Increasing your push-up count is simple, all you need to do is stop doing them. Seriously, if you continue to bang away high repetitions of the same old standard push-up you will get nowhere. Instead, you’ll look in the mirror and scratch your head wondering when the results will finally show up. This isn’t to say that the standard push-up isn’t a good exercise. But if you want to go to the next level, you need to understand the concept of progressive overload.
Progressive overload is essential for strength training. It involves a gradual increase in stress placed upon the musculoskeletal and nervous system. In other words, to get bigger and stronger, you must make your muscles uncomfortable, adding new stressors all the time.
The most straightforward answer is to add more weight. Slap a dumbbell on your back and start pushing away. Sure, you could do this, but progressive overload isn’t just about increasing the weight load; it’s all about stress. This means doing slower push-ups, perhaps setting a timer for one minute, and only doing one slow, gruesome push-up in that amount of time. You could also change up your chest workouts, give the bench press or cable crossover machine a try. Or, if you want to stick with push-ups as your main form of torture, you can start varying them up.
The push-up is a staple exercise in the fitness community, so many variations have been invented throughout the years. Here are three essential push-up variations to add new stressors on your pectoralis major and minor:
- Diamond Cutter Push-ups: This type of push-up is a lot like the standard, except you’re keeping your hands in close-grip position to better hit the triceps. Specifically, you’re making your hands form a triangle.
Strong triceps are crucial to being able to increase your push-up count, as the pushing part of the exercise is primarily handled by the chest, triceps, and front delt muscle groups. When you reach the top of this exercise flex your tricep muscle to feel a greater contraction.
- Plyometric (plyo) Push-ups: These push-ups aren’t for the faint of heart. They involve you pushing down and during the pressing motion, pushing-off the ground to clap your hands together. Plyo push-ups look pretentious, but they make you more explosive and more athletic.
There are two alternative ways to perform this exercise if you don’t want to clap: the hover plyo push-up and the dumbbell plyo push-up. The former involves no clapping but instead little mini-jumps in a consecutive motion. The latter is pushing off to touch a pair of dumbbells in front of you. Both are brutal and will no doubt sculpt your chest muscles.
- Step-Through Push-ups: If you want to better isolate your left and right pecs you can try this variation. When going down you’re going to want to step your left or right foot to the opposite side. In doing so you’re going to be shifting the weight of your body and put a greater workload on one of your pecs. Alternate between steps and look forward to being sore in the morning.
Progressive overload is the most efficient method for packing on muscle. You can apply it to the push-up by slowing the exercise down, focusing on the metabolic burn. Or you can try one of the aforementioned variations. But don’t stop there, apply progressive overload to all your exercises.
If you want to get faster, start doing sprints, hill runs, or jogging for longer distances. If you’re looking to increase your pull-up count, try hanging from the bar for as long as you can; thus strengthening your grip and increasing your endurance.
It’s important to note that you don’t have to take any of these exercises to failure. Worry about adding stress and putting in quality reps. Follow these strategies and you’ll be a push-up and fitness god in no time.