Pushups Everyday? A More Effective Way to Improve Pushup Count

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So you’re one of those are you…

A pushup fiend.

You just can’t get enough of them, can you? Almost like a drug that you need to have.

You want to do pushups everyday and there’s nothing that’s gonna stop you.

It’s time to lay down some facts.

Pushups have been considered the ultimate bodyweight exercise for centuries. Identified as an effective compound exercise, pushups help you build strength and endurance in your upper body in a pushing movement pattern.

Pushups are also used as a normative test in a personal training session. Trainers will regularly conduct pushup tests with their clients where they would ask the client to perform as many pushups as possible until muscular failure occurs. It’s a truly great assessment of upper body strength.

But the question now becomes…

Is it effective to perform pushups everyday?

I am always reminded of the stories my dad would tell me back in the day. He claims, in his younger days, to have done 100 pushups waking up in the morning and another 100 before going to bed. That’s 200 pushups everyday. With no warm-up, no dynamic stretches, nothing. Just 200 pushups everyday – COLD!

Now he wonders why he had shoulder problems…

There are two things you need to understand here.

First, pushups target your chest muscles, anterior deltoids (front of your shoulders) and triceps groups. One of the fundamental concepts I try to use when constructing exercise programs is to introduce muscular balance. If I’m going to target my chest three times a week, then I’m going to target my back three times a week as well. So imagine performing pushups everyday without performing daily exercises for the back, posterior deltoids (back of your shoulders) and biceps group. Do this for a month and watch how your shoulders round forward due to a muscular imbalance in your upper musculature.

Second, it’s common sense that no exercise should be performed EVERY day. When you physiologically break down your muscle fibers through exercise, those muscle fibers need a recovery period of minimum 48hrs to recover and re-build to prepare for the next session. If you don’t give the muscles time to recover by doing pushups everyday, you will be prone to overuse injuries that build slowly over time.

So do I do pushups everyday? Nope. Not even close. In fact, I only do pushups once a week. But when I train I look at incorporating variation. If you’re in need of some ideas, here are two posts where I show some cool variations.

When I want to incorporate variation, I try to use various pieces of equipment that help me really get the most out of my pushups. One of the most effective tools I’ve ever come across are pushup stands.

Pushup stands offer two things that a regular pushup cannot:

1) Wrist Protection. They allow for greater wrist stability and security because they always maintain your wrists in a neutral position during exercise; in contrast, regular pushups place excessive strain on your wrists due to unnatural bending at the wrist joint.

2) Increased Range of Motion. They offer a much greater range of motion during the exercise. Pushup stands allow you to lower your body past your hands, while regular pushups do not. A greater range of motion forces muscles to work harder during each repetition.

While these are fundamental principles that will help improve your pushup count and overall upper body strength and endurance, know that pushup stands can offer more. While regular pushups are restricted to only a few exercises, pushup stands greatly expand your possibilities. There are dozens of variations of exercises that allow you to target different muscle groups.

So is there a need to do pushups everyday?

Absolutely not.

The most effective way to improve your pushup count is to add variation and incorporate push up stands into your workouts.

What are your thoughts on pushups? Do you do them every day?

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Comments

  1. Hi Srdjan,

    I usually incorporate 20 – 25 pushups on alternate days at the end of my morning stretching routine. Is this a good thing to do and what is considered an ‘average’ number of pushups to reap any benefit.

    Thanks

    • Incorporating a set of pushups after a stretching routine isn’t bad, Mike. Is there a warm-up period as well or is it a cold static stretch? Doing this on alternate days is also effective because you allow your muscles to recover properly (although 20-25 pushups might not be enough to stress the muscles-see 2nd paragraph). What exactly are you looking to get from pushups? Strength? Upper body endurance? It is important to know what you are after.

      To answer your second question, the ‘average’ number of pushups you’re looking for really depends on your ability. It depends on your fitness level and musculoskeletal development. A beginner could benefit from doing 5 pushups while it might take a more experienced person 30-40 pushups before they enter the benefit zone. Pushups target your chest, shoulder and triceps muscles and it is the strength and endurance of these muscle groups that determines what the beneficial number of repetitions should be.

  2. This article takes a very long time to say 3 things:
    1) Don’t do push-ups every day, with any exercise the body needs a minimum of 48 hours to recover.
    2) Work different muscle groups on different days to achieve balance
    3) Buy push up stands because they are useful and add efficacy and variation to your pushup routine.

