High Rep Push-ups: Do They Build Muscle?

Here is the question about push-ups as I answered it on Quora.

I’ve been doing push-ups till I fail which is about 30 to 35 push-ups Will I see a muscle improvement overtime?

I just had to jump in and help. There were some very sketchy answers. And I am being extremely kind when I use the word “Sketchy”.

So you deserve a good answer, so let’s have at it.

If you keep doing push-ups until you fail, you will see muscle endurance improving.

Chances are you will not build any more size and strength gains will be minimal.

Endurance strength is very different from maximal strength or power.

A person who does 100 push-ups looks the same as he did when he/she could do 50 push-ups.

Look at push-up champions. If what everyone else is saying was true, they would have huge chests and arms. Never the case.

MK.J Joseph, 2092 push-ups in 1 hour.

K.J Joseph, 2092 push-ups in 1 hour.

I am not saying that doing high volume push-ups are bad.

They are just not the most effective way to build muscle and strength.

Why? Because you are using a sub-maximal load for a long period of time.

That burn is lactic acid building up in the muscles, not the pain of breaking the muscle down.

If high volume with a sub-maximal load truly worked marathon runners would be massive! Consider this, who has bigger legs, a sprinter or marathon runner?

This is what I would do.

  1. Try doing push-up variations. Stay in the 10–20 rep range.
  2. Work on keeping your body tight. This means pulling your shoulders down, bracing the upper back, tightening the butt and abs, quads, hamstrings and calves. You are doing a moving plank so make it look like one. This will be really hard in the beginning but you will see a difference.
  3. Try lowering yourself down with a count of 5 and exploding up with a count of 1.
  4. Elevate the feet to put more pressure on the shoulders.
  5. Try a few sets with the hands and elbows in close to work the triceps.

Do these things and I promise you will see a difference.

Sample Push-up variations

Push-up with Mountain Climber

M Factor Push-up

Downward Dog Push-up

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