You clicked on this article because you’re looking for an answer. Maybe you’ve been doing pushups in your training program for a while, but you’re not sure if you’re doing too many or too few. Your pushup motivation may be inspired by a PT test or selection event looming on the horizon. Or maybe you want just a little more pop in your pectorals.
No matter the reason for asking how many pushups you should do in a day, the answer comes down to two words: it depends.
The first thing the answer depends on is your fitness level. If you’re new to training or just getting back into it, you need less pushup volume than someone who has been training consistently for a while.
The answer also depends on your goal. If you’re prepping for selection, you must prepare to do a god-like amount of pushups, so it’s all about volume. For PT tests, prepare to do a lot of pushups in a short amount of time, so it’s about volume and speed.
For the general pushup aficionado, the goal is to apply different pushup techniques in a way that makes your upper body bigger, stronger, and more resilient. We’ll discuss three different pushup techniques and how many of each you should do in a day.
Loaded pushups are pushups done with added weight. My three favorite variations are band pushups, chain pushups, and plate pushups. Band pushups are done with an elastic training band stretched across the upper back with the end-loops hooked under the thumbs on the ground to add resistance.
Chain pushups are done with actual heavy chains laid across the upper back. Plate pushups require a partner to place a weight on your upper back before you start. (If these variations don’t work for you for any reason, a weighted vest is also an option.)
These variations are great for overloading the pushup, which combats a common training mistake. Many folks add more and more pushup reps to their training when they’re trying to improve their relative strength. By doing so, each rep requires less effort, increasing the overall number of pushups done before fatigue.
If you’ve been hammering high-volume pushup sets and your endurance is improving, but you’re not seeing strength gains, it’s time to try loaded pushups while cutting back on your total number of reps. Loaded pushups are also a solid option for those who want to build upper-body strength but deal with shoulder pain and dysfunction.
So, finally, how many should you do? No more than 50 in a training session, depending on the weight used. If you’re doing heavy sets of 5 or 6 reps, stay in the 25 to 35 total rep range. But if you’re doing lighter sets of 10 reps, it’s no problem to hit 50 total reps. The more weight you add, the fewer reps you should do. If you finish your last set and you have a lot left, it’s time to increase the weight a bit.
Program them as you would any upper-body lifting exercise. Use them as your main upper-body lift for the day or as your secondary exercise to support a bench pressing or overhead pressing movement.
Daily Total Volume Pushups
Daily total volume pushups are done in short, snappy sets of 5 to 10 reps throughout the day. They train the upper body to be powerful while avoiding fatigue and building work capacity.
Are you prepping for a selection event or a gnarly backcountry hunt? Then these are your jam. They also work well for logging a ton of pushup practice.
Perform your pushups in low-volume sets throughout the day with a high number of total reps being the end goal. Doing that teaches the body to expend energy in quick bursts throughout the day.
Plan them by first setting a total-volume goal. I start by programming 100 to 200 reps for the day, depending on a person’s fitness level. By doing 4 to 5 sets spread throughout a day, you’ll work up to 400 to 500 daily pushups, depending on your goals and how you progress.
There are three big things to monitor: fatigue, rep crispness, and form. If you start to feel fatigue creep in, cut back the number of reps per set that you’re doing, or reduce your total volume for the day.
Rep crispness goes hand-in-hand with fatigue. All reps must be snappy and powerful. When you lose snap, cut the reps per set or stop for the day. And form is the great trump card. If form diminishes, cut the reps per set or stop for the day. There is no sense teaching your body to move like shit while it’s tired.
Accrue daily total pushup volume on a training day toward the end of your training week. I pair them with a low-intensity aerobic conditioning day. Start first thing in the morning after waking up, and finish your sets in the early evening. Spread the reps evenly throughout the day.
Every Minute on the Minute (EMOM)
Every Minute On the Minute pushups, or EMOM pushups, are done in sets of 5 to 20 reps at the top of every minute for 10 to 20 minutes. Hitting 50 to 400 total reps.
I’ll often plan EMOM pushups in a training program immediately following one that includes daily total volume training. Volume training builds skill and a work capacity base; EMOMs intensify training. This interplay is a killer strategy for those prepping to max a PT test.
Start by doing an 8-to-10-minute EMOM with 8 to 10 reps per minute. Increase time or reps as each EMOM gets easier. If you’re using this strategy to prep for a PT test, it’s best to keep the time constant, say, 8 to 10 minutes, and increase the number of reps done each minute. But if you’re using EMOM as a general strategy to increase your upper-body work capacity and size, choose either means of progression.
If your PT test is coming up within the next four to six weeks, use this strategy up to three times per week with at least one day of rest between each session. It’s also smart to do EMOMs once or twice per week while doing loaded pushups once per week. Do loaded pushups at the beginning of the week and EMOMs during the middle or end of the week. For general fitness, do a pushup EMOM once per week for 6 to 8 weeks.
No matter which strategy you choose, the key to knowing how many pushups you should do is clarity about why you’re doing pushups in the first place.