    • Thanks for the summary, Mark. I don’t know about the ‘very long’ part – if I made the article any shorter I don’t know if it would have been as interesting of a read :).

      As for #2, it is not necessary to work different muscle groups on different days to achieve balance. You can, but you don’t have to. You can target different muscle groups during the same workout as well (I do this regularly). The point is that there needs to be balance – if you’re going to target one muscle group, then you should equally target the opposing muscle group as well.

  3. Push ups works on the pectoralis region. It will give you macho chest. And do work your traps and biceps too to attain balance physique.

    • Push ups are definitely capable of giving you a macho chest man. But balance is important. No point of having a macho chest if you’re going to have a whimpy back ;)

  4. Franklin says:

    Hi Srdjan, I am 52 yrs old and what do you suggest I start out, since I was sick for a while. I use to work out all the time, but now it is harder getting back into it. Would like to hear your recommendation, thanks!

    • Hey Franklin, thanks for the comment man! I guess a lot of things become just a little bit harder with age and working out is definitely one of them.

      Just a few questions for you. How long has it been since you last regularly worked out? What are your goals (i.e. build muscle, lose weight, etc.)?

      Getting back into things isn’t easy. The best way to do it is to take one step at a time. Don’t try to do everything all at once. I remember I had an injury a while back that put me out of commission for about a month and afterwards I was completely out of ‘gym mode’. It took a little will power but I pushed myself to get back in there. Once a week, then twice a week and before I knew it I was back into the full swing of things. Everything is mental.

      If you answer those questions for me I can give you some more specific answers in terms of what type of training you could get started with!

  5. Franklin says:

    Hi Srdjan, its been a while, probably about 6 months or so. I know I don’t want to be out of shape when I get older. I am a former Marine and that was why I exercised alot. My goal is at least be able to feel like I am capable of doing things like when I was younger, in other words I don’t want to go down hill and be unable to take care of myself. That is my main concern. Thanks for your concern…

  6. Hi, great article. Can I do push-UPS pull-ups and sit ups 3-4 days a week on the same day? Also I heard u can do abs everyday, is that true? Thank you!

    • Hey Gregory, thanks for stopping by.

      Performing push-ups, pull-ups and sit ups 3-4 days of the week is perfectly fine. I like that you are combining a pushing and pulling movement into the same workout. Instead of pull-ups, however, I would recommend doing the inverted rows (if possible). The inverted row is known as the ‘reverse pushup’ and is a great compliment to any push up routine.

      Your abdominal muscles are like any other muscle group in your body. So just as you wouldn’t do squats every day, you shouldn’t be working your abdominals every day either. They need time to recuperate just like any other muscle group. I would stick to doing abs maybe 2-3 times per week.

      Let me know if you have any other questions!

  7. Hi push-ups doctor,
    I do push-ups every day but I alternate the style from wide to narrow to diamond each time. I never go to failure but I do incrementally add 1 per week. I’m up to 17 per day after having started from 10 a few weeks ago. I’ve noticed that I’m more pumped in the chest triceps shoulders and that even my back in the lateral area is widening. However, at some point I plan to incorporate pull-ups for the sake of muscle balance. I feel great, not over trained, and a tinge of soreness in the muscle areas constantly. At this rate I could reach 70 per day in a year from now. My body building friend says that this is not the route to take if my objective is respectable mass/size; but at this pace all the way to 70 per day how could mass conceivably not develop? That sounds absurd to me that my 15″ (flexed) arm would not significantly increase. What are your thoughts ?

    • Gusto, thanks a lot for your comment. Here are my thoughts:

      If you’re not training to failure, working in low rep counts (17 per day is not that much at the moment) and constantly changing your ‘style’, then you are not at much risk of overtraining even if you’re doing pushups everyday.

      However, I would recommend two things: 1) Take at least one day off per week to let your muscles recover – this is especially important as you get into higher numbers (do this even if you don’t feel overtrained), 2) Incorporate a pulling exercise (i.e. pull up or, even better, an inverted row) ASAP – muscular balance begins at a level that is not visible so even though you might not see any imbalances, they will creep up on you.

