I got bim bam banana pops, dixie cups
All flavors and pushups, too
I’m your ice cream man, baby, stop me when I’m passingby
See now all my flavors are guaranteed to satisfy
Thank you Mr. Jerick Revilla for inventing the modern day pushup in 1905, the same yearEinstein also derived the famous equation which reveals the relationship between mass and energy. The debate still rages on regarding what invention or idea has had the greatest impact upon mankind.I have always had a fondness for pushups. They have been a staple of my upper body training tool box for four decades. This past year they have risen to the apex when it comes to my personal push day for chest and tricep training. This adaptation is primarily the result of greatly decreasing the amount of typical pressing movements I perform because of my degenerative shoulders. Pushups serve me well and cause me no real discomfort. I wrote about the events that served as the impetus for me becoming enamored with the pushup in my training manual, The Tao of B.
During these school days, I constantly thought about our after-lunch recess similar to how a kid at fat camp daydreams about scarfing down a Snickers bar. One day the principal came over the newly-installed intercom system that had replaced our old system of Dixie cups and strings to inform us that a car had broken down on the playground. We were to avoid going near it. So, after a quick prayer, it was off to the cafeteria. My friends and I quickly ingested our food so we could both avoid tasting it and have more time to engage in our favorite playground activity—basketball. Strangely enough the boat-like vehicle warned about via the intercom chose the corner of our designated play area as its Mt. Ararat. My two friends and I inadvertently leaned on the bumper of the car as teams were being picked. Once this was done, the game ensued like any other day. As I was hooping it up, I noticed out of the corner of my eye that the principal was making her way toward us. She trudged along with her mighty calves as scared students dove out of her way careful to avoid her wrath. As time passed, it was clear that “Attila the Nun” had my crew in her sights. We knew she was headed our direction, but we were oblivious as to why. The action ceased as she came upon us and announced that she was aware that some of us had leaned on and made contact with the automobile that appeared to be none the worse for wear. We were initially astonished that she had a direct phone line to the Big Guy himself. After all, who else could have told her? Later, it was discovered that the school secretary who lived across the way actually called and informed the head of the Gestapo of our misdeeds. The punishment for this insidious grade school crime was to be marched to the center of the playground and to be formally executed. Just kidding. It was actually must worse. My friends and I were led to the middle of the schoolyard and ordered to assume pushup position. Mind you, our recess was 30 minutes in length. As I slowly assumed the position, I also assumed that this would last but a few minutes and then we would be released back to the rest of the population. I learned it is wrong to assume especially when dealing with a sexually- frustrated woman of the cloth. Time ticked by as the midday sun beat down upon us on the scalding asphalt. Tiny pebbles dug into our palms as sweat dribbled down forming puddles for the circling vultures to drink. Okay, this part is a bit embellished. I do pride myself from the standpoint of being the only one of the three to endure this escapade without breaking down. The other two were broken and lost face as they whined and cried in front of the younger kids who once held them in high esteem. I took from this the ability to persevere and the lifelong admiration of the pushup. Before I even embarked on my journey through the hallowed halls of high school, I had a firm foundation of training due to my childhood experiences. Pushups were indelibly etched in my mind as the starting point for all things powerful.
THE MAIN THING IS TO MAKE THE MAIN THING THE MAIN THING
We can talk all day about the value of pushups and the fun challenges that can be part of every workout; however, it must first be established as to exactly what we mean when we say to perform a proper pushup. In my home gym we try to adhere to certain guidelines so that we are executing the pushup correctly to simultaneously gain the greatest benefit as well as establishing rules so that we are all on an equal playing field. Some areas of focus or cues are listed.
- Head is neutral and in line with the spine.Broomstick.
- Shoulders are retracted and depressed.
- No hip or knee sagging. Do not plow the field.
- Feet are together perpendicular to the floor-stay tall on the toes. Drive into the floor.
- Press heels of hands into the ground-grind the hand. Eagle talons.
- Hand placement should resemble an arrow not a T. Be an arrow.
- Do a full range of motion. Touch the chest if possible. Lock out at the top.
