A Two-Part Push-Up Challenge
If you're serious about building strong shoulders, pecs, and triceps, a solid foundation of push-ups sets you up for success. High-rep push-ups also strengthen connective tissues and help to bulletproof you against future injuries.
Use this push-up challenge to make the process fun:
Goal 1: Do 50 perfect reps in a row.
Goal 2: Do 100 reps in a workout with as few breaks as possible (maybe zero!)
Let's break it down.
Your first goal is to perform 50 strict push-ups, unbroken.
When I say strict, I mean it. Keep your feet together with a straight line from your heels to the back of your head throughout the entire range of motion. Your whole body should be tight.
Also, make sure you achieve a minimum of 90 degrees of flexion along the outside of the elbow at the bottom of each rep and a full extension of the arms at the top. Your elbows should be relatively close to your sides throughout the entire range of motion. Here's what strict push-ups look like:
Don't rush. Treat your rep tempo like you're doing a heavy bench press. Make each rep take at least 1-2 seconds.
At first, you might need to take a break or three, especially if you use proper form. That's fine. Keep at it until you only need one break, then no breaks at all. Once you get 50 clean reps, move on to the next goal.
Make it your mission to do 100 total push-ups in a single workout, no matter how many sets it takes – even if it means you're doing sets of just one or two at a time by the end.
You're allowed to take breaks between sets as needed. In fact, take long breaks. It's more important to focus on keeping your form clean. Also, try to avoid going to failure, at least on the first set or two. This will help preserve your form.
Completing all 100 reps could take a while at first, so don't feel bad if you need 10 sets or more to finish. The number of sets required to reach that target should start to decrease with repeated efforts. One day you might even complete all 100 reps in a single, unbroken set. Just don't sacrifice good form to get there.
You can also do some additional exercises in the same workout if you're up for it. Just be prepared to adjust the intensity accordingly if you're fatigued.
If you're into bodyweight training, a foundation of 50 strict push-ups will set you up for quicker progress with more advanced calisthenics moves. But even if you're more interested in lifting weights, getting your reps up is still important.
High rep, strict push-ups do wonders for improving your joint health and strength. High rep ranges strengthen connective tissue. Muscles, however, tend to adapt faster to lower rep ranges, which often leads to injuries when the connective tissue hasn't gotten as strong as the muscles surrounding it.
That's why lifters are prone to damaging their pec and shoulder tendons from heavy bench pressing. It's also why calisthenics athletes sometimes hurt themselves doing things like the human flag.
Part of the reason high reps are great for your connective tissue is because cartilage, tendons, and ligaments don't have as robust of a blood supply as the muscles themselves. However, by performing a greater amount of reps, you pump more blood to these areas, which helps repair damage and keeps your joints healthy and strong.
Doing 50 straight push-ups with strict form will give you one hell of a pump. This is good for muscle growth, too.
The 50/100 push-up challenge is a fantastic way to increase your strength on any basic calisthenics exercise: squats, chin-ups, dips, and bodyweight rows are all fair game.
Advanced trainees can even use this template for more difficult exercises like one-legged squats and muscle-ups – although you're unlikely to ever do a single set of 50 unbroken reps. Still, that's no reason not to try!
At first, only do this once a week per exercise/muscle group to give your body time to adjust. Eventually, you can condition yourself to do it a few times a week. Once adapted, you'll have ligaments of leather and tendons of titanium.
Programming your workouts doesn't have to be complicated, but you do have to train consistently to get results.