The Unauthorized Guide To One Hundred Pushups

Unauthorized Use

Photo By Bengt-Re

So you want to do hundred pushups? Good luck.

If you want the textbook answer, go to www.HundredPushups.com and follow the progression guide and in six weeks time, you’ll be able to to do 100 like *that.* Boom. Presto. Done.

Yea, Maybe if you’re the Hulk.

If you’re starry eyed and perfect at following guide, you might be able to do it in six weeks. I know people have done it before and I’m not one to say it’s impossible, but it definitely wasn’t the case for me. Unfortunately, I’m too easily distracted, and entirely way too human to simply transform my pushup capabilities in 6 weeks by following a list of set progressions. The entire experience was much more than just “following a numbers on a spreadsheet.”

Over the course of 6 weeks 3 months way too freaking long, I went from being able to do 20 pushups to finally being able to do 100 (and 10) pushups. So you know that I’m not just full of crap, I’ve documented parts of my journey on other parts of this blog.

What follows is the Unauthorized Guide to Doing One Hundred Pushups. This is based entirely on my experience doing them, is decidedly unconventional, and probably not a scientifically/medically recommended method, but it worked for me. Use at your own risk.

PREFACE: Learn To Do A Proper Pushup

IMPORTANT: Do this first. Otherwise, you’ll spend a lot of time trying to do pushups and fail miserably. Then, when fessing up to your failure, you’ll have to endure the pain of watching yourself not only fall short of your goal in addition to the added pain of looking ridiculous while doing so (seriously). Here’s a quick guide to doing a solid pushup.

The 5 step guide to a Perfect Pushup:

  1. Hands: Shoulder-width apart or slightly wider.
  2. Feet: Together at a comfortable spacing. Keep your body in straight line (no sticking your butt in the air).
  3. Face: Look straight ahead or at the ground 10 feet in front of you (don’t look down)
  4. Elbows: Bend your arms until your elbows are at a 90 degree angle (don’t forget to keep them in!).
  5. Arms: Fully extend your arms without locking them out completely.

Got it? Now just do that 100x. Simple enough, right? I know this is a pretty quick guide. If you’re looking for a more visual guide, check out Steve’s guide to a proper pushup. Read that and come back here when you’re done and we’ll talk about stringing them together back to back, 100 times.

100 Pushups

Photo by AliciaLee

Doing the 100

1. Getting Started

Go to www.HundredPushups.com and follow the guide. Right now you’re thinking “Wait, isn’t that what you told everyone who wanted to do it the textbook way to go do before we started?” Yes, yes I did, but you gotta start somewhere and this is as good of a starting point as any, especially considering it popularized the challenge. Start off by doing the pushup test and following the first few tutorials and week progressions. If you’re new to pushups this is a great primer and will get you started off on the right foot.

2. Be Consistent

Try to be as consistent as possible. If you follow the guide, you should be able to work up from 10 to 50 pushups fairly quickly. There’s no secret here other than just to keep on doing the pushups. Unfortunately, as I discovered, after 50, things quickly got much more difficult.

3. Don’t Get Bored

Boredom will kill your workout challenge. I mean it will absolutely murder it. I can’t tell you how many times I got to the 60-70 pushup range and either stalled or regressed because I got bored of doing 60-70 pushups a day and simply started backsliding. I’m not lying when I say I got stalled multiple times at this step. Over the entire course of this experience, this step alone cost me about 3 months. THREE FREAKIN’ MONTHS. During this challenge, boredom will your #1 enemy, so how do you fight it?

3a. Switch Things Up

Switch things up. Doing endless pushups will drive you crazy. Do something, anything else to vary things up, even if it’s just another variation of a pushup. Try incline pushups (hands on a chair), decline pushups (feet on a chair), or fingertip pushups (my personal favorite).

3b. Throw The Guide Out

Honestly, the guide gets boring. I’m all for following the steps, but I’m also all for doing what works and after I got to about 5o-60 pushups, I got really bored with the guide. So I threw it out. I started doing different sets of different types of pushups, but I also started doing pushups wherever I felt like it. Instead of following the strict sets, I started to treat everything I saw as a pushup challenge. The wall next to me? Standing pushup challenge. The bench on the sidewalk? Incline pushup challenge. People walking down the street? Moving pushup challenge. Anything I could find to push up against, I would do. Sure, you get a few weird looks, but getting used to people looking at you funny is good for you (just imagine your Dad telling you “it builds character”).