The Guinness Book of Records lists the most pushups in one hour as 2,220 by Carlton Williams from Wales UK. The feat was achieved in 2015 at Margaret River, Australia. Oh, the directional irony of so many pushups from down under. This bloody bloke broke his previous record of 1,874 push-ups in an hour. My personal best is 900 or so in one hour and 500 in 30 minutes. On Labor Day this past year I met a personal goal of doing 2,000 pushups in 3 hours. It was actually 2,080. My strategy was to perform pushups at the top of every minute until I reached my goal. So, I would do say 15 pushups and then pop up and walk a lap in my basement gym. As the second hand quickly found its way back to the top of the minute I dropped back down and cranked out more pushups. For the sake of accuracy and simplicity, I did it in blocks of time. For example, I may go the first 30 minutes doing 13 pushups each minute for a total of 390 in the first block. The next 30 minutes I may do 15 resulting in a total of 450 for the segment bringing my total for 1 hour to be 840. If you are really motivated, shoot for the 24 hour record of 46,001 pushups. The record holder, Charles Servizio, actually stopped at 21 hours and 21 minutes resulting in an average of 36 pushups per minute.
THEY COME IN ALL VARIETIES
Adapt what is useful,
Reject what is useless,
And add what is specifically your own.
I chose 11 favorite pushup challenges or varieties that you can sample. Why 11?
Because it is one more than 10. We always go to 11.
- CHAIN PUSHUPS
The lifter begins by assuming a correct pushup position on the floor. The individual performs a pushup and the spotters will load a segment of chain onto the lifters back by draping it across the shoulders. The lifter then does a pushup with the one segment of chain. Next, we load another segment by criss crossing over the initial segment. We continue this process until all the chain is loaded. We usually strive for a total of 200 lbs. of chain or until the lifter fails to perform a repetition. My chain segments vary in weight from 15-20 pounds per segment. When all the chain is loaded we then begin to pull one segment off of the lifters back as a repetition is completed. If the person begins to fail we will carefully and strategically pull multiple chains off until the lifter can execute a proper pushup. The goal is for the lifter to never break down during the set and to stay in the proper pushup position throughout.
A variation is to begin a set with all the chain loaded and then have the lifter hold in the top position for 5 seconds. A pushup is done and the individual again holds at the top for a five count. This is repeated until 5-10 reps are completed.
DAVE TATE WRITE-UP ON CHAIN PUSHUPS
POWER B JACK ME UPS
Many years ago, Jim Wendler and I made a trip out to ASU to see Joe Kenn and his staff. Joe is the strength coach at ASU and has done a tremendous job over the years. He’s also one of the most educated coaches I know. While Joe was in some meeting, Jim and I decided to raid his video collection to see what he had. We popped in Power B’s Bench Video.
I’d sent this to Joe a couple years earlier and hadn’t seen it in a very long time. Jim hadn’t seen it yet so we decided to check it out to see what we could find. It’s always a great idea to review your educational sources because you forget about a lot of stuff. In this case I’d forgotten about a lot of things shown in this tape.
This is a hardcore training tape put together by Glenn Buechlein (over 700 pound bench press at 242). Glenn takes you through several of his team’s training sessions in 100% hardcore fashion. He trains in a very small private gym and has had to come up with different ways to attack the bench press. One of these is what I call “Power B’s Jack Me Ups.”
To perform this movement, set up any way you can to perform your standard push-up. I like to use hex dumbbells or a power bar lying at the bottom of the power rack to do this. This keeps the wrists in the same position we bench press in.
Next, select a set number of reps and add one chain per rep group. For example, you’ll do three reps, add one chain, three more reps, add one more chain and so on. Work up to the point where you can do the prescribed number of reps, then go back down by removing one chain and doing three more reps and so on.
The trick is to make sure you load the chains across the back so one end falls over the shoulder and the other end over the opposite lat muscle. Each chain will cross over the next forming an X across the mid back.
Placing the chains across your neck.
Doing too many reps per group. Start with 3-5 and see how high you can go.
Arching your back. Just use good push-up technique.
I use a set of ramps that were originally constructed so that my father could change the oil in his vehicles. Each ramp was constructed with eleven cross bar or rungs. We use these to perform pushups at different levels and angles. The ramps are placed approximately 2- 2 1/2 feet apart so that the lifter can do a fuller range of motion with each repetition. A favorite with the ramps is to do three repetitions at each level or rung and then proceed upward to the next level on the ramps. The benchmark or challenge is to go up and then back down in 60 seconds or less. This means 66 pushups need to be performed in a minute to succeed.
A personal favorite of mine is to use a deck of standard playing cards to knock out hundreds of pushups while also nailing the pushing and stabilizing muscles from a variety of angles. Diamonds represent close-grip pushups while hearts are wide. Clubs are elevated and spades are declined. I elevate by doing pushups off a farmer’s walk bar, and I decline simply by putting my feet on a bench or on a box used for squatting. Whatever suit you draw dictates the type of pushup, and the number determines the reps. For example, if a lifter draws a six of hearts then six wide grip pushups are performed. To make it a bit tougher I say that Aces are 20 reps; Kings are 15, Queens 13 and Jacks 11. I throw in two Jokers that require 25 reps bringing the total to approximately 500 pushups. The goal is to complete all of these in 30-40 minutes depending on the number of people participating.
