The push-up test is universally recognized as an excellent measure of upper body strength and endurance. For this reason, the push-up test is an essential part of military (Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines) and first responder (police and firefighter) physical fitness testing.
These tips will help you learn how to do more push-ups, build your upper body strength and endurance, and ace your next fitness test.
Review Exercise Science
Before you begin your push-up training workout, it’s helpful to understand six principles that explain the science behind fitness training. With this knowledge, you’ll learn how to improve your fitness in a safe and systematic way. If you understand the concepts of overload, progression, adaptation, specificity, etc., you will be better able to train effectively.
Perfect Your Push-Up
Before you start cranking out multiple reps, you need to make sure your push-up form is perfect. If you don’t already know how to do it right, go back to the beginning and practice.
Set Your Baseline Repetitions
To find the number of repetitions you should perform in each set, do as many push-ups as you can in two minutes and divide this number by three. This is your baseline repetition count. Each workout will generally include three sets of this number of repetitions.
Start With the Basics
Do a push-up workout every other day (such as Monday, Wednesday, and Friday). Warm up with a slow jog, cycling on a stationary bike or jumping rope. Perform your basic workout with three sets of repetitions with a 30-second rest between sets. Each week, add two to three repetitions to your sets. Retest yourself every four weeks and set a new repetition baseline.
There is an endless number of ways to vary your push-up workout. Consider changing your hand placement during repetitions. Mix it up by starting your reps with narrow hand placement, and progressively widening your hand placement during each set. This is a great routine that you can use for each push-up workout for a month at a time.
Vary Your Body Position
Just as you can move your hand position during a push-up, you can also change your body position to increase or decrease the intensity of the exercise. To increase intensity: Try decline push-ups (with your feet elevated), stability ball push-ups, or plyometric push-ups (clap your hands between reps).
To decrease intensity, do hand-release push-ups, or do your push-ups on your knees, on a box or bench, or against a wall.
Elevating your feet while doing push-ups will increase resistance, but it also changes your range of motion. To increase resistance during a standard push-up, you can add a weighted vest, or wear a close-fitting backpack filled with sandbags or water bladders.
End With the Plank Exercise
The last-minute of your push-up workout can be dedicated to improving core strength and stability, which is essential during the push-up. The plank exercise is a perfect way to round out your upper body workout. Try to hold the plank for 30 seconds to one minute, and finish with a long, slow, prone back extension at the end of the workout.
Rest and Recover
If you are performing push-up exercises to fatigue, you will need to allow at least one day of recovery between push-up workouts. Practicing push-ups every day, if done to fatigue, can backfire and result in a decrease in strength and endurance.