4. Speed Matters

After you’re able to do 60 pushups in a row, you’re basically testing your muscle endurance a lot more than you’re testing your muscle strength. Your challenge? Get to 60 pushups in one set before your arms get begin to get tired. If you can do that, you should be able to muscle out the last 40. You’ll notice in my video, that my first 50-60 pushups I basically tried to pump out as fast as possible. I sacrificed a little bit of form for and caught a little flack for it (I didn’t fully extend my arms as much as I should have), but your job is to knock out the reps before your muscles realize they’re tired. Interestingly enough, my form on the last 50 was demonstrably better than my first 50 because the last 50 my muscles were more tired, I took longer to do them and I fully extended my arms in between reps.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Take Breaks

I haven’t seen anybody publish a video where they did 100 straight without even a momentary stall in between pushups (if you have, feel free to prove me wrong). If you’re struggling with a set, extend your arms all the way, take a few breaths, give yourself a mental reset and keep going. As long as you don’t break the pushup position, it still counts (Besides, even if you do break the position, this is your challenge. Do it for yourself and screw what anyone else says.)

6. The Last 20% is Mental

The one really annoying fact about this whole challenge is that I probably could have finished it up about a month ago, but I let the stupid little voices in my head start telling me what I could & couldn’t do. After failing spectacularly,  I didn’t want to have to fail again. I had this annoying little demon in the back of my mind telling me that I was only going to ever be able to 80 pushups (Oh No! Anything but that!).

After a bunch of weeks of struggling with the mentality that I was only going to ever be able to do 80 pushups, I finally just told that voice to shutup, I blocked out the pain, and I just did it. The exact number where this happens might be different for you, but the mentality won’t. At some point, you’ll hit a wall and you just need to keep going. I kept waiting for a time when I was finally going to be “ready” to do 100 without struggling and it never came. But, when I finally decided to buck up and do it, I did 110. Go figure.

A Few Takeaways

You’re Not Alone

[blackbirdpie url="http://twitter.com/#!/joelrunyon/status/57661313572282368"]

The closer you get, the bigger the urge to give up becomes. Don’t.#almostfreakinthere - @JoelRunyon

The 100 pushups challenge will probably suck. And it will be hard. And you’ll want to quit. Don’t. If you feel like a failure, it’s okay. Step back, regroup, laugh at me, and take another shot at it. If you don’t finish in 6 weeks, it’s not the end of the world. It took me 3 months after my first public failure to finally finish. It’s not about how fast you go, it’s about getting a little bit better every day and finishing.

Understand The Real Purpose of 100 Pushups

Contrary to what the program would have you believe, the purpose of the 100 pushup challenge is not to actually do 100 pushups. It’s really not. Sure, the stated end goal is to finish 100 pushups, but if that’s the only goal you have in the challenge, you’ll probably suffer a lot of the same things I did (boredom, problems with commitment, etc). The purpose is to push yourself, even through the struggles.

The number 100 is actually a pretty arbitrary number and picked mostly because it’s a nice round number that sounds impressive to girls. From my experience, there isn’t a real strength differential between being able to do 60 pushups in a row and 100 pushups in a row. If you’re looking to this as a training exercise, you’ll probably be disappointed. The real purpose of doing the hundred is to take something you thought was impossible and turn it into something that is actually very possible. Make that your focus and you’ll be much more successful.

Prepare To Look Stupid

I can’t count how many people tweeted my last article with the improvised headline “Joel Turns Purple (…o yea, and he does 100 pushups).” When you start out, you might have to do girl pushups. That’s okay. But start. Maybe you’ll have terrible form, maybe you’ll fail, maybe you’ll turn purple. But you don’t know until you try. If you want to do anything impossible, you’ll have to be ready to look stupid. If you need inspiration, look no further :).

