Getting ripped with pushups is possible, as long as you complete enough sets and volume, and are consistent with your workouts. The number of pushups that you must do to get ripped depends on your current strength levels and body weight. Keep in mind that pushups will only develop your upper body musculature and that your workouts should not be done every single day.
Pushups primarily require recruitment from your chest muscles, but also develop your shoulders and triceps. They’re a popular strength-training exercise because they use your own body weight for resistance and thus require no additional training equipment. When completed at an appropriate frequency and volume, pushups are effective at building muscle size in your chest, shoulders and triceps.
According to National Strength and Conditioning Association’s Dr. Lee E. Brown, in order to get ripped, or to build a significant amount of muscle mass, you must participate in a frequent and high-volume pushup training program. Every time you complete a muscle building pushup routine, you leave your chest, shoulders and triceps muscle fibers broken down and damaged. In response, the body reacts by healing the muscles back stronger and bigger in order to better equip them to handle the type of stress they undergo during your training sessions. Therefore, getting ripped requires that each session provide enough of a stimulus to overload your muscles and then an adequate rest period in between each session for your muscles to completely recover. Your chest, shoulders and triceps will need at least 48 hours of rest in between sessions.
Dr. Joseph A. Chromiak of the National Strength and Conditioning Association states that at least eight total sets are needed for each muscle group in order to cause muscle building. Therefore, your workout sessions should consist of at least eight sets of pushups. Beginners are likely to find significant results from eight sets, but those who are more advanced in strength training may need even more sets to overload their chest, shoulders and triceps. The number of repetitions in each set depends on your own personal strength levels. Because you are lifting your own body weight and are thus unable to increase or decrease the resistance you’re using, instead of focusing on completing a specific number of repetitions, each set should be completed to near exhaustion. The final repetitions of each set should be difficult.
Consider changing the technique of your pushups in order to add variety to your workouts. By placing your hands wider, you place more emphasis on your chest. Bringing your hands in to a more narrow position will cause your shoulders and triceps to contribute more. Complete decline pushups by placing your feet on an elevated surface to place more emphasis on the lower section of your chest muscles. An exercise ball can be used to place your feet or hands on, which would require you to complete the movement in an unstable environment and thus cause recruitment from surrounding stabilizing muscles.
- National Strength and Conditioning Association Perform Journal: Training for Power: Hypertrophy Training = Volume; Dr. Lee E Brown, June 2002
- National Strength and Conditioning Association: Strength Training for Muscle Building; Joseph A. Chromiak
- National Strength and Conditioning Association Perform Journal; The Push-Up; Kyle Brown