Editors’ pickHealth

What I Learned Doing 3,000 Push-Ups

Photo by Ayo Ogunseinde

I started doing this not as a challenge. My inspiration to do push-ups consistently came from reading the book “Living with a SEAL” by Jesse Itzler. In the book, the Navy SEAL that trains Jesse mentions that push-ups was the best exercise. Jesse is a marathon runner so he is really fit. Reading the book, I was surprised that their only training consisted of the the following:

  • Long runs
  • Farmers-carry on treadmill
  • Long runs with a weighted vest
  • Pull-ups
  • Sit-ups
  • Push-ups

That was it. So really simple how a marathon runner could improve their performance with only these exercises. Anyhow, I decided since push-ups was seen as the best exercise by a Navy SEAL, I was going to give it a try.

After a few day of doing 100 push-ups a day, I decided to do it consistently for 30 days. 100 push-ups for 30 days would be 3,000 push-ups.

Below are a few things I learned while doing these 3,000 push-ups.

Change things up:

A key lesson I learned from doing 100 push-ups a day for 30 days straight is to change things up. It gets boring doing the same routine exercises to complete 100 push-ups each day.

If you want to an incentive to keep doing the push-ups, you have to add some changes to your routine. It will challenge you and it will keep things interesting.

You can see how I changed my routine in the Day-to-Day section.

Repetition + Consistency = Results:

Doing a repeated action on a day-to-day basis will get you results.

When I started I could only do 20 push-ups max at a time. It would also take me a long time before I could do another set of 20 push-ups.

At day 30, I could do 33 push-ups. A 65% increase over my max 30 days ago. As well, I could do 33 more just after 5–10 minutes of rest.

When I first started doing the push-up pyramids. I could only get to 8.

A push-up pyramid is where you start with 1 push-up, rest for 15 seconds and do 2 push-ups, rest for 15 seconds, then do 3 push-ups, rest for 15 seconds….. so on and so forth.

When I finished I could get up to 14. That is 105 push-ups in total.

Improvements will come, you just have to be repeat an action consistently each day.

It takes very little time to be healthy:

When you read the Day-to-Day section you will see that the push-ups for each day all took less than 15 minutes total.

Compared to when I first started I noticed a lot of healthy benefits. They include:

  • Not being winded when walking up many flights of stairs.
  • More energy throughout the ENTIRE day. Even during the 6p.m.-9p.m. lull when I used to sometimes take naps.
  • More muscle definition on my arms and chest.
  • Less fat around most areas of the upper body.

15 minutes a day for is not much of a price to pay for these great benefits.

Remove the limits to your exercise:

One of the best things about doing 100 push-ups in a day is that you are not constrained by location. You do not need to go to a gym or a fitness class. Push-ups can be done anywhere at anytime. This makes it so that if you cared you can get your reps in anywhere. If you read the day-to-day section you’ll see that I do my push-ups in some pretty weird places.

Day-to-Day:

Day 1:

I split up my sets of push-ups. That means I would do one set of 10, then wait 20 minutes or 2 hours to do another set.

The AC is turned up in my office. I’m in a t-shirt for the summer. It is cold. First I try to wear an ugly sweater I have stashed in my desk to keep warm. My co-worker asks me if I lost a bet….. great….

This is a great start to my first day of push-ups. I guess my co-workers will find it weirder if I start doing push-ups.

A few minutes later more people make comments.

I take off the sweater and begin doing push-ups intermittently.

Every hour or some I would run to the stairwell or a hallway and pump out 10 to 20 push ups. It keeps me warm and keeps the ugly sweater off of me.

People see me do the push-ups in the hallways. They somehow make less comments about that than about my sweater.

Day 2:

I wake up with a lot of energy. I am energized by the push ups. My body is sore. Not too sore though. Its a Tuesday I am on the road quite a bit.

At night, I end up doing 10 push ups on a side walk while me and my girlfriend are out for a stroll.

She thinks my push-up form is weird and mocks my form. Great…..Oh well…

The last 10 push-ups today were a struggle. I do them right before sleep. I had to do the last 3 one by one.

Day 3:

I am sore. Realllly sore. Nevertheless, when I jump out of the bed in the morning before doing anything, I pump out 10 push-ups.

I had to attend a company year-end party this day. It’s a full day event . I drink way too much. I get home and do 90 push-ups. 10 push-ups at a time until I get all 90. When you are really drunk you do not feel muscle soreness at much.

