The roots of exercising are bitter, but the fruits are sweeter. The best part about most things in this world is the reward part of them. Nobody likes waking up every day early in the morning to go to work, but we all love getting paid. This principle also applies to exercises and working out in general. We are all usually eager to enjoy the many rewards associated with different exercises like push-ups, and that is why you will find people asking questions like, “how many push-ups should I do to gain muscles?” “How many push-ups should I do to lose weight? And more questions of that sort. The main reason behind such questions is to know how many you really need to do in order to get the rewards you are anticipating for. With that said, this read looks at how many push-ups one should do in order to attain their weight goals.
What Muscles Do Push-Ups Work?
Push-ups are part of strength-training exercises. Most people do strength-training exercises to build muscle, endurance, and strength. Push-up is a staple exercise in the fitness community (8). You cannot mention working out without the name push-ups being thrown into the mix. Push-ups are strength-training exercises that are performed in a prone position, lying horizontal and face down, raising and lowering your body using your hands (10).
These exercises are very effective when it comes to working your arms and chest. Push-ups mainly work triceps, biceps, pectoral muscles and shoulders (9). If they are done properly, they can help strengthen one’s core and lower back by engaging the abdominal muscles. If you want to get the most out of push-ups, you need to change it up here and there. Try introducing different variations of the exercise into your workout routine, start gradually increasing the intensity and so on.
How To Do A Regular Push-Up?
Knowing how to do a push-up properly decreases your risk of injury and helps you get the most out of the exercise. To do a push-up you need to (2):
- First, start by kneeling down on your yoga mat. Then bring your feet together right behind you.
- Then bend forward and bring yourself to a high plank position. Make sure your palms are flat on the yoga mat. Your hands should be shoulder-width apart, and you can try to turn your fingers forward, or you can slightly turn your hand towards the inside. Your shoulders should be on top of your hands. Then make sure your feet are together behind you. Your back should be as flat as possible.
- Then the next step is to lower your body towards the ground. Make sure to have your head aligned to your spine while you are doing this. Make sure your back doesn’t sag down. Another thing you should pay close attention to is the position of your hips, make sure they are not higher than they should be.
- Lower your body until your chest almost touches the ground. Hold that position for about a second or more.
- Then raise your body using your hands to the initial position by fully extending your hands.
- Repeat every step all over again. You can start with 10 push-ups, increasing the number of reps as you get stronger.
It is always important to maintain the correct form when doing any exercise, push-ups included. To maintain the correct form when doing a push-up, you need to always make sure your back is straight and that your core is engaged (8). You should make sure your butt doesn’t stick up in the air. Your body should form a straight line from your back all the way to your feet. If your butt sticks up, you won’t be making a straight line with your body. If you follow these recommendations, your push-ups will be effective as you will be doing them correctly.
Not everyone is a fan of the traditional push-up. If you belong to this camp of people, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to swear off this crazy-effective full-body exercise. There are tons of different push-up variations you can choose from that might change your anti-pushup attitude. If not, at least you will jazz up your workout routine and put your muscle strength to the test.
The Inclined Push-Up
This is recommended for beginners. This low-impact push-up variation is perfect for people who are trying to work their way up to traditional push-ups. An advantage they hold is that they are easy, and they still work the same muscles as a traditional push-up.
The difference between this push-up and the traditional one is that, in this one, you have to place your hands on an elevated surface (5). This is what makes them easier. The distance travelled is small. Hence you start with a higher surface, and as you get stronger, you’ll start lowering the surface.
The Plank Push-Up
This variation is a bit hard and hence not recommended for people who are new to the exercise or new to working out. In this variation, instead of starting with your hands in the plank position, you start with your forearms (5). Then one hand at a time, get up from your forearms to your palms. When you get into the high plank position, lower yourself back from your palms to your forearms, one hand at a time. Seeing how difficult this variation might be, you need to be careful when doing it to prevent getting injured.