      Since I don’t really know your age, your body structure, past training experience, or your diet, I can only make assumptions when I say the following. I think the reason you’re experiencing good development in your upper body is because the routine is still relatively new to you. You’ve only been doing it for 7 weeks. Your body has not adapted yet. But after a few months of training in the exact same way, your body will adjust – it will get used to what you’re doing and you’ll most likely begin to plateau – your results won’t be as linear as you expect.

      The strategy you have outlined will help you develop strength and muscular endurance in your shoulders, chest and triceps, but that’s about it. You will experience some gain in size, but this will largely depend on your diet. At the end of the day, we all have different definitions for what ‘respectable mass/size’ really is. If you want to put on a lot of size, there are definitely better ways to go about it. If you want to build a functionally strong and rigid body, then you’re on the right track (only include the recommendations from above).

      I hope that answers your question, Gusto. Let me know if there’s anything else I can help with!

      • Srdjan, thank you for answering. I wonder what home excersizes would you recommend for a tall guy like me 6’3 215lbs in order to build stronger thicker legs? I know that the gym is the right place but because of my schedule I can’t fit that into my life right now.

        • Hey Gusto. I just added some thickness to my legs with my Visual Impact challenge and all I did (consistently) was leg press and lunges. You can check out the details here: How I gained 19lbs of muscle in 8 weeks

          If you don’t have time for the gym, I would recommend the following exercises that you can do at home: 1) Pistol Squats (aka one legged squats) – these will be tough at the beginning especially since you’re taller (I’m at 6’0″ and I find them really challenging). You can use a rope or light resistance band for assistance as you learn to do the exercise. This exercise will develop incredible strength in your legs! 2) Lunges – use dumbbells if you have some. Weighted lunges will develop strong hamstrings and glutes. (You can youtube how to do pistol squats for proper technique)

          These two exercises together will help you build strong legs. If you want to get your legs thicker, you’ll have to train with cumulative fatigue (all explained in that link above), keep your rest periods short and increase your caloric consumption.

          That should do the trick. Let me know if you have any questions.

  8. Hi Srdjan,
    Thanks for the great article and comments and I’m excited to try your 5 killer pushup variations. I 45 and am about 3 months into a steady workout routine. I weigh around 185, down from 204. The problem is I keep getting these cool excercises to add in and now I find myself with a question of how often. Every morning I do yoga for about 20 minutes. Then 3 sets of 15 pushups, two sets of planking, two sets of side planking, two sets of bridges and two sets of 8 pullups. I recently started taking a break every fourth day. Also 3 times a week(and I just started this) I do a 20 minute circuit workout with 15 lb dumb bells with four excersises Back, chest,arm, and shoulder. I do these in rotation with reps of 12 until the 20 minutes is up. I do circuit just before lunch time.

    So my question is how do I stagger these excercises to get the proper rest and recovery? I really like the planking and want to build my abs and am stoked on my chest and arms from pushups and pull ups.

    Thanks for your help
    Mark

    • Hey Mark! Sorry for the late response. Thanks a lot for stopping by and for your question.

      First of all, congratulations on your weight loss. That’s an amazing feat!

      Just so you know, I’ve also put together another post about pushup variations – this one shows 48 different variations you can try. It’s a cool little video. You can check it out here if you’re interested.

      I understand where you’re at right now. However, without knowing what it is you are trying to achieve, it’s hard for me to give the best advice. Are you trying to lose more weight or are you trying to build some muscle? Also, I’m not sure which exercises you are doing for your circuit.

      That aside, here are my thoughts on your training strategy: In regards to your daily training, I think you have the right ideas in mind for your exercises. You’re combining a pushing and pulling exercise for upper body. You’re challenging your core with the planks and side planks. I’m going to assume by ‘bridges’ you’re referring to hamstring bridges? If that’s the case I would incorporate some sort of bodyweight squat to target your quads and glutes. I’ve seen the best results when combining squats and lunges, but that’s up to you. You also have a 20 yoga session for flexibility which is good. However, if you’re resting every 4th day that means you’re performing this routinte 5-6 times per week. Combining this with a 3Xweek circuit is probably too much.

      This is how I would change the structure a bit: Perform the first routine 3-4 times per week and up the rep count. So do a few more pushups and pull ups, hold your planks for a bit longer, etc. Get out of your comfort zone a bit. The circuit can be done 2-3 times per week (once again I need to know what the exercises are).

