9 Ways to Maximize Your Push-Up Challenge Efforts

Ready to take on the LIVESTRONG.com 30-Day Push-Up Challenge? On day 1, you'll do five push-ups. Every day after that, you'll add two to the previous day's total. By the end, you'll do 60! You'll also have a few rest days thrown into the mix to give you a mental and physical break. And through it all you'll have support from the Challenge Facebook Group.

Need a modification? Try push-ups on your knees. (Image: Chloe Millar/LIVESTRONG.COM)

Since it's the very first week of the challenge, it's important to start strong. So here are some tips to help you make the most of this challenge.

1. First, Perfect Your Form

As with any exercise you do, maintaining proper form is essential. Doing an exercise correctly not only ensures that you'll reap the maximum muscle-building benefits, but also that you're doing everything you can to protect yourself from injuries.

Here's how to do them correctly:

  1. Start in a plank position with your hands under your shoulders and your body in a straight line from head to toes.
  2. Contract your ab muscles so that your hips don't sag and your back doesn't arch.
  3. Bend your elbows as you lower your chest to the ground, keeping your hips level.
  4. Your elbows should be at about 45-degree angles to your body.
  5. Once you lower as far as you can, push yourself back up to a plank.

2. Keep Track of Your Reps

The numbers may start small, but they add up quickly! So to prevent forgetting what day you're on or having to count days on the calendar each time you go to do your push-ups, print out your calendar and keep it where you can see it.

Each day you complete, cross it off your calendar so you always know how many reps you have to do the next day. Alternatively, you can keep a copy on your computer or on your phone or log each day's push-ups in a paper journal. (Remember those things?)

3. Know When and How to Modify

Full-on military-style push-ups can be intimidating, especially for beginners. So if you find yourself struggling with the original version, try a few different modifications until you build upper-body strength.

Wall Push-Ups: Stand a few feet away from a wall. Lean forward and brace yourself with your arms, keeping your hands under your shoulders. Bend your elbows to bring your chest toward the wall. Go as far as you can, then push back to the start.

Incline push-ups are great, as they still incorporate a lot of core work. (Image: Chloe Millar/LIVESTRONG.com)

Incline Push-Ups: Place your hands on a bench, chair, table or other sturdy object directly under your shoulders. Bend your elbows and lower your chest to the bench before pushing back up. This version is the best for progressing to standard push-ups, as it also builds the core strength necessary for push-ups.

Put a towel under your knees during modified push-ups if needed. (Image: Chloe Millar/LIVESTRONG.com)

Knee Push-Ups: Start in a plank position, but drop your knees. Bend your elbows and lower your chest all the way to the floor. Push back up, keeping your back straight and your hips level the entire time.


If push-ups are hard on your wrists, try doing them on your fists, balancing on heavy dumbbells or with push-up bars.

Read more: 5 Things You Need to Know About Wall Push-Ups

4. Break Up Your Reps Into Smaller Sets

It's totally fine to do a few reps at a time with a small rest in between or to do sets throughout the day. For example, you can do some in the morning when you first wake up and some in the evening right before you go to bed. As long as you do all the reps for that day, you're good to go!

5. Switch Things Up With Variations

Feeling bored with the same old, same old push-ups? Change things up with different versions. You can try wide-arm push-ups to target more of your chest muscles or diamond push-ups (index fingers and thumbs touching to form a diamond shape directly below your chest) to target your triceps.

There are also elbow-to-knee push-ups, single-leg push-ups, single-arm push-ups, downward-dog push-ups and so many more! Get creative and share your favorites with the Facebook Group.

6. Work With What You Have

One of the great things about push-ups is that you can do them anytime and anywhere. Been sitting too long at work? Time for a push-up break! Watching TV? Do a few during commercials. Waiting for the kids to get ready for school? Do a few against the couch (either incline or decline).

7. Round Out Your Routine

Push-ups are awesome, yes, but there are so many other great upper-body exercises too. So if building your upper-body strength is a top priority, here are some other exercises to incorporate into your routine:

  • Triceps dip: Sit on a chair or bench and scoot your butt off with your hands gripping the edge. Bend your elbows to lower down, then straighten back up.
  • Bench press: Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand at chest level, palms facing your feet. Press them up over the center of your chest and lower back down.
  • Overhead press: Stand with a dumbbell in each hand at shoulder height. Press them up over your head and lower back down.
  • Bent-over row: Holding a dumbbell in each hand, bend at the waist and let the dumbbells hang in front of you. Lift the weights so that your elbows track along your sides. Lower back down.
  • Lat pulldown: At the lat pulldown machine, sit and grab the bar overhead. Pull the bar down toward your chest and raise it back to the start with control.
  • Biceps curl: Standing with a dumbbell in each hand and arms extended along your sides, bend at your elbows to lift and lower the weights.
  • Chest flye: Lie on a bench with a dumbbell in each hand, arms extended, weights directly over your chest and palms facing each other. Lower them down to chest height before pushing back up again.
  • Pull-up: Grab a pull-up bar, engage your shoulder and upper back muscles to pull yourself up to the bar and lower yourself back down.

Read more: The 7 Best Upper-Body Exercises for People Who Hate Push-Ups

8. Stretch It Out

Stretching is a key part of any fitness regimen, and because you'll be doing so many push-ups, you'll want to stretch out the muscles you're working. Here are some of the best:

  • Chest stretch: Clasp your hands behind your back and lift as high as you comfortably can.
  • Across-chest stretch: Reach one arm across your chest and hold it with the opposite hand.
  • Triceps stretch: Extend your arm over your head, bend at the elbow and reach for your middle back. Press your top elbow with your opposite hand for a deeper stretch.
  • Wrist stretch: Use your right hand to bend your wrist toward you and away from you.
  • Wrist circles: Rotate your hands in circles a number of times in one direction, and then rotate them in the other direction.

9. Don’t Lose Steam

Don't let your enthusiasm for the challenge die down as the month progresses. It's easy to start strong and then forget or lose interest. Don't let that be you! Join our Facebook Group to get support and motivation from other challenge participants.

Other ideas to keep yourself accountable include recruiting friends, family members or co-workers to do it with you, setting an alarm on your phone for the same time every day or giving yourself small weekly (or daily) rewards for meeting your goals.

How to Join the Push-Up Challenge

Step 1: Make Your Push-Ups a Daily Habit

Print out the 30-day push-up calendar below and use it each day to help you stay on track. Do the prescribed number of reps each day, and then check off each day as you complete them. Before you know it, it'll become habit!

Screenshot this photo to keep on your phone! (Image: Gracie Wilson/LIVESTRONG.com)

Step 2: Connect With Us on Facebook

For daily support, motivation and camaraderie with LIVESTRONG.com team members, join us in our Facebook Group for the 30-Day Push-Up Challenge. We'll share tips, motivation, pictures and more! Plus, we'll answer all your questions.

Step 3: Stay Motivated

Throughout the 30 days, we'll provide you with the tools and information you need to stay motivated and reach your weight-loss goals. Sign up for our daily newsletter or visit our homepage to get linked up with the push-up challenge and other great content, including:

  • Daily motivational articles to keep you focused on your goal
  • Nutrition and fitness advice, including recipes and workouts
  • Real-time community support from thousands of LIVESTRONG.com members
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