In this variation, you tax your shoulders between reps while doing the push-ups (5). While doing push-ups, when you get to the top of the exercise, you lift one of your arms towards the sky. Roll onto the sides of your feet and keep your body straight at all times. Your body should look like a letter “T” on its side.
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There are other people who refer to this particular variation as triceps push-ups. This is yet another push-up variation with a fun twist to it. In this case, instead of putting your hands at shoulder-width apart, you bring them closer just below you and create a diamond shape with your thumbs and index fingers, hence the name (3).
This variation is the opposite of the incline push-up we covered in the earlier parts of this article. It is quite challenging. In this push-up, unlike the inclined one where you place your hands on an elevated surface, here you place your feet on an elevated surface (5). This variation is recommended for people who feel like the traditional push-up is too easy, and they want to challenge themselves even more. Placing your feet on an elevated surface increases the angle of your body and also increases the degree of difficulty as now the distance is increased. You should make sure the surface you place your legs on is stable to prevent you from falling, and you should make sure to maintain the correct form.
Assume a standard push-up position, lower yourself down, and as you push up, do so with enough force for your hands to leave the ground.The key is to start slow and try to land as gently as you can to prevent yourself from getting injured.
The Rolling Push-Up
This is yet another variation that works to challenge you as much as possible.
How to do a rolling push-up (9):
- Do a regular push-up.
- Then lift your left hand and roll into a side plank. Hold the side plank for a few seconds, then continue rolling. Place your left hand on the floor, so that you end up in a reverse plank position.
- When you are in the reverse plank position, lift your right hand and roll into a side plank on the other side. Then continue rolling and place your right hand on the floor so that you end up in the original plank position.
- Start again with a diamond push-up and go in the opposite direction.
- Perform 5 to 10 reps to begin.
Push-Up With Hip Abductor
This is the final push variation on our list. Follow these steps (9):
- First, start in a high plank position with your hands wider than shoulder-width.
- Then lift your right leg from the ground and move it further out than your hips. Make sure to keep it lifted through the whole process. Your feet should be flexed.
- Now do a push-up while keeping your right leg off the floor.
- Do about 10 reps then do the same with your left leg.
How Many Push-Ups Should You Do Daily?
Most people want to know how many push-ups they need to do every day in order to build strength, lose weight or attain their weight goal; whatever it might be. The number of push-ups you should do in a particular day depends on factors like your age, your fitness level and, of course, your goal. With that said, Dr Lawrence A. Golding came up with a report showing the number of push-ups different people should be able to do (1). He came up with a report for both men and women. He broke the number of push-ups people should do according to gender, age, and number of reps (6).
Push-Up Test Norms For Men (6)
|AGE||EXCELLENT||GOOD||ABOVE AVERAGE||AVERAGE||BELOW AVERAGE||POOR||VERY POOR|
|17 – 19||> 56||47 – 56||35 – 46||19 – 34||11 – 18||4 – 10||< 4|
|20 – 29||> 47||39 – 47||30 – 39||17 – 29||10 – 16||4 – 9||< 4|
|30 – 39||> 41||34 – 41||25 – 33||13 – 24||8 – 12||2 – 7||< 2|
|40 – 49||> 34||28 – 34||21 – 28||11 – 20||6 – 10||1 – 5||0|
|50 – 59||>31||25 – 31||18 – 24||9 – 17||5 – 8||1 – 4||0|
|60 – 65||>30||24 – 30||17 – 23||6 – 16||3 – 5||1 – 2||0|
Push-Up Test Norms For Women (6)
|AGE||EXCELLENT||GOOD||ABOVE AVERAGE||AVERAGE||BELOW AVERAGE||POOR||VERY POOR|
|17 – 19||> 30||22 – 30||11 – 21||7 – 10||4 – 6||1 – 3||0|
|20 – 29||> 32||24 -32||14 – 23||9 – 13||5 – 8||1 – 4||0|
|30 – 39||> 28||21 – 28||13 – 20||7 – 12||3 – 6||1 – 2||0|
|40 – 49||> 20||15- 20||10 – 14||5 – 9||2 – 4||1||0|
|50 – 59||>16||9 – 12||15 – 20||4 – 8||2 – 3||1||0|
|60 – 65||>12||10 – 12||6 – 9||3 – 5||2||1||0|
How Many Push-Ups Should You Do To Prevent A Heart Attack?
