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Are you a push-up person? After reading this, you will be. I always dreaded push-ups ever since being forced to do them in elementary school, then high school.
But once I found out how beneficial they were to one’s overall health—the way they work several muscle groups not only in the arms, but the back and chest, too, plus help your posture and overall core strength—I started doing them without the pressure of a gym teacher watching over me.
Last summer, Health’s Catherine DiBenedetto had the same idea and contacted Master Trainer Shaun Zetlin in New York to talk push-ups. Zetlin was a pro, having a book out all about the topic, Push-up Progression.
Over the course of a month, the goal was to complete a 30-day push-up plan. “This is totally doable,” he told DiBenedetto.
In Zetlin’s plan, “The 50 Push-Up Challenge,” you start with five and work up to fifty (!) push-ups a day, with a few days to rest thrown in.
Week to week, DiBenedetto charted her progress.
The first week, she focused on her form, she said, making sure her shoulder blades aligned with her upper back and glutes. Zeitlin says a push-up is a “movable plank,” and you can see him in action here, demonstrating the perfect push-up.
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The second week, DiBenedetto started to enjoy the push-ups more. “I can’t say I ever considered push-ups fun in the past. “Torturous and depressing are better words,” she said in her Health article.
But during week two, I began to enjoy the challenge. Hitting my target each time was surprisingly motivating. And knowing the jump from one workout to the next was never more than 2 or 3 reps made the process feel feasible.
She also liked how versatile the push-up is, being able to do it anywhere, anytime.
Her third week, as the number of daily push-ups increased, DiBenedetto found it difficult to complete them all in one batch. “It’s always better to hit your target number without stopping,” Zetlin told her.
The final week, DiBenedetto discovered that doing the push-ups in the morning worked best for her. Plus, she mastered her push-up-related breathing. “Take a deep breath as you go down and then exhale as you’re pushing away from the floor,” Zetlin had said to her. “Breathing is where you get your power to come up.”
By the end of the 30 days, DiBenedetto made it to 50 in one day. “Fifty push-ups! In a row! I honestly didn’t think I could do it,” she said.
Want to test the “The 50 Push-Up Challenge” out for yourself? Check out Zetlin’s easy-to-follow chart and Zetlin Fitness website for more.