Will doing 100 push-ups a day leave you looking ripped? It certainly won't hurt the cause, and it'll give you an impressive short-term pump. But if you're serious about getting a lean and muscular physique that lasts, you'll have to do more than push-ups.
Although doing push-ups to fatigue can help you build a ripped body, they're not a magical solution on their own. If you really want to get shredded, you're going to need to watch your diet and include other types of physical activity too.
Your Plan to Get Ripped
If you're on a mission to get ripped, you need to foster three important habits: First, eating a healthy, nutrient-rich diet; second, doing lots of physical activity to help burn off excess body fat; and third, doing regular strength-training of your muscles to build that muscular body you want.
Your Lean Body Diet
Getting ripped means losing excess fat and building additional muscle — so your diet needs to meet two important goals. First, emphasize nutrients over calories; you should aim to eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats and healthy unsaturated fats, while minimizing added sugar, added sodium and saturated fats.
Next, you need to eat enough protein to let your body build new muscle. According to the International Society of Sports Nutrition's position stand in the June 2017 issue of its own publication, the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, for most exercisers, eating 1.4 to 2.0 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, every day, is enough for muscle maintenance and growth.
No need to slam protein shakes before or after your workout; the ISSN says you should spread your protein intake evenly throughout the day.
Burn That Body Fat
Your diet has a huge impact on your body composition, or the balance of muscle to fat in your body — but so does your level of physical activity. When it comes to doing extra activity to burn off the body fat that hides your ripped physique, don't worry too much about choosing the "best" exercises. The real best workouts are the ones that you can work into your life on a regular, ongoing basis.
Of course, you'll burn more calories faster if you do intense workouts, adding difficulty with sprint intervals or hill climbs, or extra resistance on your cardio machines. But don't be afraid to include other types of cardio too: You can walk, swim, bike, dance, take group fitness classes, go for a hike or chase the kids around the trampoline park — your imagination is the only limit.
As long as you're moving, you'll hit your goal. And as impressive as it might be to get ripped in a spectacularly fast time period, if you want to keep that ripped body for any period of time, it's better to take the slow and steady approach to building it up. Otherwise, you're likely to find yourself fluctuating back and forth in your habits and body composition.
Strength Training to Get Ripped
You could do only push-ups and build some pretty impressive chest and arm muscles. In a small study published in the June 2017 issue of the Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness, researchers split 18 male volunteers into two groups: Either doing low-load, high-repetition bench presses or doing push-ups that were adjusted to approximate the same load. At the end of the eight-week period, both groups showed significant and comparable increases in muscle thickness.
Although that study shows push-ups can be effective for inducing hypertrophy, it also makes it clear that bench pressing is effective too — no surprise there. But those aren't the only chest exercises at your disposal. According to a study sponsored by the American Council on Exercise, bent-forward cable crossovers and the pec deck machine are both particularly effective for working your chest, as well.
But ultimately, strength-training isn't only for looks. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, you should be strength-training all your major muscle groups twice a week — not just your chest and arms. So don't forget to include exercises like lat pull-downs, rows, squats, lunges, planks and crunches in your strength-training routine.
You Should Still Do Push-Ups
So, if push-ups won't shred you all by themselves, are they still worth doing? Absolutely. First, they're a great, functional exercise for your chest, arms, shoulders and core. You can do them just about anywhere; they're easy to scale to suit almost any fitness level, and you don't need any special equipment at all.
And according to a study published in the February 2019 issue of JAMA Network Open, having the strength to do push-ups can bode well for your cardiovascular health. The researchers followed 1,104 middle-aged adult men over a 10-year period and found that those who did more than 40 push-ups in the initial evaluation were significantly less likely to have a cardiovascular disease even during the follow-up period.
Tips for Better Results
If you decide that push-ups will be a central part of your quest for a ripped body, here are a few tips that'll help you get better and faster results:
Work to fatigue while keeping good form. Going wild just to squeeze in a couple more push-ups isn't worth it, because injuries will just delay your trek toward results.
Don't worry about arbitrary goals like touching your chest to the ground with every repetition; going too low during push-ups places your shoulders in a very unstable position. Instead, stick to a pain-free range of motion and aim for smooth, controlled movement with every repetition.
Start gradually, and, as your body adapts to the stress you're putting on it, add extra sets to get faster results. According to a study published in the July 2016 issue of the Journal of Sports Sciences, a higher weekly volume of sets means more results.
Do your push-ups (and other strength-training exercises) at least twice a week. Three times a week is fine too. However, don't fall into the trap of thinking that more is always better: Your muscles get bigger and stronger in the time between workouts, not during the workouts themselves, so you should give each muscle group at least one full rest day before you work it again.
If you can already do a lot of push-ups with good form, consider wearing a weight vest to add extra intensity, or using an elastic resistance band looped around your shoulders, then pinned tightly under your hands, to create extra resistance. If you have someone to help you, you can even try doing push-ups with a weight plate on your back — but this approach isn't for everybody.
Finally, a driven mentality is very helpful for getting a ripped body — but make sure you don't drive yourself to the point of overtraining. It's worth repeating: Working to the point of injury or overtraining won't help your results — it'll only delay them.
- Cooper Institute: "How Much Weight Is Really Lifted During a Push-Up?"
- JAMA Network Open: "Association Between Push-up Exercise Capacity and Future Cardiovascular Events Among Active Adult Men"
- Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness: "Low-Load Bench Press and Push-Up Induce Similar Muscle Hypertrophy and Strength Gain"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans"
- American Council on Exercise: "ACE-Sponsored Research: Top 3 Most Effective Chest Exercises"
- Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition: "International Society of Sports Nutrition Position Stand: Protein and Exercise"
- Journal of Sports Sciences: "Dose-Response Relationship Between Weekly Resistance Training Volume and Increases in Muscle Mass"