How can I use push-ups to increase strength?

AndyP

First Post
I can currently only do 10 push-ups.
It seems like Grease the Groove (GtG) could get me to 20 push-ups in just a few weeks.
However my main goal is to get stronger (and more muscular) and I am not in a hurry.
From what I understand it is better to use a lower rep range, typically 5 reps, since this leads to both hypertrophy and max force neural adaptations.
And once one gets stronger a push-up becomes even more submaximal and therefore one can do more reps.
Therefore I am thinking weighted pushups. I have tried push-ups with a weighted backpack and this seems to work fine (at least for a while, loading say 1/2 my bodyweight on my back may be dangerous).
I understand that the push-up may have it limitations. If you are really strong you must benchpress.
However I am not very fond of the benchpress; it tends to hurt my shoulders and seem like a very unnatural movement.
Also I do not have ambitions to be very strong. If I could get up to the equivalent of a bodyweight benchpress I would be more than happy.
Regarding not being in a hurry I was thinking instead of GtG maybe doing something like Easy Strength.
That would mean 2 set x 5 easy reps of weighted push-ups every day of the week except for Saturday and Sunday.
Do you think this would work?

Thanks,
Andreas
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
@AndyP
Welcome to the forums. Good advice given thus far.
How about a little more info about you? Age? Training experience? What other training do you do or what sports do you participate in? And maybe most importantly, what are your training goals? (Getting stronger and more muscular is a bit vague...) Being able to do 20 push-ups for example may not be congruent with your goals.
 

AndyP

First Post
I am 46. My training experience is about 1 year of Starting Strength 1 year ago. I do not do any other sports except run 1-2 times a week.
My goals wrt to pushing are: equivalent of 1xBW benchpress. I am more interested in triceps strength than chest since I think it has more carryover.
With the gym being closed I also do goblet squats, kettlebell deadlifts and one arms rows.
At the moment I train like this: lower body day, upper body day, rest or run day. Repeat.
My main motivation is general health.

Thank you,
Andreas
 

offwidth

Level 9 Valued Member
I am 46. My training experience is about 1 year of Starting Strength 1 year ago. I do not do any other sports except run 1-2 times a week.
My goals wrt to pushing are: equivalent of 1xBW benchpress. I am more interested in triceps strength than chest since I think it has more carryover.
With the gym being closed I also do goblet squats, kettlebell deadlifts and one arms rows.
At the moment I train like this: lower body day, upper body day, rest or run day. Repeat.
My main motivation is general health.

Thank you,
Andreas
I am a big proponent of things with few moving parts (although I don't always practice what I preach)
  • Naked Warrior
  • Simple & Sinister
  • Running
 

RichJ

Level 6 Valued Member
Absent some you-specific issue I don't think the BP should hurt your shoulders. If you're 46 (ie not a kid and you're not bouncing back from injuries in 6hrs...) and you have a pressing based goal you might want to have someone evaluate your basic movement patterns. Same general rules apply to PU as BP - it's just lighter - but you're still probably doing damage. It could be something simple like you're flaring you're elbows out and/or shrugging your shoulders up.

If your goal is basic strength in basic movement - pretty hard to beat the barbell. If you get the basic BP dialed in really well you'll be surprised at how easy a PU becomes. I'd add some form of military press so you're not always working in the same plane.

Also I think if you get good at the basics everything well develop proportionately as it was meant too - you needn't worry about triceps v. chest.
 

Anna C

Level 9 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Agree with @RichJ that you can likely figure out what it is about the bench press that bothers your shoulders and fix it. Also agree this is the best way to build the strength you are after. But it's not the only way. And sounds like that's not an option for you right now equipment-wise anyway.

Regarding push-ups, you mentioned being more interested in triceps strength so I'll suggest doing your push-ups with your elbows in towards your sides, which tends to emphasize the triceps more. Make sure to keep your shoulders pulled down away from your ears through the whole movement.

There are also OAPU regressions that emphasize one side at a time, helping to build strength. Look for articles by Karen Smith on the StrongFirst blog.

At the moment I train like this: lower body day, upper body day, rest or run day. Repeat.
There's no need to split up lower and upper body days for general strength training (that's a bodybuilder thing). But if it's just for convenience of your routine, no problem.
 

Oscar

Level 6 Valued Member
If you can do 10, working your way up to 30 would set a good foundation for whatever variation you want to try next. And 30 is not a crazy high number, in a couple of months you could get there. That's what I did.