Critics Don’t Matter

No matter what you do, someone will say it doesn’t count. You’re not good enough. The pushups weren’t perfect. You suck. It doesn’t count. Etc. Tell them to shut up. Critics don’t matter.  I’ve been lucky to have such great support from you guys, but the internet has a tendency to bring out the worst in people and I’ve had a few negative reactions that could hurt if I dwelled on them. 1, they don’t know

Do More Than 100 Pushups

But I thought this was the 100 pushup challenge? Technically. But I have a rule I try to follow with all my challenges: Never do the bare minimum. Always try to do something extra. Why? The bare minimum isn’t fun. Sure, you finished the challenge, but just barely. Yes, you want to finish, but you don’t want there to be room for error. If you only do 100 pushups, you could convince yourself you counted wrong, you did a few wrong, or you just got lucky. If you do 110, you’ll know that you not only finished the challenge, but you dominated it. There won’t be any doubt in your mind that you did it and you’ll make up for any of those pushups you might have missed, or might have had poor form. Instead of scraping by, you’ll be able to say you crushed it. After all, you did 100 pushups. You can do 10 more. Suck it up. Remember, it’s all mental.

Breathe

Because otherwise you’ll end up turning purple :).

Joel Purple

Pushups can get addicting. The biggest thing I’ve gotten out of this whole experience, is a huge realization of how much you can really use pushups in general as a workout. I’ve been training for my upcoming marathon the last few months while doing this challenge and I haven’t been able to spend a lot of time in the gym. But, I’ve actually managed to maintain and even gain a few pounds of muscle while running 30+ miles a week, just by doing pushups. I’m somewhat addicted to bodyweight exercises and even though I thought I’d get bored of pushups, I’m finding more and more advanced types of pushups that I’m learning to do and finding incredibly challenging. I’m not going to share exactly what those are on here (I’m trying to keep some things to myself), but if we meet up somewhere in person and ask nicely, I might let it slip. :)

This is where I wrap it up. If you made it this far through this epic 2,000 piece, you know about everything there is to know. There’s only one thing left to do: Drop and give me 100!

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Comments

  1. says

    Way to go, Joel! No one I know who’s completed the 100 push-up challenge did it in the 6 weeks that it’s laid out. I didn’t even come close, but I made it, and that’s what it’s all about.

    If we ever meet in person, we’ll have to do some sort of high five.

  2. says

    Seriously amazing feat. Even people who lift regularly struggle with such an extended set. I have mucho respect for goal chasers Joel. Keep it up, I’m sure to follow along.

    Cheers.

    PS. When you said long post, you meant long post. :)

  3. says

    Hi,

    I don’t go to do 100 pushups:))) But do you recognize, this steps you can use it in real life to get where you want?
    Thx,
    Jelena

  4. says

    :) As you know I picked again the 100pushups challenge last Saturday, with week one. Man, what a lousy form I have now… Last time I tried, I entered directly in week 3 and by week six (i.e. 3 weeks and a half later) I did 80 straight in my last weekly test (i.e. after doing several batches more!) before the “final”, where I did only 69. I think I can make it, because by that time although I was fitter (I was doing karate and basketball) I was also more tired (I was doing karate and basketball).

    I completely share your hint of doing the first quickly, this is why I got to 80… Did 60 in a whim, the last 20 where a nightmare.

    Cheers,

    Ruben

  5. says

    *ahem* I believe they are called ‘modified push-ups’ not ‘girl push-ups’ ;)

    This is a great reminder, Joel, of the reality of going after any big scary goal. To some 100 push-ups may sound like “Seriously, he’s making a big deal about 100 push-ups?” but it is really hard. It’s great to get a break down of the mental along with the physical training, setbacks and conditioning you had to do to do to hit the goal.

    I think so many online people write so much about passion and wanting something enough and the mental conditioning because THAT is often the real obstacle to achieving goals. Pending any true medical reasons why 100 push-ups is an impossibility for you, with enough training and work ethic the physicality is not much more than science and kinesiology.

    • says

      Haha. I stand corrected.

      And 100 pushups is a big deal to ME, so I’ll talk about it as much as I want =). And, like most things, it’s not about the actual goal (doing 100 pushups), but seeing the progression along the way.

      Mental condition is HUGE. Medical reasons can be legit, but it’s amazing how many people have overcome even medical conditions because they cared enough to do it. It’s amazing what you can do when you train your mind to overcome itself.

