There’s probably one thing that every military school, selection, law enforcement academy, and fitness event (i.e. GORUCK) has in common, can you guess what it is?
So let me ask…
Have you mastered this basic yet incredibly functional movement yet?
If you haven’t, why not?
I’ve probably gotten a thousand emails over the past couple years asking for simple, effective exercises that don’t require a ton of time or gym equipment and the push-up has got to be in my top 2-3 most recommended exercises (I love lunges and squats)…
Improving your push-up ability can do a lot more for you than just improve your PFT score so you may want to start paying more attention to this often overlooked movement.
If you’ve been through any military school or LEO academy you’ve probably heard the idiom “crawl-walk-run” when it came to training.
And that same concept is exactly how you should be approaching your strength training.
Yet, too many people want to jump right into the “run” phase because the exercises seem much cooler and they end up with poor mobility, improper movement patterns, and injury…
I know I’ve met probably 350 people over the past ten years who tell me about some sort of shoulder pain they get when benching…
How many people do you know that have shoulder pain when bench pressing?
Probably a bunch right?
Shoulder pain is one of the biggest complaints I get from guys in our profession (LEO/Military – especially if they are still hard-charging and over 30 years old) and most of the time it comes from poor mobility in the thoracic spine & shoulders and improper movement patterns.
Years of hauling around body armor, weapons, and ruck combined with poor posture and an emphasis on the bench press when they hit the gym is a recipe for disaster (or at least a lot of pain/problems).
Without that proper foundation of posture & mobility combined with a biomechanically efficient, strong, and safe range of motion you too may end up in shoulder pain purgatory.
Bottomline: They jumped past the “crawl-walk” phase and went right to the “run” (i.e. Loading up that barbell and pressing away!)
If you’re in that boat or looking to avoid it, there is a pretty simple solution that starts with a super simple exercise:
The push up
The push up, when performed correctly, has a pretty decent list of benefits:
- Improved core strength
- Improved pressing mechanics
- Improved upper body strength
- Improved muscular endurance
- Improved shoulder health
Not bad, eh?
So not only can the push-up improve your horizontal pushing mechanics, making you healthier and safer overall, but I’ve seen tons of people throw away the bench press entirely and actually still get stronger (and bigger).
For a freak example, see Herschel Walker a legendary football player who was rumored to have built and maintained his “brick shit house” physique and physical ability using only bodyweight exercises — Including hundreds of push-ups every single day.
While that dude is a genetic freak, he is definitely on to something that could help you overcome your training plateaus if you’re stuck or get your ass moving again after falling off the training path due to work, injuries, and life in general.
So, how do I improve?
Pretty simple huh?
Okay, so that isn’t very helpful because I’ve already said a ton of people still do push-ups “wrong” and end up burning out super fast or hurting themselves.
So here is a super basic instructional video on performing a push-up properly and avoiding the most common problem I see with people…
Like I said, super simple, but a ton of people get this small detail wrong and end up with shoulder problems and overall shitty looking push-ups.
So like I mentioned above, step one in improving your push-up is to start performing your push-ups correctly!
So, how do I do more push-ups?
If you watched that quick video and was like “Yea, I do my push ups like that and now that I’m trying them your way… I suck” then keep reading!
Wanna do more push ups?
Do more push-ups.
Again, the simplest solution is typically the best!
I’ve written about this before and the same simple idea I’ve written about before works for push ups:
You’ve got to ”Grease the Groove”
Which basically means, perform sub-maximal sets of push-ups throughout the day with the goal of performing as many perfect reps as possible each day.
So if you can do 30 “perfect” push-ups in one set before you break down (i.e. Funky arm flare, belly sagging towards floor, butt shooting up in the air, etc) then your goal would be to do 15-20 push ups each hour of the day (that you’re awake).
- Wake Up = 15-20 perfect push ups
- Eat Breakfast = Drop and give me 15-20 more
- Get to the office/work = 15-20 more!
- Every time you get up from your desk (or wherever you are) = 15-20 strict, awesome push ups
- Get home = 15-20!
- New episode of whatever Netflix show you’re watching starts = 15-20 more!
I think you get the idea here… If you add up those reps from above you’ll see that it will be pretty easy for you to start adding 100-200 push-ups PER DAY to your routine without ever breaking a sweat or taking yourself to muscle failure.
Another hidden benefit of this method, that most people don’t think about, is that you are practicing perfect, strict, awesome push-ups over and over again which is always going to benefit you more than hitting that near maximal number and turning into some sort of sloppy, floor humping weirdo as you reach failure.
I’m sure you’ve heard some coach in your high school glory days say ”Practice Makes Perfect” but I like the saying ”Practice Makes Permanent”
So if you’re practicing perfect push-ups, you’re teaching your body to only perform perfect push-ups.
Increasing Reps (i.e. Progression)
Once you get the hang of this and get into the habit of cranking out push-ups like a machine every day than we can gradually start increasing reps in your sets.
Let’s keep this progression simple and try just adding one rep each week.
So if week 1 had you knocking out 15 reps each set and you didn’t run into any fatigue problems later in the day then start week two off with 16 reps per set and see how that goes.
Like I said above, pretty simple.
As with all success, the magic is in your discipline and consistency
So if you want to max out your PT test, knock out 100 push ups without stopping, or conquer just about any other goal you need to master your own habits.
So get out there and give this simple push up program a shot.
Start right now and find out how many “perfect” push-ups you can do before you start to break down and write that number down somewhere.
Then, start off by cutting that number in half and getting after those sub-maximal sets throughout each day for the next few weeks.
Then just retest your max every 3 – 4 weeks and let me know how much you improved!