OlderBeast 90-Day Push-Up Challenge: Why & How
This article was originally published at OlderBeast, whose mission is to help 40+ guys “double down” on body-and-soul health for the 2nd half of their life.
For 40+ guys intent on maximizing the second half of their lives, willingness to be a little New-Age-y helps. It opens your mind to things like eating more vegetables, doing yoga, and prioritizing “wellness.” At the same time, for physical fitness, there are Old School things we should stick (or return) to. Like push-ups, man.
They build upper body (and core) strength we strive to maintain or restore, in a time-efficient way. And you can do them anytime, anywhere. That’s why push-ups should be an OlderBeast staple.
So, here’s a CHALLENGE to meaningfully increase your max push-ups # in the next 90 days.
PUSH-UP’S: WHY & HOW
But first a little more rationale on “why push-ups” and pointers to great how-to sources on the Web.
OlderBeast mentions push-ups frequently for good reason. They work multiple muscle groups, require zero equipment, and build actual, functional strength (not just make a certain muscle get bigger).They give you a great, motivation-nurturing sense of accomplishment. They’re free.
Technique is important, though, especially at our age. And if you’re not in shape, they’re hard at first, so it helps to know “starter” variations. Or more-challenging variations if you want them.
Here’s a great, simple tutorial on push-ups. It clearly shows basic technique and multiple variations.
Maybe you haven’t done a push-up in a long time. TODAY can be the day you end that drought, dude.
Perhaps you do push-ups currently, but want to be less vulnerable to straining something. Or maybe you’re a push-up king (or at least prince) and want more variety and challenge. Me? I sometimes feel princely, but at other times aches and pains, or other normal-life factors, push me back toward something less awesome.
Push-ups are a never-ending cycle and quest I’ve learned to embrace. I hope you will too, brother.
WHY A PUSH-UP CHALLENGE?
Challenging yourself is a great way to add motivation and focus for working out. Sign up for a running, bike, triathlon or obstacle race (especially with a friend). Then you “have to” get in shape for it. Join a gym with High-intensity Interval Training (HiTT) classes, and go there X times a week to justify your investment. Identify a hard yoga pose you want to become capable of, and use online “build up to” videos to get there.
Or, just give yourself a physical challenge and a deadline.
Example: at OlderBeast a few months ago, we discussed the importance of keeping “adventure” in our lives. I mentioned plans to bike up Mt. Diablo (near San Francisco) on my 50th birthday. This was a “to myself” challenge: I resolved I WOULD do it, told a few people, and it helped spur focus on endurance, and more cycling.
I love writing for OlderBeast, but sometimes worry I sound like I've "figured it all out." NOT the case, man. I'm right…olderbeast.com
For the record, mission accomplished. No one mistook me for Lance Armstrong speed-wise, I promise. But I made it, and felt awesome for having done so.
This push-up challenge is another self-issued one — which I invite YOU to take as well.
90-DAY PUSH-UP CHALLENGE: HOW-IT-WORKS
We’re all at different start points, so there’s no “do this many” number for everyone. Rather, this challenge targets the same “improvement factor” for all participants.
On a day you haven’t done other strength work, get warmed up, then see how many (good form!) push-ups you can do before you hit muscle failure. That’s your Current Max.
Your target for improvement? Well, it’s easier to make proportional improvement from a relatively low base. If you can do 10 push-ups right now, for example, you should be able to at least double that. But if you can do 50, that same doubling — getting to 100 — is really hard.
So the target formula blends a “plus X number” and a “times X improvement factor,” to create a similar challenge from any starting point.
Formula: (Current Max + 10) * 1.2.
- Current Max NONE = 90-day target of 12. [(0+10) * 1.2 = 12]
- Max 5 = 90-day target of 18. [(5+10) * 1.2 = 18]
- 10 ==> 24
- 25 ==> 42
- 50 ==> 72
POTENTIAL STRATEGIES / APPROACHES TO FOLLOW
There are different theories on how to most-effectively increase your max.
Some are straightforward: do several sets of push-ups each time you work on them, and try to do 1+ more per set than you did the prior workout day. Variations on this have the # of push-ups in each successive set declining from a “max,” ascending as you go, or going up and then down in a “pyramid.”
Others approaches change the style of push-up you do, to vary intensity. For example, using narrow, normal, or wide hand placement, or putting your feet up on something, to make push-ups harder. Or putting your hands on a bench or table to make them easier (or wall even, if you’re starting from zero). Or your knees on the floor instead of your feet. Yeah, these are called “lady push-ups” by some…but I’m not too proud to do them if I’m trying to hit a total # and I run out of steam. Neither should you be, he-man.
There’s also a “grease the groove” theory about doing lots of push-ups via multiple sets throughout the day, with each set being a manageable quantity that doesn’t end in muscle failure. The idea is that your muscles (and neurological connections driving them) get habituated to doing push-ups.
Here are a few sources with more detail on different approaches (and also some further technique stuff):
- Born Fitness one month plan (fairly traditional escalation of sets and reps-within-sets)
- Military-oriented fitness video arguing for using multiple hand positions to move through different challenge levels and exercise all the muscles that get used (they assert you can “quadruple” your max — which I have an easier time believing if you’re starting from a lower base).
- Wiki-How article featuring two methods: a fairly “classic” one and one which is in the “grease the groove” school (and here’s more on the grease-the-groove idea)
- Men’s Fitness article on troubleshooting common problems
However you choose to do ’em, just do a lot of push-ups, man. And consider roping in your buddies who are into fitness…or want to be.
MY GAME PLAN & STAYING IN TOUCH
My normal routine includes the fairly conventional multiple-sets approach (normally declining from a biggest-first-set). So, I’m going to try out the multiple-hand-positions approach on some days, and the grease-the-groove approach some others, then see how I’m doing one month in.
If you have questions getting started or along the way, or after 90 days you want to check in on results, let’s use OlderBeast’s Facebook page to discuss.
And for the record, my Current Max today was 58. So my challenge is to reach 82 by July 10, 2017. I’m telling you in order to put some more healthy pressure on myself!
TAKE ACTION: SOMETIMES, KEEP IT SIMPLE
Whether or not you do this challenge in the short-term, please bring push-ups back into your life, guys.
There are some cool and fancy things emerging in the world of fitness and health. Like the understanding about how much interval training helps fitness. Or how nutrition does, of course. And on the horizon, more “personalized” nutrition and fitness regimens based on our DNA itself.
But sometimes it’s simple. Man gets on ground, with hands and feet forming four contact points, keeps his body rigid, and lowers/raises himself. The push-up.
“Be something you love and understand. Be a simple kind of man.” (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simple Man — click to listen)
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