Push-Ups: 21 and Counting

Push-ups are a great way to assess muscle endurance of the upper body and core. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) and the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology (CSEP) recommend that males perform a push-up test pivoting from the toes and females from the knees.

What happens on average when a female goes from a modified (bent-knee) push-up to a standard (straight-leg) push-up? Usually, form breaks down very quickly and the number of repetitions plummet. A female that can do a maximum of 20 modified push-ups will struggle to get 10 standard push-ups.

Remember, form is key! Spreading your hands very wide and doing half the range of motion (like Michelle Obama did on The Ellen Show a few years ago) doesn’t really count. They need to be done in a strict “military” style using the kiss-the-baby technique.

That’s how Jessica is doing them in the following video:

If you recall, Jessica has a goal of doing 10 pull-ups by the end of the year. With push-ups, she’s cleared 20 – the next step is 30. We’ll accomplish that goal with small, incremental gains over a long period of time (known as “the Kaizen method”). Gaining one extra rep every two weeks will get her to that goal by the new year. It won’t be easy, but she should be able to do it.

How will I get her there? Well, keeping her “lean and mean” and using muscle endurance methods as outlined on page 122 of The Elite Trainer should do the trick. If you wish to achieve a similar goal, I’ve got a great video that shows you how to make push-ups easier or more challenging depending on your current strength level (you can check it out at this link).

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