      So I would do the training routine Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and the the circuit Mon, Wed, Fri. Then let your body recuperate over the weekend. There are a lot of ways you can structure this and you may want to play around with it a bit until you find what works for you. However, try to stick to one plan for a set period of time. I know you’re going to run into a lot of cool exercises – mark them down but only add them once your plan is done. Variations are a different story. For instance, you can add pushup variations to your current routine to further challenge yourself.

      I hope that helps a bit! Let me know if you have any other questions!

      • thanks Srdjan for the advice. That seems like it will work good. Would I get any benefit in doing the morning routine and the circuit together or can I keep with my current schedule. Breaking them up makes it easier to fit it in.

        To answer some of your questions. My final weight goal is under 180 but not less then 175. Trying to build a strong core and upper body to help with work in cabinet making.

        My circuit exercises with the 15 lb dumbell are
        Squat/Row, chest press/crunch, squat/curl, and squat side raise. I got these exercises from the Metabloic Effect book.

        And by bridges I mean laying on my back with my feet on a bouncy ball and raising my but up in the air.

        Thanks again for the help and the 48 variation pushups will last a life time!!

        • Mark, if it is easier to fit things in then by all means stick with what you’ve got because it’s less likely that you will quit on it.

          After reading what you’ve said, I can say you’re on the right path. If you’re going to be building cabinets, I would also recommend incorporating some shoulder-specific exercises either into your training (not circuit). This will help you out on those long days of work. Any sort of seated shoulder press or front/lateral raises will do the trick. If you really want to challenge yourself, try the squat to press exercise: keeping two dumbbells at shoulder height with your arms tucked in, squat down low and then explode up and press the dumbbells up. It looks something like this: video.

          I hope that helps Mark!

  9. I developed tricep tendonitis a bit ago from doing too many push ups, too often, too soon. Can I really make gains in my chest size/strength by doing push ups once a week as my main chest exercise like you?

    If I do train once a week, how many sets of push ups should I be doing? 3-6 sets to failure? If you could give me a figure or idea of what a once a week chest workout with push ups entails, I would appreciate it.

    By the way, great article!

    • Hey Cody, sorry for the late response (kind of hectic around here).

      Tricep tendinitis is definitely something you’d want to let heal before you moved back to any sort of pushing movements.

      It is possible to make gains with push ups as your sole upper body exercise, although how much really depends on you, your eating strategy and your training methodology. I do think two days a week would be more effective, however.

      Training for size is a little different from training for strength. For size, you want to maximize your volume (number of reps) and minimize your rest to initiate fatigue. So I’d perform 5-6 sets of 15-20 reps (these numbers are just examples and depend on your current fitness level) and rest 45 seconds between sets. You’re really aiming to fatigue your muscles. If my goal was to gain strength, I would do the opposite. I would minimize my volume (lower reps) and maximize my rest time (to allow my muscles to fully recover). So, for example, I would do 5-6 sets of 10-12 reps (never to failure) and rest about 90 seconds between sets. If you want both size and strength, then you’d need to play around with the middle ground there.

      Let me know if that helps!

  10. Mohsin says:

    Hi

    Thank you for your great description.
    I am also an engineer. Working out is my hobby and I feel lazy if i don’t do work out in the gym. However, now-a-days I am extremely busy and can’t find time to go to gym. Hence, now-a-days (similar to your dad) I am doing 100 pushups in the night and 100 pushups in the morning as soon as I wake up everyday (without any warm-up). I feel very good.
    In your article you mentioned shoulder problems associated with everyday pushups. I haven’t experienced such but I am alarmed by the shoulder problems you described. Is it ok If I continue like your dad for about 1 month (only). Then, I will start proper gym for evry part of my body for balancing out.

    • Hey Mohsin! Performing 100s of pushups every single day can over stress the muscles which (in time – not immediately) can lead to shoulder problems. It doesn’t mean it will, but it could. I’d say if your only option is to do push ups, give yourself some time off. Take every other day off. Give those joints and muscles time to recover. You’ll see greater progress this way. Hope that helps!

  11. Srdjan,
    Is it OK to do 100 pushups and 50 chins 6 days a week for say, 3 weeks then take off a week and restart the workout?
    What about guys who do 500 pushups a day every day and claim to have 0 problems?
    Just trying to put together a bodyweight workout to maximize gains.
    Thanks!

