more likely to continue over a longer period of time as opposed to just an eight-week training cycle,” explains Cuff-Burnett.
“In the context of doing 100 push-ups every day, this will dramatically increase your upper body and core strength, as well as contribute to increasing the number of blood vessels supplying the muscle with blood and nutrients,” he continues. “This means you’ll have more energy and endurance during the movement, and better recovery after you finish.”
A word of warning, though. Aiming for 100 press-ups per day shouldn’t mean you’re targeting 700 press-ups a week, or between 2800-3100 per month. It isn’t feasible, and won’t do your body any good. “Look to have at least 48 hours before stressing the same muscle group to allow recovery before stimulating growth again through resistance training,” advises Raynsford.
Before embarking on a mountain of push-ups, let’s take a moment to really nail just one. Here, Raynsford outlines common mistakes to avoid:
Neck – “The biggest issue I’ve found with push ups is with people trying to touch the floor with their head and not their chest (the ol’ chicken peck). A simple fix for this is setting your gaze 1m in front of you to keep your head up and leading with your chest.”
Hips – “To prevent your hips from dropping to the floor, ensure you are bracing your core correctly. Draw your belly button to your spine and squeeeeze your glutes to stay engaged throughout. You should be ‘strong as steel from head to heel’.”
Elbows – “Elbows are often flared through push-ups so think about creating an arrow shape with your arms. Draw your elbows into 45°, not too wide (shoulders), not too narrow (triceps), just right (chest).”
Tempo – “Control the movement down and be powerful on the way up. We want to stretch the chest muscles with time under tension during the eccentric, then stimulate muscle fibre recruitment by being explosive through the concentric.”
We know the benefits of the push-up, and the risks of overdoing it, and we’ve nailed our form. So how do we add volume to our training?
“Break it down into 10-20 reps at a time,” says Cuff-Burnett. “This way, you can ensure you avoid fatigue and lapsing into incorrect form, as well as increasing the likelihood of completing each mini round, which helps maintain a positive state of mind.”
“Write down how many you do each day, and each week,” advises Utley. “You will have off days so aim to make sure each week you add at least 1 press up. Within a year you’d of added at least 52 to your week.”
“Figure out a regression or talk to a fitness professional to give you some variations,” advises Raynsford. “Aim to increase your volume by 10% each week and then set a reasonable time period to achieve it. A good place to start is finding the number of reps you can do with ‘one in the tank’ take 90s rest then repeat for a total of three sets.
“Take 48 hours to recover and go again, next week add that 10% to your rep number and watch the progress naturally occur. One thing to note is that progression is not always linear so be aware some days you may not hit that target but don’t let that discourage you (you aren’t 100% everyday), reset and try again in two days.”
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