Day 4:

I am super hungover. Still I jump out of bed and somehow get 10 push ups out. I proceed to throw up right after. Bad idea.

I don’t do any push ups until about 4 p.m. Then I realize I am not going to hit my count for the day if I don’t start soon.

I am still hungover but feel better from the morning. I do not want to miss my 100 today. I focus and push hard. I tell myself you are going to get through 90 more. No sleep until I get through 90 more.

I do 90 push-up in spurts of 10 or 20 reps over one hour and a half.

I feel awesome afterwards. It helped with the hangover. I feel a sense of accomplishment from actually hitting my push-up count while hungover.

I proceed to do 2 hours of learning about Python coding right after. I’m back in the flow.

Day 5:

It’s my morning routine now, I do 10 push-ups right out of bed before anything else.

I am sore though, my arms and shoulders feel tight. Some recovery time would be good but I signed up for 30 days straight, so no complaining.

In the book, Jesse is sometimes so exhausted by the training, but they take no days off. I am going to channel this and do the same.

Day 6–8:

I go on a family camping trip for the long weekend. I can already anticipate many obstacles occurring as I try to hit my push up count each day.

When I start on the first day I get some furtive glances and questions. But they are mostly positive. Other campers also were steal some glances my way when I do them.

I round out the push ups each day but they are in some odd places.

On a tarp, by the beach, on muddy ground, in a hiking trail, with little bugs in my face. No matter, I do them anyways. This teaches me that you can do push ups anywhere and you shouldn’t let different environments stop you. Get your exercise in no matter what.

At this point I can already feel myself getting stronger. The initial wave of soreness really dissipated by after my first day camping. Now I can do 20 reps per set and still feel good, whereas before 20 was as much as I could do.

My right shoulder is hurting a bit at this point. It is not a nagging pain, but it feels tight when I do my push ups.

Day 9:

I wake up and my arms feel like they don’t exist. It’s tough to lift them up. I don’t why they feel like this but I don’t do my 10 push-ups in the morning.

Some real bombshells are dropped on me at work today. Nevertheless, I persevere through 100 push-ups.

I come to the realization that all pain is temporary. Whether is getting through these push-ups or being overwhelmed with work.

Day 10–11

I notice my workouts are getting a little stale. As in, I do not get the same level of soreness. So I switch things up and start to do some pyramid push-ups.

Pyramid push-ups go something like this: I would do one push-up followed by 15 seconds rest, then two push-ups followed by 15 seconds rest. So on and so forth. After reaching 6 push-ups, I would increase my rest time to 30 seconds.

I can only get to 8 push-ups in the pyramid before being unable to do more. So to fill the 100, I complete two pyramid exercises maxing out at 8 push-ups and then fill out the rest with non-pyramid push ups.

My arms kill after the 8 push-up pyramids. I hope for some soreness the next day.

Day 12–14

This adjustment is good! As in, its making me really sore. On days 12–14 I go out drinking each day. The pyramid push-ups are definitely harder post drinking.

Even still there is improvement, my best pyramid push-up is now at 11 reps.

With these push-up pyramids, I find out that it takes me a total of 11 minutes each day to complete 100 push-ups. Not a lot of time spent for all the benefits it gives me.

My arms kill after each pyramid. But I am getting used to these as well. In the book, Jesse pushes the pyramid to 18 reps for a total of 171 push-ups. My new goal is to be able to do that.

But to do that I will need to dial up the intensity and get stronger. I will have to think of other exercises to improve my push-up endurance to last all the way to 171.

Day 15:

Today I dialed up the intensity. In the morning I jump out of bed and do 20 push-ups.

After getting home from work I decide to finish off all 80 remaining push-ups in one go. I start the pyramid and get to 10 reps. On the set with 11 reps, I get to 5 and can’t do another push-up. I take 1 minute rests and get to 80 by doing 5 on reps each set.

Afterwards, my arms a feel like they are weighed down by lead. I worked up a good sweat.

The whole process takes me only 10 minutes and 46 seconds.

Hopefully, this will help me improve my endurance to be able to get up further on the pyramid.

Day 16:

Woohoo! 100 push-ups! Pyramid style. It takes me a total of 13 minutes and 56 seconds. I do all of this right after I come home from work.

I do improve on the pyramid, I get to set 12 and do 10 reps before I cannot do another push-up.

That gets me to 76 push-ups. I do the rest in reps of 6 with one minute rest in between.