    • Hey John – working with that volume day in and day out has the potential to create muscular imbalances and shoulder injuries (it doesn’t necessarily mean it will for everyone). I prefer not to put myself at that risk.

      The other thing you have to consider is if you’re trying to build up strength, working to such high volumes and instigating fatigue on your muscles won’t help you out.

      I think it’s better to put a day of rest between all of your pushing and pulling movements (if you’re doing them on the same day), or simply alternate one day pushing, next day pulling, etc. I think that might be more effective.

      Question: when you say ‘gains’ do you mean strength gains, endurance gains, or muscular (hypertrophy) gains?

  12. Hi i have been starting my new year with a goal to be physically fit, i dont know where to start. I dont have that much time to got o gym becuase of my work.

    I started to workout yesterday by doing push up. I just made 3 sets , 10 reps each. I dont know if this is too low. And today i made another 3 sets of push up. is it safe to do it everyday until i gain much strength or what is your best advice how can i gain effective strength and develop my chest by doing exercise at home?

    What are the types of push up you will recommend per session and how many sets and reps will i do?

    i hope you will read. i need an advice from someone much experience than me.
    By the way im 28 years old, 5’7 height.

    • Hey Jaypee, congrats on your decision to get fit. That’s a huge step!

      And it’s cool if you want to work out at home. You can get a lot done there. I would focus on a well-rounded bodyweight routine, one that focuses on muscular balance (not just one that focuses on developing your chest). Also, I would recommend taking a day off in between training to give your body the rest it needs to recover. This is particularly important at the beginning when your body is experiencing a new found source of stress.

      Three times a week I would focus on a workout consisting of:
      -Wide, military and narrow push-ups
      -Pull-ups or chin-ups
      -Bodyweight squats
      -Bodyweight lunges
      -Planks or hanging leg raises

      Perform a light 10-15 min skipping or running session after you’re done these exercises.

      As you get better, you can move onto more advanced exercises and workouts.

      Hope that helps a bit!

  13. SHEERAZ says:

    Interesting article. I don’t see how it could be that bad. I do pushups, pull ups and lunges daily with one rest day a week and my strength has improved significantly.

    • Sheeraz, when you’re constantly breaking down muscle without giving it time to recover and rebuild, you actually impede the growth process. Strength might improve initially but, over time, you can definitely hold yourself back by doing too much. It’s nice to see you’re balancing pushups with pullups. Some people just tend to stick with one or the other (typically just pushups) which can lead to upper body muscular imbalances.

  14. Justin R. says:

    Hey Srdjan, thanks for the informative post. I’ve been browsing the net trying to find an answer to just this question.

    I have a follow-on question though: If I do pushups to exhaustion, and later on the same day I have a chance to get in some more, should I? Or do you hit exhaustion once and then start the recovery clock? I’m currently taking a rest day between upper-body workouts.

    Thanks again!

    • It really depends on how quickly you can recover. I, personally, think that doing too many pushups (or any exercise) can be counter intuitive and can work against you. But you’ll need to test it out for yourself.

  15. Your post (and especially your responses to questions) are very helpful. I am hoping to get into West Point a year and a half from now and need to get in better shape, as I have been slacking the last few years. My barrier right now is the Candidate Fitness Assessment, especially the pull-ups and push-ups. Also, my sit-up count could use some increasing. What I was wondering is how you would recommend staggering my exercises so I work all necessary muscle groups without burning out. Any advice and exercises would be extremely helpful. I currently max out at around 20 push-ups and cannot do any pull-ups yet.

    • Hey Jack, sorry for the late response buddy. I hope your training for the fitness assessment is progressing nicely! In terms of staggering exercises, I’ll tell you what I advised my buddy to do to get his push-up and pull-up counts up. For the push-ups, you need to train consistently, but not always to failure. You can do it daily, but make sure you’re finishing your sets with a few reps in the tank. Make sure you do take days off every now and then for proper recuperation. As for pull-ups, use the grease-the-groove technique. Have a pull-up bar installed in your house and every time you walk under it, do one pull-up (or assisted pull-up if you can’t do a regular pull-up yet). I’ve found this combination to work great. If you’re ever feeling burned out, take a few days off.

  16. Alex Palomar says:

    Hi I recently been in jail, And was doing 200 push ups every day. Was that not good?

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