I commandeered this one from Mr. Jailhouse Strong, Josh Bryant and changed it up a bit. The Juarez Valley Pushup Challenge consists of ascending and descending repetitions in an alternating fashion. The repetitions are performed in descending order on all odd-numbered sets and on even-numbered sets; reps are performed in ascending order until they finally meet in the middle.
A Juarez Valley Ten is performed like this:
- Set 1: 10 reps
- Set 2: 1 Rep
- Set 3: 9 Reps
- Set 4: 2 Reps
- Set 5: 8 Reps
- Set 6 : 3 Reps
- Set 7 : 7 Reps
- Set 8 : 4 Reps
- Set 9 : 6 Reps
- Set 10: 5 Reps
- Set 11 : 5 Reps
- Set 12 : 6 Reps
- Set 13 : 4 Reps
- Set 14 : 7 Reps
- Set 15 : 3 Reps
- Set 16 : 8 Reps
- Set 17 : 2 Reps
- Set 18 : 9 Reps
- Set 19 : 1 Rep
- Set 20 : 10 reps
Between each set, walk eight feet across your “cell,” keeping in the spirit that this routine evolved out of the penitentiary. The goal is to complete this sequence in less than fourminutes. The record in my gym is three minutes.
Try the Juarez Valley at the end of your next chest session.
The killer’s breed or the demon’s seed,
The glamour, the fortune, the pain,
Go to war again, blood is freedom’s stain,
But don’t you pray for my soul anymore.
2 minutes to midnight
Two minutes is a great finisher and a challenger even for the most hardened and experienced lifter.
Begin by getting into proper pushup position. For the first 15 seconds do as many pushups as possible with perfecto form. When time runs out immediately hold for 15 seconds at the top portion of a pushup. Arms should be locked out. Next, drop down to halfway and again hold for 15 seconds. The next phase may be the most difficult, and testicular fortitude and tenacity are required. Drop down to ¾ of a pushup or about a fist off the floor. I call this hovering. Hold this position for 30 seconds and then push back up to the halfway position once more. Hold halfway for 15 seconds and then go all the way up and lock in once again. Finish by grinding out as many pushups as possible for 15 seconds.
You only truly succeed with this Iron Maiden challenge if you maintain correct pushup position throughout the agonizing two minutes. Bunny humping or sagging down will not be tolerated.
Raising the hips in an effort to mimic a Boy Scout pup tent will not suffice.
Finally, no moving or pressing out of one of the isometric hold points is allowable. When you have mastered this with no cheating then it is suggested to do the challenge with some chain as an added bonus. I have successfully completed the challenge with 40 lbs. of chain draped over my shoulders.
120 Seconds of Doom.
Eliminate the right
Eliminate the wrong
Eliminate the weak
Eliminate the strong
Eliminate your feelings
Eliminate too late
Eliminate the hope
Many moons have passed since I first implemented the elimination pushup challenge. I recall routinely finishing baseball conditioning workouts by having up to thirty baseball players clearing out portions of the weight room so that a human circle could be formed. When the perfect circle was formed, next, rules were doled out. Proper pushup position must be maintained. All the reps must be full ROM. If someone was clearly resorting to techniques that indicated cheating or resembled a circus contortionist then they were subsequently kicked out of the circle…eliminated…game over.
The command for everyone to assume pushup position was barked and we were ready to roll. We would start with a team captain and he would perform one pushup. When completed he would yell out, “One, done!” This signaled the player to his left to repeat the process. This clockwise action continued until everyone completed the initial single pushup. When the burning ring of fire blazed its way back to the first participant the leader would perform two pushups and again shout that he had done it. If a lifter was unable to hold proper position or failed to execute the required amount of pushups they dropped out. It was not uncommon for this type of workout to last 7 minutes or more. The winner of this challenge earned the right to brag and walk tall. This was a badge of honor.
The elimination pushup challenge can be done in large groups such as I discussed or it can be head to head with another lifter. What person with any pride wants to be eliminated?