  6. says

    I also struggled with this one when I did it. I was doing the 200situps and 200squats programs together with it, and was able to finish those. Because of where I started, it had me begin at week 3 on those two programs, so I finished faster. My pushup progressions were slow and I was not able to get there.

    I’m going to do it again without trying to hit all 3 at the same time this time.

    • says

      I tried the 200 squats & 200 pushups at the same time and I only finished 1/2. I was a lot more successful when I just focused on doing the pushups by themselves. Good luck with your 100!

  7. says

    Hey Joel,
    Congradulations on obliterating your goal. I agree this is a great parellel with other areas of life. Sure, you may fail. You may turn purple or get laughed at or criticized. And yes, that sucks. But we have to just get up, brush ourselves off, and spankin’ try again. I think that is how we give hope to other people. I’m still recovering from my kidney transplant, but I did 3 pushups last night, looked at my wife and said, “hard part’s over.” Now just gotta work on the other 105!

  8. says

    nice work, joel. i was on the 100 push-ups kick via that site – after about a year, my max was 75 (still pretty good). i wasn’t training hard, otherwise, i’m sure i could hit 100.

    i’ve actually switched it up and am now seeing how SLOWLY i can do a push-up: like taking 30 seconds to lower myself and then 30 seconds to push back up. THAT is intense. and if i can eek out 2, i’m happy. :-) i think this approach definitely forces you to concentrate on form more.

  9. says

    Do your pectoral muscles get huge when your a stud and you can do 100 push ups? If so, sign me up! jk…. Great challenge, and definitely a great goal to strive for.

    • says

      They get HUGE! :) haha. Definitely help but I don’t think bodyweight exercises get you SUPER huge ever but they do usually result in a lot more functional strength that (in my opinion) looks a lot better than the body builders you’ll see in magazines

  10. says

    I spend, invest, or waste a LOT of time loafing on the couch with my laptop computer… like I’m doing right now. A couple or three weeks ago I changed my login password to “pushups” as a reminder and now, while the computer is starting up, I make myself do at LEAST ten pushups. Usually I can do twenty at this point (plus ten percent, which means 22); sometimes thirty. One day I made it through forty. I figure if I do pushups every time I turn on the computer, either I’ll get better at pushups, or I’ll spend less time sitting on my butt staring at this screen.

  11. says

    Hi Joel,
    I love this post. This is just what I needed. It is specific and useful!
    I tried to follow the original guide almost exactly but I failed my first big attempt here: http://simonpayne.name/i-failed-today/

    Anyway I’m moving forward and continue to workout I will to beat that 100+ I know I will it will just take me a bit longer that I expected. For now I try to improve the quality of my pushups.

    Watch my progress: http://link.simonpayne.name/100pushups

    Simon

  12. Edger says

    I’ve started the 100 pushups at least 3 or 4 times, never get past week three. I think I’ll have to take your advice in #3 and switch things up and throw out the guide next time I start again!

  13. John says

    Hmm. I have tried several times now. I am currently on my 12 week, and my 6th week in a row of week 4. Can’t get past it. I actually took last week off to see if that will help. AAAAH.

  14. Anna says

    My question is, what do you do after? I actually did 100 push-ups last year, and it took me about 8 weeks to get there after starting the program (and using most of the methods you talk about), but after I hit that milestone I pretty much slacked off again, and now I’m lucky if I can do 30 in a row. So how do you keep it up after you reach a goal?

  15. says

    That’s awesome. I’m always up for a challenge, and this looks like a good one. I was wondering if it could really be done within the six week time-frame, and I appreciate your straightforward assessment. Thanks for the inspiration.

  16. Bill says

    Hey Joel, I am a 66-year old American expat living in Chiang Mai, Thailand. I have been a lifelong PT and weightlifting nut, in part due to the fact that I devoted a 30-year career in Uncle Sam’s Army. Now I play a lot of golf and….do a lot of pushups….250 to 350 every other day. I started the standard 100-pushup regimen three weeks ago at Week 4, able to knock out 70 strict reps. I always did these at the end of my three-times weekly weight training sessions, so was a tad worn out when doing my pushup progressions. Tonight I took the final test and easily made it to 85 before hitting the wall and then I simply hung on and pounded out 20 more in little spurts of 3 reps, then 2 reps, finally one rep. Always staying in the ‘front leaning rest position’ as we called it in the service. My next goal is to make it to 100 smoothly and with no hesitations. I am sure it can be done. I think I have put to bed any worries that advanced age detracts from physical capabilities. It’s all in our minds, not in our bodies! Go for it.

