Getting bigger in a healthy way requires a combination of a healthy, high-calorie diet and a dedicated program of resistance exercise. It may seem natural to expect a resistance exercise as popular as push-ups to be a part of that program. However, the nature of push-ups and of weight gain tells a different story.
You do a push-up by holding up your weight on your hands and the balls of your feet, with your body rigid and straight above the ground. The work comes from bending and extending your arms, pushing your body up away from the floor and lowering yourself back down. When training with push-ups, the more you do, the more rigorous the workout. Push-ups are an example of body weight exercises: resistance exercises that use the weight of the body to provide the resistance.
Getting Bigger Through Diet
Getting bigger is the flip side of the same coin used to lose weight on a diet. You must consume more calories than you burn in order to give your body the raw materials it needs to put on the extra pounds. Your body can put on no more than one-half pound of muscle per week, according to CNN health correspondent Dr. Melina Jampolis. This equates to eating about 200 to 300 calories per day after accounting for extra workouts. With diet needs this aggressive, push-ups alone will not help you get bigger.
Getting Bigger Through Exercise
According to Arnold Schwarzenegger in his "New Modern Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding," the best exercise sets for gaining mass are sets of low repetitions at high weight. Bench press, squats and biceps curls in brief sets at maximum effort are examples of this kind of exercise. Since push-ups have a low maximum weight and involve doing sets of many repetitions, they are not a good candidate for this purpose.
Will Pushups Make You Bigger?
In a word, no. No exercise all by itself will make you grow bigger, and even with proper dietary support push-ups are not the kind of resistance training that builds size. However, Oregon-based fitness coach Ben Cohn advises that doing push-ups will define and tone your muscles in a way that can easily give the appearance of extra size.
- "The New Modern Encyclopedia of Bodybuilding"; Arnold Schwarzenegger et al; 1999
- CNN Health: Gaining Muscle Mass
- Ben Cohn; Fitness Coach; Hillsboro, Oregon