Breathing has been a focus on mine for the last two years. I consistently state that breathing is Batman and everything else is Robin. I do morning drills for breathing on a daily basis. I have made an effort to spread the word on the value of breathing to anyone who visits my home gym to train. Often, when finishing a workout, I will demonstrate how I breathe when performing pushups. I find that most lifters primarily breathe out of their mouth or worse yet hold their breath when performing pushups. This is commonly seen when planking as well. In an effort to feel stable or locked in, people tend to not breathe. I ask lifters to do a set of pushups as they normally would and count the reps. It is usually without fail that I see the same person double their repetitions when focusing on only doing nasal breathing during the set. I inform them to relax and to breathe with the diaphragm, inhaling and exhaling through only the nose. This takes some practice. The key is to breathe independently of the movement. Normally lifters are advised to inhale on the way down and exhale on the way up. I breathe when I feel I need to regardless of where I am in the movement pattern.
VIII.SCOOTER BOARD PUSHUPS
Scooter boards were a vital part of my generation’s physical education. They essentially are stout looking skateboards made out of wood with four wheels.
Creative PE instructors back in the 70’s required my classmates and I to roll around in various positions utilizing the scooter board as our vehicle as we travelled down the road to nowhere- not entirely sure what the method to the madness was. All I know is that we had races and the winning team did not have to stay after and put the scooter boards up. Plus, this activity was a helluva lot better than square dancing.
I accidentally rediscovered scooter boards as I was searching around for something on Amazon. My mind immediately began processing the potential uses for this retro rolling slab of lumber. I experimented and in the end I discovered two primary uses. I sit on the scooter board and use a Spud strap attached to my lat machine. I am able to replicate the same movement of an expensive row machine. For pushing, I do five or so pushups with my hands on the scooter board and then I move forward without getting out of pushup position in 3-5 foot increments. I push the board while simultaneously propelling myself forward with my toes. I then do five more pushups and continue this until I reach my point of destination. This generally means I do this movement the length of my weight room. This has proven to be a worthy challenge.
BABY SEAL OR NAVY SEAL?
I don’t stop when I am tired. I stop when I am done.
When you think you are done you are only 40% in to what your body is capable of doing. That’s just the limits we put upon ourselves.
David Goggins is a retired Navy SEAL and is the only member of the US Armed Forces to complete SEAL training, the US Army Ranger School, and Air Force Tactical training.
An accomplished endurance athlete, Goggins has completed over 60 ultra-marathons, triathlons, and ultra-triathlons, setting new course records and regularly placing in the top five. He once held the Guinness World Record for pull-ups completing 4,030 in 17 hours, and he’s a sought after public speaker. What better way to push yourself to your pushing limits than to introduce some routines developed by a real deal Navy SEAL?
1 pushup. 15 second break. 2 pushups 15 second break. 3 pushups 15 second break. You get the idea.
You go up to 18 pushups (171 total).
No time limit, but keep time and try to beat your previous score.
X.5 FOR 100
10 push-ups on 30 seconds, for five minutes.
Quick way to knock out 100.
Behold, here comes the son
Believe it, he was born to be the chosen one
The call is for a Warrior
His name will echo on the sea and on the ground
A challenge that has stood the test of time has been Martin Rooney’s Warrior Push-up Test. Martin is a world class strength coach who has been featured in training magazines and articles around the world. What is appealing about his challenge is that it does establish standards of excellence based upon the number of pushups performed in an allotted amount of time. Like it or not, most competitive lifters like to see how they rank and match up with other alphas.
The key or point of emphasis is to focus on correct technique and form while counting reps. It is not impressive when you look like a chicken pecking for food in the barnyard. Also, be sure to lock or fully extend at the top. In my nearly forty years of lifting I have noticed there are two types of lifters. Those that exaggerate -or dare I say lie- about their exploits and those that really do what they say. Don’t be the first guy. We know who you are.
1) After a warm-up, you are going to do push-ups for 3minutes.
2) You can rest whenever you want – but the clock keeps running.
3) You must do every repetition with perfect form.
4) Pace yourself.
Rooney even provides these “standards” for men.
Add up the total number of reps you perform in 3 minutes:
< 55reps = below average 55-74reps = Average 75-99reps = Good 100-110reps = Excellent >111 reps = Extraordinary
“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
One could legitimately argue that the pushup is the greatest of all time when it comes to an exercise. They are challenging when done correctly-that is why technique is paramount. They are in my opinion much better than planks for the core. The abdominals are the muscles primarily responsible for spinal stability during a pushup. Plus, planks are as boring as my coffee table. Pushups are easy to transport and take up minimal floor space. The only real equipment required is you. I encourage you to embark on a journey to master the pushup. Go back to the simple things. Do the basics. If you cannot muster up the motivation I know a nun you can call.