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Push-up endurance not keeping pace with other exercises?

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  • Push-up endurance not keeping pace with other exercises?

    I've been doing a simple beginner bodyweight workout 3x/week consisting of three circuits of squats, push-ups, lunges, dumbbell rows, planks and jumping jacks.

    Over time, I've noticed that my endurance on most of the exercises has steadily improved. For example, whereas I couldn't complete all of the lunges the first time I tried this workout, I now get through all of them consistently.

    However, the same can't be said for the push-ups. No matter how often I do this workout, I always have to really struggle to get through the last few push-ups -- by the third set of 10 my arms just aren't interested in lifting my weight anymore!

    I'm perplexed as to why I seem to be making progress on all of the exercises except for the push-ups, and I'd love some advice on how to get better at these. Should I be increasing the number of sets? Should I be increasing the number of reps per set? Is there some totally different exercise I should be doing that will improve my push-ups as a side effect?

    Thanks!

  • #2
    It's more than likely to be your triceps that are giving out. As you begin to struggle do your remaining sets with your upper body elevated by putting your hands on a bench etc, this will put more emphasis onto the larger chest muscles.

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    • #3
      How have you progressed with your planks? If you are improving your plank duration I don't see why you wouldn't be improving your push-ups. It's all about your core So do some extra core work if you want more reps

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      • #4
        @OldSchool: I can certainly try switching over to incline push-ups. I'm able to complete the sets doing regular push-ups, though, just with difficulty, so I'm not sure swapping them out for an easier exercise is going to really further my training. Were you suggesting adding an extra set of incline push-ups after the regular ones?

        @walker.alles: The planks have been progressing well, like all of the other exercises (except the push-ups). Maybe I'm doing them wrong, though! I'll try to figure out how to aim a camera at myself next time so I can check my form against online videos.

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        • #5
          Peanut... I also have had a hard time my whole life doing pushups. They are just hard for me to do! In fact, just before seeing your post, I wrote onto my MDA blog about pushups being the bane of my existence! Love the synchronicities!

          Here is something that will probably help. Do your normal set of pushups. Then immediately drop to your knees, and do 5 more. Do that for every set, if you can. The lower weight will help you do more reps which will increase your strength and endurance over time. Good luck!

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          • #6
            I just increased my 30-35 range to 40-45 per set by doing two high-volume days. One day was 700 and then, a few days - I forget how long - later I did 820 or so in one day. But all in sets of 10. Then lots of non-arm days to let the muscle grow, and now I can drop and do 40 instead of stopping at 30 or 35! I plan on repeating this, with similar numbers, until gains stop. I know lots of people add weight, and that must work great, too! I just haven't tried it.
            Crohn's, doing SCD

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Knifegill View Post
              One day was 700 and then, a few days - I forget how long - later I did 820 or so in one day. But all in sets of 10.
              Holy cow! That's a lot of push-ups. Were those spread out over the entire day or did you do them all at once (with rests in between sets)?

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              • #8
                All day, every ten minutes my watch beeped and I'd do a set of ten. On the 820 day I set my watch for 8 minutes instead. They added up a lot faster!
                Crohn's, doing SCD

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                • #9
                  Can I just add that I rarely if ever do push ups any more, however, this week I attempted as many as I could in 2 minutes as it was a challenge on another forum. I completed 73 which goes to show that your push ups can improve just through a basic strength routine.

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                  • #10
                    Nice, well done OldSchhool!

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Peanut View Post
                      @OldSchool: I can certainly try switching over to incline push-ups. I'm able to complete the sets doing regular push-ups, though, just with difficulty, so I'm not sure swapping them out for an easier exercise is going to really further my training. Were you suggesting adding an extra set of incline push-ups after the regular ones?

                      @walker.alles: The planks have been progressing well, like all of the other exercises (except the push-ups). Maybe I'm doing them wrong, though! I'll try to figure out how to aim a camera at myself next time so I can check my form against online videos.
                      I was thinking that you could perform the incline version to prolong your sets or to help perform more sets if that was your goal.

                      As it is most likely your triceps giving out you could also try doing some with a very close grip to emphasize your triceps to build them up.

                      Most people think of push ups as a chest exercise but as people suggest making them harder by raising their feet it becomes more focused on the triceps, taken to an extreme it becomes a handstand push up which is all triceps and shoulders.

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                      • #12
                        I found that I was similarly "stuck" on push-ups, and then a coach made me improve my form, and they got harder for a little while but then my volume started increasing much faster. I had been doing them with elbows straight out to the sides, like forming a T with my upper body; I switched to doing them with the elbows back about 45 degrees, as though pushing them to the back corners of the room (but not elbows stuck to sides, that's a military press). This allows me to keep my shoulderblades down and my lats get a ton more activation. Now my push-ups are progressing as they should.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by OldSchhool View Post
                          Can I just add that I rarely if ever do push ups any more, however, this week I attempted as many as I could in 2 minutes as it was a challenge on another forum. I completed 73 which goes to show that your push ups can improve just through a basic strength routine.
                          You comin' over to the dark side, OldSchhool? This sounds eerily like something NOTR, Mr. Anthony, quikky, or I would say...

                          The Champagne of Beards

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                          • #14
                            Yeah, I basically never do pushups any more. Like, months at a time without them. Just heavy weights.

                            I've been traveling a lot the last couple weeks, and lifting has been spotty. Probably good, since I was due for a deload period anyway. One morning I was making breakfast in a rented condo and didn't have time to get to the fitness room or anything, so I smashed some pushups, air squats, etc. Even with not doing pushups ever, 6 sets of 20 knuckle pushups was easy, to the point of basically not even feeling like a workout.

                            Sent via F-22 Raptor

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RichMahogany View Post
                              You comin' over to the dark side, OldSchhool? This sounds eerily like something NOTR, Mr. Anthony, quikky, or I would say...

                              Yeah, never say never !

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