Push-ups build strength and muscle, hammer the anterior core, allow for the shoulder blades to move freely, and challenge the entire body to work as a single, functional unit.
But push-ups aren't as exciting as the bench press. Part of the problem? They're often considered to be a newbie exercise reserved for noodle-armed lifters. Another problem? They're not challenging or "fun" enough for experienced lifters. Let's change that.
These push-up challenges can humble even the strongest of lifters, regardless of how much they can bench. Best (or worst) of all, they can be done anywhere and at any time, which means there's no excuse to skip out.
1. Push-Up + T-Hold Ladder
This one is guaranteed to do three things: elicit a brutal pump throughout your entire upper body; keep your shoulders healthy and happy; serve you a big piece of humble pie.
Here's how it works:
- Do 2 push-ups followed by a 10-second T-hold
- Do 4 push-ups followed by a 10-second T-hold
- Do 6 push-ups followed by a 10-second T-hold
- Do 8 push-ups followed by a 10-second T-hold
- Do 10 push-ups followed by a 10-second T-hold
Once you reach 10 push-ups, work your way back down the ladder:
- 8 push-ups and a 10-second T-hold
- 6 push-ups and a 10-second T-hold
- 4 push-ups and a 10-second T-hold
- 2 push-ups and a 10-second T-hold
Note: For length purposes, the video only shows the ascending portion at 1.5x speed.
Not only are you getting 50 push-ups in a short amount of time – creating massive amounts of metabolic stress in the chest and triceps – the T-hold portion throws the upper back into the mix.
Why does it matter? Because a strong upper back bulletproofs the shoulders against pain and injury. While push-ups are a great exercise, they need to be offset with targeted upper-back work.
In this case, the T-hold targets the posterior deltoid and its surrounding musculature for a total of 90 seconds, which can work wonders for combating (and offsetting) front-sided shoulder pain.
2. Descending Range of Motion (ROM) Push-Ups
This sequence is a hybrid of a mechanical drop set and a partial-rep protocol. It involves progressively decreasing the push-up's range of motion, which subsequently makes the movement "easier" as fatigue begins to set in.
The idea is that you're extending a set at a point when you'd otherwise have to stop due to failure. The execution is simple:
- Start by placing an object down that's about 2-4 inches in height (Airex pads, books, pillows, etc.).
- Using the object as a target, perform as many push-ups as possible before stopping 2-3 reps short of failure.
- Immediately after stopping, add an additional 2-4 inch object and do another set to just shy of failure.
- Keep raising the target until the range of motion is virtually non-existent, at which point you'll be moving a few inches on each rep.
What sets this apart from other push-up finishers is that it shifts the focus away from the chest and more towards the triceps as the set goes on due to the progressively smaller range of motion.
This is similar to the triceps of death protocol popularized by Louie Simmons, except it involves push-ups rather than the bench press.