  17. Erwin says

    I was following this scheme for a few weeks. I did every week in 1 try. After completing week 5, I tested how mutch pushups i could do. My personal record was 62. Ofcourse because of the holidy i stopped training hard and i dropped to 52 pushups. A week ago i decided to follow the scheme again, Starting at week 5 again. After completing week 5 i checked again how mutch pushups i could do. Suddenly i did 70 pushups. I have never been so motivated to do 100 pushups. I’m so close right know and i know i can make it.

  18. says

    I tried the 100 challenge and got side tracked after I did the final test and only did 75 pushes……after two months I disided to try something else …im 10 days into doing 1000 pushes a day ,in any order of sets and reps that suit me .after 30 days I’ll take a few days off and try the 100.i have no idea if it will work but what the hell .any comments on my effort from someone who knows would be great.

  19. Bill says

    Made it to 122 reps straight, but using a regimen of my own design…do a variety of push-ups during my regular lifting workout…about 500 total every other day. At the end of my hour-long workout the final set us to go max on push-ups . Not sure if I could improve by doing my max push-up test when totally fresh. It seems that I require a lengthy warmup period before I can go for max. In reaching 122′, I made it to 110 in one stretch before being forced to pause and knock out the remaining 12 reps…done in twis, then ones. Good luck everyone…you can do this!

    Bill in Thailand, age 66.

  20. Bill in Thailand says

    A postscript to previous posts….on Nov 21st, I gave myself a special PU challenge….and knocked out 1,061 reps in 2 hours and 11 minutes. The hardest part was fighting boredom. The exercise part was a snap. I simply did 15 reps and followed that with a rest period of roughly 1 minute and 45 seconds. Did this for 65 sets with no changes (975 total). Then on the final 66th set which should have been the remaining 25 to reach 1,000, I decided to see how many I could actually do before reaching muscle failure….and did 86 more for the 1,061 grand total. This challenge meant that I was actually doing pushups for 11 minutes and resting for a total of 2 hours. Not so hard if you look at it that way. The next few days my elbows were sore and it has taken me a few weeks to get back to normal….where I can do 95 to 110 continuous reps at the end of every workout (every other day).

    New goal is to do 1,000 within a 60-minute period on my 67th birthday in late February. That’s equivalent 17 per minute. I believe that should be a cool goal for someone my age.

    I looked it up and found out that famous Jack Lalanne did 1,033 pushups in 23 minutes on a TV show at the age of 47. Now THAT’s plain amazing!

  21. Nick says

    Im in the midst of the workout, and I’m leaving this post lest anyone run into the same problem as me: the final set for each increase ARE RIDICULOUS. I seriously don’t think they’re meant to be achieved, more of a high end goal you are destined to fail on. For example, todays was 18 18 20 20 17 17 20 45…

    WHAT?! 45?!? I’m struggling through all those, barely making the final 20, and then a 45??? I can do another 20/25 maybe, but more than doubling what preceded it? INSANE.

  22. says

    It’s refreshing to see this post. I didn’t even mean to land here but now that I have…. well I have been stuck at 70 to 75 pushups without any stops for like 3 or 4 weeks now. I do 2 sets of pushups twice a week in my strength training program I have laid out. I progressed so well up to this point and it is REALLY hard to get past it. I always stop for about 5 or 10 seconds, then I can instantly put in another 40ish and get to 110ish. I can’t wait to get to 100 in one start to finish with no breaks. You all have me PUMPED! I wanna do it too!

    Heck, when I started I remember 25 was really hard. So, I’m still proud of 75. When I do 75 I look in the mirror like yeaaaa you rock, self.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] My muscle-building experiment officially starts Wednesday, when I get body fat measurements taken and do my first workout. If you’ve had a physical challenge in mind to take on yourself, why not join me these next couple of months? I’ll be posting the occasional update here on the blog and I’d love to hear about your progress in the comments. Doesn’t matter if you want to add muscle, lose weight, train for a marathon, or complete 100 consecutive push-ups. [...]

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