By the end I’ve worked up a good sweat and my arms are screaming. Actually, no, my shoulders are screaming. Going to the washroom to wash my face was so hard. My arms were moving in slow motion when I lift them up to my face.

I take solace in the fact that I hit a new high in the pyramid and got through 100 push-ups in one sitting.

Day 17–18 will be tough. I am going to a conference with after parties on both days. I got to make sure I can get my reps in.

Day 17:

I segment my push-ups into 5 sets of 20 reps and complete them. I do the first 40 reps sober. I do the remaining 60 reps after having 5 rum and cokes.

Day 18:

I call it pretty early at the conference today. So its back to Pyramid push-ups for me. This time I barely squeak out the 12 rep set, which gives me 78 on the day. The 13 rep set I wait a few minutes to do but complete. Then I do 9 to get to 100.

In all it takes me 14 minutes and 30 seconds. It is much less disjointed than breaking it up into sets of 6 reps and resting shorter.

My arms also hurt much less after this, it does not hurt that much to lift my arms above my shoulders, I am improving.

Day 19–21

Day 19 and 20 I do 4 sets of 25 push-ups. I had to go to a wedding that weekend and timing did not work out to do the pyramid push ups.

Day 20 was especially rough, I had to do those push-up late at night after arriving home from the wedding the day before. I had to do it with a big hangover as well. Then again, I am not a rookie to doing push-ups with hangovers. I don’t actually know if that is good or bad.

Day 21 was awesome! When I come home from work I being my push-up pyramids. I get all the way to the 13th set without failure. Then I get to the 9th push-up in set 14. This completes the full 100!

Lately, I been noticing that I have been eating healthier. With the exception of parties, where I consume a lot of alcohol. I look for the complimentary fruits at my office much more and bananas have been come a lifesaver. This was an unexpected bonus to my push-up challenge.

Day 22–24

These are some tough days, it is busy at work and I have plans after work. I do my push-ups in four sets of 25 for Day 22 and Day 23.

For Day 24, I realize that I am bored with pyramids. So I try to see how much I can do in one go. I reach 33 push-ups before my form gets really bad. Not wanting to get hurt I stop there. I end up doing another 33 and a 34 to finish off the day.

Day 25

When I wake up today I do 20 push -ups to WAKE me up. It works. I attend a conference after work and end up getting home pretty late. Around 9 p.m.

At around 10 p.m. I start my pyramids. The AC is broken in my house, and it was hot. Yet somehow, I finish 14 sets of the pyramid, for a total of 105 push-ups. I do this in 12 minutes and 58 seconds. What?!

Despite all the heat and my fatigued body I actually complete my best set on the pyramid.

Lately, I have been seeing some great effects. I am no longer exhausted after work. I have much more energy after work. As well, my stamina has increased. I no longer breath hard when I walk up several flights of stairs. As well, I have also noticed much less fat around my arms and chest.

Day 26:

The push-ups today were difficult to do. It was a Friday and I had to go to the baseball game after work. Of course, there were drinks at the bar beforehand.

I get home around 11 p.m. but I am too buzzed to actually do any push-ups. I end up starting my push-ups are 12:30 a.m.

Surprisingly I do 4 sets of 25 push-ups to finish. My joints feel creaky and my arms feel tight as hell. But I do it anyways.

Day 27:

It is likely because of the lack of sleep the night before, but it was difficult for me to do my push-ups. My arms are really tight and my energy level is low. I can feel it when I wake up.

I try to do as many reps as possible. On the first set I can only manage 20. Then I manage 25. Then 25 again. Then at night, my energy comes back to me and I end up doing 30.

I feel it though, my chest is sore and my back is tight. I need a rest, doing 100 push-ups a day non-stop, with no recovery is decreasing my performance.

Day 28–29:

These two days were especially busy with social outings and work. I try to complete the push-ups as fast and as less disruptively as I can.

This means I do them in sets of 33–34 reps for 3 sets. I find out that 33 is my limit to good form. My form starts breaking down after 33 reps.

Day 30:

The last day. I decide that I wanted to switch things up a bit. And to see how hard I can push it.

I end up deciding to do 15 push-up sets with a 1 minute rest until I hit 100.

I do up to 5 sets, which is 75 push-ups with not much of a problem. On the 6th set I manage only 10 before I cannot do another push-up.

I rest for 3 minutes before finishing my final 15.

The next day I wake up with a sore chest. The new method is working.

I decide to continue onto the next exercise set out my the book, sit-ups. I will keep doing 100 push-ups a day and add 100 sit-ups.

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