100 Push-ups in 22 Days



One from the vault:

Last month, I set a goal to do one hundred push-ups in a single set by the end of the month. Before I started working on this, I hadn’t done a single pushup in at least 10 years. At the beginning, I didn’t know if it would be possible, or how much it would hurt. I knew it would be a challenge, and I was looking for a challenge.

Three days before the start of the month, I did one set of pushups.  I wanted to find my baseline, so I could see the progress I was making, and I wanted a chance to recover, so I’d be starting from scratch on the first of the month. That day, I did 20 pushups. I pushed, but 21 wasn’t going to happen.  That’s not an impressive number, but I ride a desk all day and had spent 10 years lazy.   It could have been worse.

My initial plan was to do two sessions per day, morning and night.   I’d be doing a total of 56 sessions.   Each session would consist of 5 sets of my baseline, progressing to 100 push-ups in a set for the 56th session.    That would mean I’d have to add 1.5 pushups to my sets each session. I decided to add 1 to each set in the morning and 2 in the evening sessions.    My planned progression was 20, 22, 23, 25…95, 97, 98, 100 over the course of the month.

That lasted one day. February 1st, I did 100 push-ups in 5 sets of 20.   That night I did 110 push-ups in 5 sets of 22.  The next morning, I hurt so much I couldn’t do 10.   I did something like 8/5/5/5/cry-like-a-baby. My abs were cramping and my shoulders burned.   I ended the session in the fetal position, hoping all of the screaming muscles wouldn’t cramp up at the same time.  If pain is weakness leaving the body, then I was making a significant contribution to the the problem of homeless weakness particles.

Plan A failed.   As I waited for the pain to end, I had some time to think.  In between “Please don’t cramp! Please don’t cramp! Please don’t cramp!”, I developed Plan B.

I decided to base everything on the previous session’s largest set. The largest set would set my baseline for the next session.   The first set in the session would be half of the baseline.  The next three sets would be 3/4 of the baseline, and the final set would be pushed until I couldn’t go any further, establishing the next session’s baseline.  Starting from my newly established baseline of eight push-ups, my next session was 4/6/6/6/15.  The session after that was 7/11/11/11/16, then 8/12/12/12/16.

Plan B became an aggressive, self-correcting progression. If I pushed too hard, the next session was done at a lower level, allowing me time to recover.

The first week hurt.   Going from little-to-no real exercise to an aggressive exercise regimen is painful.  I was stiff and sore, but I was progressing. One of the best things about Plan B: Set #1 is a good warm-up.  Warming up is important.

By the end of week one, I was back to where I started, doing sets of 20.  I wasn’t sure I’d make it. I had a few days in a row that didn’t improve my baseline at all.   Then I skipped a day.  When I came back, but baseline jumped by 10 push-ups.   I had hit a small wall, gave myself a day to recover and had a 50% improvement.   Guess what got incorporated into Plan B?   If I had two days in a row without improvement over the four sessions, I skipped a day.

By the end of week two, my baseline was up to 60.   I stopped increasing the warm-up set, so it would still be a warm-up and not create strain.   I only went above 20 for the warm-up set once before I created this rule.  At this point, my session was 20/45/45/45/60.  That’s progress.

At the end of week three, my baseline was at 80.   I took the weekend off.

On Monday, February 22nd, I decided to see where my absolute max was.  I did a set of 20 to warm up.  I followed up with a set of 30, to make sure I was ready.   Set #3 was 100 push-ups, a full week early. I’m not going to lie and say push-up #100 was perfect, but it was done.    I went from barely being able to do 20 push-ups to successfully doing 100 push-ups in 22 days.  I spent the rest of the week perfecting my form.   After 75-80 push-ups, it’s hard to tell exactly how straight your body is and how low you are going, without a spotter or a mirror.

Next, I’m applying Plan B to sit-ups.


Sunday Roundup: It’s Push-Up Time

I Knew Pushups Would Pay Off Someday

Image by reid.gilman via Flickr

It’s the end of a month, so it’s time to announce my new 30 Day Project.   Last February, in 22 days, I went from having my abs cramp after doing 15 push-ups to doing a set of 100.   Yes, really.

The problem is that the push-ups weren’t perfect. Funny things happen to your body when you are doing 100 push-ups.   It’s hard to tell what your body is doing.  I had good form for the first 80, but after that, my body wasn’t perfectly straight.  I looked like a typical second grader in gym class.   But  I did it.  They were push-ups.

I haven’t done a push-up since.

In March, I am going to get myself back up to 100 push-ups, only this time, I will only be doing perfect push-ups.

Here’s the plan, based on what worked last year:

This weekend, I established my baseline.   I did as many push-ups as I could, until the point of failure.  Failure for this purpose is defined as either my form faltering or me collapsing.  I went until I couldn’t hold my body straight.

Starting on the first, I will be doing 5 sets of push-ups, twice a day.

Set 1: One half of my baseline. Starting from 24 push-ups, this set will be 12 push-ups.  As I progress, this set will never be more than 20 push-ups.  It is the warm-up set, after all.

Sets 2-4: ¾ of my baseline, so 18 to start.

Set 5: Go to failure. Once again, failure is defined as faulty from.  This will establish my baseline for the next session.

If I don’t progress for 3 days, I will take a day off to recover and–given previous experience–come back with some serious improvement.

This is a self-correcting progression.  If I can’t meet the previous day’s baseline, my last set will be lower, which will lower the baseline for the following session.

An interesting question I have is how it will affect my diet.  I haven’t been exercising at all, to see how well the slow carb diet does on it’s own.  Now, I’m going to be adding an aggressive exercise plan on top of it.   A plan that involves a bit of muscle bulking.  I’m guessing that my weight loss will slow down a lot, but I will shed inches like mad.  I will be tracking my progression, and my weight and  measurements.   The graphs should be fun.

30 Day Project Update

I am on the Slow Carb Diet.   At the end of the month, I’ll see what the results were and decide if it’s worth continuing.   For those who don’t know, the Slow Carb Diet involves cutting out potatoes, rice, flour, sugar, and dairy in all their forms.   My meals consist of 40% proteins, 30% vegetables, and 30% legumes(beans or lentils).    There is no calorie counting, just some specific rules, accompanied by a timed supplement regimen and some timed exercises to manipulate my metabolism.   The supplements are NOT effedrin-based diet pills, or, in fact, uppers of any kind.  There is also a weekly cheat day, to cut the impulse to cheat and to avoid letting my body go into famine mode.

I’m measuring two metrics, my weight and the total inches of my waist , hips, biceps, and thighs.   Between the two, I should have an accurate assessment of my progress.

Weight: I have lost 33 pounds since January 2nd!   That’s 3 pounds since last week.  Only 9 more to meet my goal for February.  Oh wait.   I won’t be hitting it this month.

Total Inches: I have lost 17 inches in the same time frame, down half an inch since last week.


I’ve got some codes for H&R Block Premium Online.  It’s federal only and the state return costs an extra $35, but that’s still a screaming deal.  Premium handles small business and investment tax issues.  If you want to get it, leave a comment saying so.  First come, first serve, until I’m out of codes.

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