The best ways to increase push-up reps

Written by john kibilko
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The best ways to increase push-up reps
Widening and narrowing your hand positions creates a more well-rounded push-up routine. (Dkal Inc./Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Despite a movement toward weight and aerobics training over the past couple of decades, the simple push-up remains a benchmark of strength and fitness. No elaborate machine or workout equipment is needed. Just drop to the floor and give me 50 - or even one or two. Increasing your push-up repetition number is as easy as rolling out of bed and hitting the floor. Although you can increase your push-up endurance via other means such as bench-presses, nothing is as easy or effective as simply doing push-ups. Increasing reps, resistance and regime can steadily enhance your push-up abilities.

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The add-one approach

The simplest method of increasing your push-up rep number is to slowly add reps to your daily routine. If you can do 25 push-ups today, try to do 26 tomorrow. You should measure your maximum limit by doing as many push-ups as you can, which means that the last push-up you do isn’t really a push-up at all - it’s a failed push-up. You’ll find yourself struggling, with arms quivering, back bending and legs shaking. That’s when you know you’ve reached your limit. Hang on to that last, failed attempt as long as possible before collapsing, then take a 30-second break and try again, doing as many as you can. Take note. Create a set-of-reps routine that equals an achievable amount - say 50 - and increase the total by one each day. You may do 25, take a short break, do 15 more, take another break, struggle to do eight, then finish up with two or three. Try increasing at least the first set’s number and the total by one push-up each day.

Reverse maximums

Establish a standard three-set routine that you can accomplish each day. For example, you may be able to do three sets of 15 push-ups, but not a fourth. Do the three sets with no more than one minute between sets, then do as many fourth-set push-ups as possible. Increase the fourth-set total by one each day until you reach 15, then increase the total of each of the first three steps by one. For instance, once you can do four steps of 15, do three sets of 16 and try to reach 16 on your fourth set. Continue this routine, measuring your one-set maximum each week. Decrease rest times when possible.

Increase daily workouts

No matter what daily method you’re using to increase your reps, increase the number of routines each day. If you’re working out only in the morning, add an afternoon or night-time routine. As always, do full, slow, steady, chest-to-the-floor push-ups.

Explosion push-ups

Incorporate, or add, a set of explosion push-ups to each workout. Sometimes referred to as Marine push-ups, the explosion push-up adds strength to the endurance you’ve been gaining through increased repetitions. As you touch your chest to the floor on your downward stroke, push off as hard as possible, propelling yourself upward far enough to clap your hands in front of (or behind) you. When another explosion push-up is impossible, do as many regular push-ups as you can. Increase the total by one each day.

Change hand positions

Alternate between shoulder-width, wide and narrow (or triangle) hand positioning. Move your hands closer to your head and then back towards your stomach. You’ll notice pain and fatigue in different parts of your arms, shoulders, back and chest with each hand movement, providing a more thorough workout.

Decline push-ups

Place your feet on a chair or other raised platform. This added resistance actually increases the weight you’re pushing (a standard push-up raises about 60 per cent of your body weight). You also can use a wall to exaggerate the effect by doing vertical push-ups, or simply place weight on your back during any push-up.

Bench press

Bench-pressing with weights isolates chest muscles but doesn’t provide the complete chest/arms/abs/legs workout as push-ups. You’ll probably find that push-ups enhance your bench-press performance much more than vice versa.

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