I worked my way to 40 reps, and now I'm starting a one arm push up program. So far so good.
 
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Whosonfirst

Level 4 Valued Member
Hi Andreas, I'm not trained or certified in anything, but pushups are one of my favorite exercises along with pullups. I am 6 months away from turning 70 years, and often do 60-75 pushups several times a week. If your goal to is to do 20 pushups, then just do more pushups. I wouldn't even consider adding any weight until you can do 20 reps in multiple sets. I no longer do any bench presses, after two shoulder surgeries, and have had to start back at zero at least three times in my later years. It would be helpful if you had someone that's certified see how you perform pushups concerning your hand spacing, etc. Can't answer your question as to GTG with pushups, but it works well with pullups. Trace
 

natewhite39

Level 7 Valued Member
Certified Instructor
@AndyP

1) Practice the plank in pushup position. Find a towel and squeeze it between your knees. To get stronger you need time under tension, total body tension is required for a solid pushup.

2) Perform Pushups on an elevated surface, like a counter top or table, so you can do more reps. You need more volume than just 10 reps.

3) Eventually, super set pushups on an elevated surface with pushups on the ground and then move exclusively to the ground only.

All the best.
 

Whosonfirst

Level 4 Valued Member
@natewhite39,
1) Practice the plank in pushup position. Find a towel and squeeze it between your knees. To get stronger you need time under tension, total body tension is required for a solid pushup.

2) Perform Pushups on an elevated surface, like a counter top or table, so you can do more reps. You need more volume than just 10 reps.

3) Eventually, super set pushups on an elevated surface with pushups on the ground and then move exclusively to the ground only.

I like all these suggestions. And when someone can gets to your step 3, rather than adding weight in a vest, do reverse elevated pushups. Feet up on a sturdy chair, or low bench or foot stool, and hands on the floor. I did those almost exclusively when in college.
 

watchnerd

Level 5 Valued Member
How about exploring more difficult pushups variations like progressions for handstand or one arm pushups?
The 'harder variations' are nearly endless:

--Decline push ups
--Diamond push ups
--One leg push ups
--Archer push ups
--Spiderman push ups
--Pseudo planche push ups
--Planche push ups
--Ring push ups

etc etc

I've done all of those except for planche push ups, as well as adding resistance (bands, weights) to standard push ups.

Adding resistance to the standard push up is the simplest, but learning the harder progressions bring more full body benefits.

I haven't trained bench in over 7 years, but when I was at a buddy's house, did 10 x 225 on his bench while we were BBQing together.

So it seems to work...
 

watchnerd

Level 5 Valued Member
Crivens! At what bodyweight (if that's not a rude question)?
Well, those are pounds, not kilos.

My current body weight is 230 lbs / 105 kg.

I would say that's a "not a bad bench for a guy my age / weight / lifting history who doesn't practice bench", but it's not what I would call a big number by any means.

Also, given how much the bench uses triceps, and how much overhead lifting I do, it's not like it was completely inexplicable.
 
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Chrisdavisjr

Level 6 Valued Member
Well, those are pounds, not kilos.

My current body weight is 230 lbs / 105 kg.

I would say that's a "not a bad bench for a guy my age / weight / lifting history who doesn't practice bench", but it's not what I would call a big number by any means.

Also, give how much the bench uses triceps, and how much overhead lifting I do, it's not like it was completely inexplicable.
My 1RM on the bench is 90kg/198lbs so 225lbs is big to me! I think my 10RM is 70kg/154lbs. I'm only 66kg though. I'd better go and eat something, immediately.
 

watchnerd

Level 5 Valued Member
My 1RM on the bench is 90kg/198lbs so 225lbs is big to me! I think my 10RM is 70kg/154lbs. I'm only 66kg though. I'd better go and eat something, immediately.
"225 for reps" is sort of a typical American bro goof-off test due to its use in the NFL combine.


FWIW, even the kickers in the NFL draft can put up surprising 225 bench rep numbers.

 

Chrisdavisjr

Level 6 Valued Member
"225 for reps" is sort of a typical American bro goof-off test due to its use in the NFL combine.


FWIW, even the kickers in the NFL draft can put up surprising 225 bench rep numbers.

Yeah, I'd get annihilated in the NFL. It's definitely not the sport for me.
 
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