Ever since I wrote The Grinder PT - Key to Mental Toughness eBook, I have noticed that the majority of people who attempt one of the toughest workouts I have ever created do quite well on pushups tests upon finishing. This eBook is modeled after the first month of SEAL training, where pushups are done five days a week in the magnitude of several hundred a day. Improvment surprised me - I assumed the workout would border on over-training.
This went against all the physiology I had studied in the past. What was meant to give SEAL candidates a taste of SEAL training on paper, turned out to build muscle and increase pushup maximum scores. Typically, you give the body 48 hours of rest before doing similar resistance exercises or weight training, so the body has time to recover and grow stronger. That is why many workout routines offer upper body exercises on Monday-Wednesday-Friday and lower body exercises Tuesday-Thursday.
Some workouts even give up to 72 hours of rest before repeating the same exercises. But Boot Camp in every branch has used pushups as a daily exercise either in organized PT or punishment for not conforming to regulations, usually improving results. Throughout the years of experiencing military training either as a student or instructor, I noticed people were typically stronger in pushups by the end of training.
So, I started experimenting mostly with younger people from 18-30 years of age with similar goals of increasing their pushups scores on the PFT. The program is a ten-day pushup plan that requires pushups daily, but still has some sound physiological rules that incorporate "some" rest but not much. Below is the program that has helped people go from 50 pushups to 80 pushups in two weeks.
On Odd Days
Do 200 pushups in as few sets as possible in addition to your regularly scheduled workout of cardio exercises. You can still do upper body workouts on these days if you are already on a program. This is a supplemental 200 pushups using maximum repetition sets (4 x 50, 8 x 25 ... it's your choice how you get to 200).
On Even Days
Do 200 pushups throughout the day. This can be little sets of ten done every half hour or fifty pushups done four times throughout the day.
If your maximum is under 50 pushups, do 200 a day. If your maximum is above 75, do 300 pushups a day.
Repeat the ODD/EVEN routine for a total of 10 days. Then take three days off and do NO upper body pushing exercises that work the chest, triceps, and shoulders. Then on day 14, give yourself the pushup test (one or two minutes depending on your PFT). I would not recommend this workout more than once every six months, since it rather challenging on the same muscle groups repeatedly.
Here are pictures of the three main types of pushups you can do to break up the monotony:
As you can see, the only difference in these three pushups is the placement of the hands. Regular pushups distribute your body weight proportionately between your chest, shoulders and triceps, whereas the wide pushups will work the chest more, and the Triceps or Close Pushups will work the triceps and shoulders more.
If you are not on a program, you can try to add this with a one of the free running programs to help your PFT running. See the "Running Plan for Marathons" article at the Military.com.
Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. If you are interested in starting a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle - check out the Military.com Fitness eBook store and the Stew Smith article archive at Military.com. To contact Stew with your comments and questions, e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.