If you are training for a fitness test that includes max push ups, make sure to note their protocol first to ensure you are performing them the way that is required prior to your test. Some fitness tests have you perform max push ups in a given time, or more likely, there won’t be a time limit but will be terminated if there is a pause in performance. Furthermore some protocols have you touch your chest to the floor or object on the ground. However what I have been seeing more commonly is that you have to achieve a 90 degree joint angle in your elbows in order for the rep to count, and a full lockout at the top.
Lets quickly talk about proper form. Starting in the prone position (on your stomach) with hands under the shoulders directly next to the chest, push up into a high plank position with the core engaged, glutes squeezed and feet together. While performing the push ups your arms will be like an airplane or an arrow, hips shouldn’t be sagging and the butt should not be sticking up in the air. If this is not possible you may have to first work on push ups from the knees or possibly on a wall and work your way to the floor.
Now, here are 6 suggestions towards helping you increase your repetitions while performing push ups:
- Perform max push ups 2-3 times over the course of your day
This will allow you to get uncomfortably comfortable with the challenge of going to failure. It will also improve your muscular strength and endurance, as well as mental stamina.
2. Choose a number of reps and complete them throughout your day
Choose a number, say 200, and break them up over the course of the day. This is a great way to achieve volume without the accumulation of fatigue. Take the opportunity to emphasize good form for every rep.
3. Utilize weighted push-ups
Wearing a weight vest or a loaded backpack is a great way to increase your push up count. Obviously if you can perform multiple push ups under additional load, your body weight will feel much lighter. In my opinion you should be efficient at performing unloaded push ups first before adding load, and when you do, introduce weight in small increments.
4. Incorporate different variations
While there are tons of variations of push ups, utilizing wide grip push ups to emphasize the outer fibers of the pecs, narrow grip to emphasize the inner fibers and the triceps, as well as incline and decline for the upper and lower pecs are some great options for you to use.
5. Incorporate rest/pause methods, as well as mechanical drop sets
Mechanical drop sets – You start with the hardest or most difficult variation of an exercise, and as you reach technical failure, meaning you cannot maintain good form, you move to an easier variation. Since we are talking about push ups, one could start with weighted push ups, move to unweighted from the toes, then drop to the knees, then move onto incline push ups, and then could take it even further by pressing against a wall.
Myo reps – This is a specific rest/ pause training technique that involves taking a working set to the point of failure to ensure maximum muscle fiber activation, then maintaining this muscle fiber activation over a sustained period of time by using short rest periods. To do this you will perform 1 set of push ups to failure, then rest for 20 seconds, complete 3 more reps, repeat this pattern until you cannot even do 2 push ups.
6. Strengthen core muscles
Its not just the pecs involved in push ups, your mid and low back muscles and even your glutes need to be able to withstand high repetition push ups. Incorporating exercises such as variations of planks, dead bugs, good mornings, and bridges are some excellent choices that will carry over nicely when performing max push ups.