One major cause of heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases is being overweight and obese. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health came up with a way to help us figure out whether we are at risk of a cardiovascular complication (4). According to them, a good way to measure this is through one’s push-up capacity. Push-up capacity is strongly associated with cardiovascular disease risk compared to the results of other tests like the submaximal treadmill tests.
With that said, a study was done to see how many push-ups you need to do every day to prevent cardiovascular conditions like getting a heart attack (4). The study was conducted on middle-aged firefighters. The average age of the participants was 39 years. At the start of the study, each participant was to do a treadmill stress test and a push-up test to determine the number of push-ups they could do continuously without stopping.
Over a period of ten years, 37 of the participants reported cardiovascular-related complications. From that, the researchers were able to come up with this conclusion. The firefighters who were able to do 40 push-ups and more during the study were 96% less likely to experience a cardiovascular condition compared to those who did less than that number (4). Doing 40 or more push-ups continuously lowers your risk levels by 96%, as was concluded by the research. Before you try doing 40 push-ups, keep in mind that this test was conducted on physically fit people.
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Determining The Number Of Push-Ups You Should Be Doing
The number of push-ups you should be doing depends on your goals. If your goal is to build muscles and strength, then you need to push yourself to fatigue (1). Fatigue is the point at which you are no longer able to continue the exercise. Thus you are supposed to keep doing push-ups till your hands can’t support your weight anymore.
If your goal is to increase stamina, what you need to do is increase the number of sets you do, but make sure the sets have fewer reps (1). To do this properly, you first need to find the maximum number of push-ups you can do. Then reduce the number by 2. For example, if your number is 30, you should be doing sets of 28 push-ups each with rest in between the sets. Then the next step is to increase your push-ups by one every day until you get to your goal.
How Many Push-Ups Should You Do To Lose Weight?
Yet again, there is no specific number of push-ups that you can do that will guarantee weight loss. There are many factors at play; hence it is difficult to determine the exact number. But according to the study we went over earlier, a person needs to do more than 40 push-ups to prevent cardiovascular disease, so you can use this number as a guidepost (4). To figure out the exact number of push-ups you should do to lose weight, consult an expert.
The Bottom Line
How many push-ups should I do? It all depends on your goal. If you want to boost your endurance and get ripped, continue the exercise till exhaustion. If your goal is to increase your stamina, you should do many sets with fewer reps. Remember to maintain proper form.
Push-ups are one of the most effective exercises when it comes to building upper body strength, because they mainly work biceps, triceps, pectoral muscles, and shoulders (7). They also help improve core strength and stability (7). A strong and stable core helps prevent lower back pain, improves posture and makes doing everyday activities like walking, climbing a flight of stairs and even lifting things much easier. These are just a few reasons as to why you should include push-ups to your exercise program. Before you add any exercises to your fitness routine, get a go-ahead from your physician and consult a professional trainer.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
- How Many Pushups Should You Do Daily?(n.d., exercise.lovetoknow.com)
- How to Do a Proper Pushup (2007, sportsrec.com)
- How to Do Pushups (2020, verywellfit.com)
- If You Can Do This Many Pushups in a Row, Harvard Scientists Say Your Risk of Heart Attack Is Over 30 Times Less (2019, inc.com)
- Is It OK to Do Push-Ups Every Day? (2020, openfit.com)
- Push-up Test at Home (n.d., topendsports.com)
- Should You Do Pushups Every Day? + 5 Benefits Of This Exercise (n.d., mindbodygreen.com)
- This Is How Many Push-Ups You Need to Do to See Results (2020, thehealthy.com)
- What Are the Benefits and Risks of Doing Daily Pushups? (2020, healthline.com)
- What is a Pushup? (n.d., hundredpushups.com)