pushups with an american flag

Pushups: How to Improve your Numbers

Before hitting the weights and getting underneath a barbell became the norm, there was push-ups.

Push-ups are one of the classic foundational or compound exercises of fitness.

Targeting your entire upper body, push-ups are an excellent way to get stronger, build muscle, and increase endurance.

Have you been stuck at the same number of push-ups for weeks or months? Want to increase the number of push-ups you can do?

Let’s take a closer look at the pushup exercise, the different types of pushups, and how to increase the number of pushups you can do.


Pushup Exercise Benefits

There’s a reason that push-ups are still around after all of these years: they are incredibly beneficial.

Here are several benefits of pushups everyday and why you need to incorporate push-ups into your weekly fitness program.

Upper Body Strength: Make push-ups a part of your routine and you’re going to get stronger. In fact, one study found that push-ups provided comparable strength gains to the bench press exercise. [1]

Lean Muscle Growth: Although pushups are a bodyweight exercise, they are very effective at triggering hypertrophy when performed correctly and for the required repetitions.

Muscular Endurance: Even with perfect form and execution, doing push-ups is still something of a numbers game. The high rep counts will help to increase your endurance.

Cardiovascular Health: One study found a correlation between the number of push-ups performed and the risk of cardiovascular disease. Long story short, the more push-ups you can do, the lower your risk for CVD. [2]

Convenience: Few exercises are as convenient as they are effective. You can do push-ups in almost any place, making them an excellent on-the-go exercise.


Pushups Muscles Worked

The benefits of push-ups come from the muscles that the exercise targets.

The primary muscles that are activated by push-ups include the chest and front deltoids (shoulders).

The supporting muscles that are targeted include the abdominals and triceps.

Muscles that assist with stabilization are located opposite of the main muscles such as the rear delts (supporting the front delts) and biceps (stabilizing the triceps).


Different Types of Pushups

There’s a good chance you’re familiar with the classic push-up, but there are several variations of the exercise that can help to increase your numbers.

Here are a few easy pushup variations along with more difficult options that you can add into your upper body workout.

With all of the following push-ups, it’s important to bring your chest to the ground or surface and pause for a second or two before returning to the starting position.


Pushups for Beginners

The following push-ups begin with the easiest variation and get progressively more difficult.

Wall Pushups: If you are recovering from an injury or surgery, this is a good place to start. You place your hands against a wall with your feet behind you. Slowly, lower yourself to the wall and push back up.

Knee Pushups: Place a comfortable mat on the ground before kneeling down. Maintain a tight core and flat back as you lower yourself.

Incline Pushups: Place your hands on an elevated surface like a park bench and maintain a tight core as you lower yourself down.

Wide Pushups: Take a traditional push-ups stance but extend your hands outside of shoulder width.


Hard Pushup Variations

Once you feel comfortable with all of the push-ups listed above, give these more difficult variations a try.

Again, remember to lower yourself slowly and pause at the bottom before returning to the top of the movement.

Hands-Close Pushups: Begin as you would a traditional push-up but bring your hands closer than shoulder-width. You’ll feel this more in your triceps than normal.

Diamond Pushups: Create the shape of a diamond with your hands on the ground then perform a push-up. Your hands will be in the center of your chest as you lower yourself.

Decline Pushups: Place your feet on an elevated surface like a bench in a gym or a park bench. Focus on maintaining a tight core as you lower yourself into the push-up.

Ring Pushups: Lower two gymnast rings toward the ground. Take hold of them with one in each hand. Perform push-ups, focusing on perfect form as you fight for stability.


How to Improve your Pushup Numbers

Now, let’s talk numbers.

Here’s how to get better at pushups and increase the number of pushups you can do.

I’m going to outline a trick I learned in the army for increasing your push-up numbers within two weeks.

On Day 1, I want you to set a timer for two minutes then do as many push-ups as you can with perfect form.

You can give yourself a “break” by extending your hips back as you would in Downward Dog, but you can’t get up from the push-ups until the timer goes off.

Record the maximum number of perfect push-ups you completed. Now divide it in half.

For example, if you did 50 push-ups in two minutes, dividing that in half would give you 25.

On Day 2, perform 25 push-ups. Every day thereafter add one more push-up.

So, on Day 3, you would do 26 push-ups. On Day 4, you would do 27 push-ups. And so on.

On Day 14, perform the test again, you will see a dramatic improvement in your numbers.

Give yourself a day or two of rest then do this system again until you are really happy with your push-up numbers.


Need more help with your push-ups?

Check out our Push-up Improvement program  to help you hit the Elite level of 100 push-ups 



  1. Calatayud, Joaquin; Borreani, Sebastien; Colado, Juan C.; Martin, Fernando; Tella, Victor; Andersen, Lars L. Bench Press and Push-up at Comparable Levels of Muscle Activity Results in Similar Strength Gains, Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research: January 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 1 - p 246-253 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0000000000000589.
  2. Yang J, Christophi CA, Farioli A, et al. Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men. JAMA Netw Open.2019;2(2):e188341. doi:10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2018.8341