For the average guy, it’s critical to carry your own engine. By that, I mean that you should strive to be strong relative to your size.
A good test of your engine is seeing how many consecutive pushups you can do in a row. I work with some of the fittest people in the world, and I think that 50 consecutive perfect pushups is the standard to shoot for—it shows me you can carry your engine.
Most people think that with just a bit of training they’ll be able to nail that goal.
My response is, “Great, now show me your pushup.” Nearly every single time, the person’s pushup isn’t up to the standard we maintain at Gym Jones, the Salt Lake City based gym where I’m the Training Director.
There are two kinds of pushups: Perfect pushups and everything else. Here at Gym Jones, our standard is the former. We define a perfect pushup as maintaining a plank as you lower yourself until your chest touches the ground, then pushing back up and locking out your arms to pause for 1-second at the top.
There’s a good reason we have that standard: Better payoff. Perfect pushups strengthen your entire body to a greater degree, transfer over to more activities, and are also safer on your joints.
They’re also more difficult.
That’s why a far better goal than doing even 100 “everything else” pushups is to shoot for 50 perfect pushups. A person who can do 50 perfect pushups is truly strong and fit—far more so than a person who can do 100 terrible-form “everything else” pushups.
Follow these rules to crank out 50 real ones in a row.
Do Pushups Every Day
“If you want to be good at something, do it every day,” is a quote we live by at Gym Jones. And following that maxim is brutally effective when it comes to the pushup.
Aim to perform 100 total perfect pushups over the course of each day. You can do sets of 5, 10, 15, or even 20 reps. One hundred perfect pushups over 24 hours may not seem like a lot, but at the end of the year you’ll have completed 36,500.
A person who does that many perfect pushups in a year is a person who can do 50 reps in a row. You may reach the goal much sooner, so test yourself each month.
Be strict. Uphold the standard.
Do Lots of Pushing Exercises
Doing other upper-body pushing exercises allows you to strengthen your pushup muscles in different ways, with different loads.
Zone in on exercises that hit your chest, shoulders, and triceps: Bench press, shoulder press, dips, skull crushers and triceps pushdowns are all great options. Tire your muscles with those exercises and then do pushups. That’s how you learn to fight through the pain of a long set of reps.
Here’s a routine I like: Do 20 reps of the bench press and then immediately go into a set of max-reps pushups. Do that up to 5 times, resting a few minutes between each set.
Experiment with Pushup Routines
On workout days, mix things up. When your muscles and brain get comfortable repeating the same workout over and over again, you plateau.
Try pushup ladders. Do one pushup, then two, then three, and so on until you’re doing 10 pushups. Rest for 30 seconds each rung of the ladder.
Another good one: Set a timer and do 5 to 7 perfect pushups every 15 seconds for 10 minutes.
One more routine that I like: Do five sets of pushups to failure with a minute rest between sets. Do 30 seconds of pushups, then rest for 30 second. Repeat that for 5 straight minutes, three times.
Many things work. The only limitation here is your imagination.