The Fastest Way to Do More Pushups

Spend a lot of time with some incredibly fit people and you discover something very quickly: You don’t have to lift a ton of weight to be considered strong.

Some of the most incredible feats of strength don’t even include any weight at all. (Whereas others certainly do; no matter what you think of powerlifting, watching someone move 700 or 800 pounds is simply amazing.)

For most of us, being strong starts at a different place: relative body strength. That is, your ability to move your own body within space. It’s why bodyweight movements like pushups and pullups can be a great initial test of strength, and even challenging for those who have been training for many years.

Years ago I worked with Martin Rooney on a pushup test. It was a 3-minute challenge that  was incredible, but there was one flaw: most people I know couldn’t crank out pushups for 1-minute, let alone 3 minutes.

So over the last few years with clients, I’ve used different variations of this test as an assessment to determine baseline strength.

Test to see how you stack up, and then use the guidelines below to become better at pushups.

Step 1:

  • Set a timer for 1-minute and then start performing pushups

Step 2:

  • Stop counting when time is up, and record the number of reps you performed.

Pushup Rule #1

For a rep to count, you must go all the way down (chest 2 inches above the floor), pause, and you must lock out your elbows at the top. Also, you can’t let your hips sag or allow your knees to touch the floor. [In other words, your body should form a straight line from your ankles to your shoulders.]

Pushup Rule #2:

You can rest whenever you want, but the clock must keep running

Before You Begin: Pushup Test Tips

You really have 2 options that will help you perform your best:

  1. Perform pushups at a rapid pace and do as many as you can until you hit failure
  2. Pace yourself and take mini breaks every 10-15 seconds, doing what you can to prolong failure.

In the initial test, Rooney recommended a 15-second break once you started to slow down. This was necessary with a 3-minute running clock. But with only 1-minute, the game is a little different.

If you’re a beginner and not as strong, resting every 10-15 seconds will be beneficial to you because fatigue will catch up quick.

If your pushing strength is good, you might be able to maintain a consistent pace for 30 to 45 seconds, and in that case it’s best to push as fast and as hard as you can, but stop 1 to 2 reps shy of failure, rest 5 seconds, and then sprint to the finish line.

Assess Your Performance

The following scores are based on the averages of my online coaching clients. [Note: women tend to have scores that are 5-10 pushups less than the scores shown below.]

Below average: less than 15 pushups (Remember the rules above, for a legit rep it’s impossible to go any faster than 1 rep per second with the pause at the bottom and lockout at the top.)

Average: 20 pushups

Good: 30 to 35 pushups

Excellent: 40-45 pushups

Extraordinary: anything more than 50 pushups

How to Become Better at Pushups

If your pushup score is lower than you’d like, there’s a quick fix that will help make your upper body more powerful and explosive.

Follow this pushup protocol, trying to perform each rep as fast as possible, and after 8 workouts take the test again and see how you improved.

Week 1 (two workouts): Perform 10 sets of 8 repetitions of pushups. Rest two minutes between sets. If you can’t do 8 pushups, rest as needed following the same strategy used in the test.

Week 2 (two workouts): Complete 8 sets of 10 repetitions with 1 minute of rest between sets.

Week 3 (two workouts): Perform 6 sets of 15 repetitions with 1 minute of rest between sets.

Week 4 (two workouts): Do 4 sets of 20 repetitions with two minutes of rest between sets.

Take 5 days off from pushups, and then take the test again and see how you did.

Want to share your score? Use the hashtag #BeTheChange and let me know how you performed.


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  1. Hi “coach”!

    I’ve been doing your pushups workout using your strategy for 3 complete weeks now. I’m really average at pushups (max 21) and I really want to become good and maybe excellent. I use to do 30, but I would injure myself doing so. Then I wouldn’t do pushups for a year because I’m always afraid of injuring myself by pushing myself to my limits. Then, a year later, that cycle would haunt me again. Your program worked for me the first 2 weeks. By the third week though, I couldn’t acccomplish 6 X 15 pushups : I would get 15-15-15-14-11-10 at best. How should I approach week 4? Also, I just notice by reading on your site again that I was suppose to do the workout twice a day! Man… I was only doing it once. Should I restart from week 1 ? Anyway, as you can read, I need a little bit of guidance… Thanks in advance for helping me! I really like your pushups strategy though. J-F from MTL Peace!

    1. 2x a week, not twice a day from what it reads.

      Pretty interesting protocol. I’ll give it a try and report back

  2. Hi Coach!
    Thans for this stepwise program.
    I just want to ask you to assure me if we should do 2 workouts every week? Or every day? It is imporrtant for us to know that so that we can get benifit not injure our muscles.
    Thank you very much.

  3. Hi Coach.

    As of right now I’m in the extraordinary zone. Just did 50 pushups in a minute and all of them where assessed by a spotter. I dont understand the idea of training only twice a week? Last month I did the 100 pushups a day challenge and my pushups went from 42 a minute to 50 a minute. I feel like this plan would be quite detrimental to my training? This month I’ll be doing a different kind of workout that was recommended to me by a Sgnt in the Air National Gaurd. He said that I should do my max amount of pushups, ’60’ and then decide it by 3 and do 3 sets with 1 minute of rest in between them. And I’m doing this daily. I understand the idea of allowing your muscles fully regroup. However, I’ve found that if you let your muscles fully regroup they quickly adapt to the workout and you start losing gains. Now, I think your workout makes sense if you where benching, or doing weighted pushups, but for bodyweight training I believe you would need to do a lot more and start incorporating weighted pushups to get maximum gains. Could you either reply to this or send me an email explaining the workout style?


    Jonathan Mitchell.

  4. Hey Adam,
    No doubt great tips to build endurance for doing more pushups. Surely gonna implement these tips next time when I am sweating in gym 🙂

  5. “…it’s impossible to go any faster than 1 rep per second with the pause at the bottom and lockout at the top”.

    This gave me an image in my mind of people who perform a burpee by bouncing off the ground as they go into the pushup lol. But it’s true. Any exercise should be performed slowly with control, unless the goals are speed and agility.

    1. Don’t get us started on burpees 🙂
      Thanks for reading, David.

  6. Hello,

    On a good day I was able to to 60 plus or so push ups, on average however it hovers around 50. I took the challenge to be able to do 200 without pause. I started with 5 sets of 20 with a 3 minutes rest between sets. I would do that every 3 days (sometimes every 4 days). I would add to the last set 5 extra, then to the last 2 sets, and so forth. I am now at 5 sets of 35. I noticed that at the beginning doing all 20 was easy but now my last set are tedious.

    Am I on the good track? Is the something I should modify something?

    Best regards,

    Sammy Madisson

    1. I’ve never seen anyone do 200 consecutive pushups (and that includes 8 years of military service). It’s an aggressive goal, and if it’s important to you, go for it.
      However, I would argue that after a certain point, you don’t need to do more pushups – you need to do better or more advanced pushups. 5 sets of 35 is fantastic. Great work. My suggestion is to now work on getting stronger (loaded pushups or ring pushups).

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