The Push-Up Challenge

Mom and daughter completing the push-up challenge

On his 50th birthday, Matthew Solan celebrated by doing fifty full push-ups. I find this particularly impressive because I have never done a full push-up, on any day of the year, ever. Though I’ve managed to do modified push-ups – from my knees, rather than my toes – the full version of the exercise has always eluded me. I am planning my own push-up challenge for my next birthday, but it will take preparation and breaking the exercise into easier parts. It is an approach that can be adapted for other challenges if you have already mastered the push-up:  a 5K challenge or a yoga challenge, for example.

What’s the big deal about a push-up? Tim Cole, in Become a Push-Up Pro breaks down the benefits of this classic exercise. It’s a compound exercise – meaning multiple muscle groups are engaged – that works chest, shoulders, triceps and abdominal muscles. It is also an exercise that can be challenging for all levels – from beginner advanced. So, part of the reason I want to do a full push-up is because it is an effective exercise. I’d also like to do a full push-up for the same reason that people want to climb Mount Everest – because it’s there.

Find a Starting Point

Tim provides instructions for the different push-up levels in Become a Push-Up Pro. Beginners can start by doing push-ups against a wall. To progress, move to an incline against a sturdy table, then on the floor on hands and knees before moving to the full push-up on hands and toes. The angle of your body determines the difficulty – with wall push-ups you’re pressing 10% of your weight, Tim says, while with full push-ups you’re pressing 60% of your weight.

Whether you want to do 10, 20 or 50 full push-ups, first you need to find your starting point. Find the level that is appropriate for you; beginners can start with wall push-ups, for instance, and move to the next level as appropriate. Once you find the right level for you, see how many push-ups you can do while maintaining good form – that’s your starting point.

Making Progress With the Push-Up Challenge

To progress towards your goal, increase the number of repetitions and the level of push-ups until you’ve reached your goal. Don’t push yourself too hard, however. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that you increase your repetitions when you can do “one to two repetitions over the desired number on two consecutive training sessions.” Once you can do all repetitions for a given level, try increasing the intensity. for instance, once you can do 20 push-ups against the wall, try to see how many you can do on an incline. The full push-up is out of reach now, but I think I can get there if I go step by step. Good luck with your own push-up challenge!