Take the 100 Pushup Challenge….if you dare!

The Challenge:

You are to work up to perform 100 pushups (or as many as you can) in 5 minutes. If you do not reach 100 then record how many pushups you can do in 5 min below in the comments. You can use your watch to time it, clock or this online stopwatch here.

Scaling by Ability

Scale to your ability level (such as angled pushups on stairs/ledge or with bodyweight straps or against stairs/bench/low wall/couch) and stop after 5 minutes. Do the best you can and report your time and score below in the comments (to help motivate others out there and also compare progress in the future).

Make it a 50 pushup challenge if that is what is needed for you at this time.

For those that think 100 in 5 min is too easy? (which I am not one of those people) Do a larger range of motion with hands on blocks, using straps, or elevated feet. Still too easy? Well then feel free to strap on a weight vest (or put on a backpack full of books or additional weight).

Below is a quick video of how to use some bodyweight straps to change the horizontal angle of your body.

Challenge Tips:

Break your pushups into sets and do NOT go to failure during any set. For example if you can only do 25 pushups max at once, do not do 25 at first. Leave about 2-3 pushups “in the tank”. So in this case do a set of 20-22 and then stop and rest. Then go again stopping 2-3 short of failure.

Or better yet break it down into somewhat easier sets of 10 (until that gets too hard) with minimal rest between. Going to failure will only fatigue your muscles and require more recovery from it (and that 5 min will be up quicker than you know it!)

How to Getter Better by “Greasing the Groove”

The “evil Russian” Pavel Tsatsouline is the one who introduced people to the concept of “greasing the groove”. Below is an excerpt from his article entitled “Grease the Groove for Strength” originally published 1999 in MILO: A Journal for Serious Strength Athletes.

Your grandmother used to tell you: to get good at something, you must do it often, do it a lot, and do it to the exclusion of other things.

Specificity + frequent practice = success. It is so obvious, most people don’t get it. Once I came across a question posted on a popular powerlifting website by a young Marine: how should he train to be able to do more chin-ups? I was amused when I read the arcane and non-specific advice the trooper had received: straight-arm pull-downs, reverse curls, avoiding the negative part of the chin-up every third workout… I had a radical thought: if you want to get good at chin-ups, why not try to do… a lot of chin-ups? Just a couple of months earlier I had put my father-in-law Roger Antonson, incidentally an ex-Marine, on a program which required him to do an easy five chins every time he went down to his basement. Each day he would total between twenty-five and a hundred chin-ups hardly breaking a sweat. Every month or so Roger would take a few days off and then test himself. Before you knew it, the old leatherneck could knock off twenty consecutive chins, more than he could do forty years ago during his service with the few good men!

A few months later Roger sold his house and moved to an apartment. A paranoid Stalinist that I am, I suspected that he plotted to work around the ‘chin every time you go to the basement’ clause. By the degree of the Politbureau Comrade Antonson was issued one of those ‘Door Gym’ pull-up bars. Roger wisely conceded to the will of the Party and carried on with his ‘grease the chin-up groove’ program. Roger Ivanovich’s next objective is a one-arm chin. He just does not know it yet.

My father, a Soviet Army officer, had me follow an identical routine in my early testosterone years. My parents’ apartment had a built in storage space above the kitchen door (it is a Russian design, you wouldn’t understand). Every time I left the kitchen I would hang on to the ledge and crank out as many fingertip pull-ups as I could without struggle. Consequently, high school pull-up tests were a breeze.

Both Roger and I got stronger through the process of synaptic facilitation. Neurogeeks never got around to telling iron heads that repetitive and reasonably intense stimulation of a motoneuron increases the strength of its synaptic connections and may even form new synapses. Translated in English it means that multiple repetitions of a bench press will ‘grease up’ this powerlift’s groove. More ‘juice’ will reach the muscle when you are benching your max. The muscle will contract harder and you will have a new PR to brag about.

you can also read the entire article here (PDF)

So if you want to get better at doing a certain movement (more reps in this case), then more frequent practice will help you actually achieve that goal, provided you follow some simple rules:

  • This challenge is a test, which will bring you to failure at some point (for most all). Doing a test to failure often will not help as you need more time to recover from it. Just use it once in a while to gauge your progress (like once every couple weeks).
  • You never want to go to failure during any “grease the groove” set, and should do sets of about 50% your max reps (so if you can only do 40 pushups to failure, then your sets are around 20).
  • Daily practice should be broken up into multiple sessions and spread through out the day (such as doing 20 pushups every couple hours)
  • Keep a steady pace and under control, this isn’t about speed…more strength.
  • If you are feeling progress slow down, then do less reps/sets during the day.
  • Have fun with it, make it a habit like the example above (do 20 pushups everytime you open the fridge for example…or walk into a certain room)

Give it a shot with any exercise that you are looking to improve reps on. You can also modify this for strength work by increasing the resistance (80%+ RMax).

Report below in the comments how many pushups you got, and your time if you completed all 100 in under 5 min. Good luck!

Challenge Too Easy? Go Atomic!

This is an added bonus for those who think the regular challenge is just way too easy…do full range “atomic” pushups. See the video below for explanation (requires suspension/bodyweight straps).

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