Push-ups and progression

How push-ups can improve your health Push-ups are one of the most effective and versatile exercises you can do. They not only strengthen your arms and shoulders, but also your core and legs. They also improve your balance and coordination. So, push-ups are a great way to improve your health. But push-ups are not only good for your health, but also for your confidence and mood. Regular exercise not only strengthens your body, but also your mind. Through the challenge that push-ups present, you learn to overcome yourself and achieve new goals again and again. This will help you develop more confidence and stamina – qualities that can be useful in other areas of life. Regular push-ups can also help reduce stress and improve your mood. Exercising releases the hormone serotonin, which is responsible for feeling good, among other things. So besides the many health benefits that push-ups bring, they can also make you feel happier and more relaxed.

How do I improve on push-ups?

Similar to other strength exercises, push-ups need to be done regularly and with a certain intensity if we want to improve in this exercise. It is best to include push-ups in your training plan at least twice a week. Depending on the level and type of push-up (normal push-up, Archer push-up, Diamond push-up, Hindu push-up, One Arm push-up, etc.) it makes sense to use a set and repetition scheme between 3 and 4 sets of 8-12 repetitions. In this range we achieve the best anabolic stimulus to induce muscle hypertrophy (muscle cross-section increase, the muscle gets bigger). Let’s assume we have push-ups twice a week in our training plan and perform 3 sets of 10 repetitions each, this results in a total volume of 60 repetitions. However, it should be mentioned that the intensity of these 60 repetitions should be high if we want to optimize our training performance.

If an athlete does 10 push-ups but could easily do 30, then the intensity is not high enough and the parameters need to be changed to achieve the desired training stimulus. For example, he could do the push-ups much more slowly, which increases the time under muscular tension and induces muscle failure more quickly. Further, assuming he is doing normal push-ups, he could perform a more challenging push-up variation, such as a Diamond Push-up or Push-up with Elevated Legs. If you do a variation and manage to do the first two sets, but don’t have enough strength to do the third or fourth set completely, you can always switch to an easier variation. Let’s say we can do two sets of 10 repetitions with Diamond Push-ups but only 5 or 6 repetitions in the third set, then we can change the hand position in the third set and do normal push-ups, or we do four repetitions of Diamond Push-ups and six repetitions of normal push-ups to ensure our training volume of 3×10 repetitions.

Handposition beim Diamond Push-Up
Hand position during Diamond Push-

If my training goal is not hypertrophy but strength, then we also need to adjust set and repetition numbers. Usually in strength training, you use lower reps and fewer sets to increase strength, but at the same time you increase the difficulty. Instead of 3×10 reps, you could do 5×5 or 6×4 reps at this point, which fall into the functional hypertrophy range.

How can I increase the difficulty?

There are several ways to increase the intensity of an exercise. In the case of push-ups, we can change the TUT ( Time Under Tension), the load, or the variation to achieve an increase in intensity. For example, an example of a longer TUT would be a performance where we go down slowly and in a controlled manner for 5 seconds and then explosively come back to the start position.

We can change the load by wearing a weight vest. There are different types of weighted vests with different weights. It might be worthwhile to invest in a weight vest that can be loaded manually so that you can regulate the additional weight yourself.

A heavier version can of course also help us to adjust the intensity so that it suits our training goal. For example, clap push-ups or push-ups with the legs elevated would be suitable for this.

How long should I train like this?

An important factor in maintaining sustainable progress in training is the principle of periodization. This means how long do I train with a certain training block and how many breaks and regeneration phases do I have.

We recommend the following strategy for skillful periodization:

1. Block

6-12 weeks hypertrophy:

Training volume should be between 3 and 4 sets and 8-12 repetitions

Deload (active regeneration)

one week with half the number of repetitions and sets for active recovery


3-6 weeks of functional hypertrophy:

Training volume should be between 3-4 sets of 4-6 repetitions

Deload (active regeneration)

one week with half the number of repetitions and sets for active recovery

That would be the end of one macro cycle and you can start the next one. In the best case, one has noticeably increased and can master the next hypertrophy block with a more difficult version or with additional weight.

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