5000 press ups in a month – Very high frequency training put to the test

A client said to me he wanted to bring up his chest. I pondered for a moment and told him he’d have to bring up everything at once or else end up injured (he’s had a history of shoulder problems). Later that evening I wondered why I had shattered his dreams of extra fast chest development. I wasn’t just guessing what would happen. My advice was based on many years of experience. But I had never put it to the test myself. I consulted some peers and colleagues and they all told me what I had told my client: “You will ruin your shoulders/wrist/elbows and nothing good will come of it.” Had any of them ever tried it out? No.

There is a reason that most people thought this would be injurious to my shoulders; it probably would. And I can recount many times over the years of changing a clients previous programmes to correct imbalances caused by wanting to continually work the so called mirror muscles. I figure this will be different though. Why? Because with my experience and knowledge I can pre-empt these overuse injuries and keep up the training intensity needed to accumulate 5000 press ups in a month. It’s not exactly a huge number really – only 166 a day (I say this as someone who does lots of press ups anyway!).

So, what do I expect to be the outcome?

  • My one set max of press ups should increase. I can currently do 40 odd before fatigue sets in and form starts to go. Not a very impressive number considering I think I’m good at press ups.
  • My various chest press maxes (DB press, bench press, floor press) will more than likely decrease
  • My core should improve from the extra 3mins or so in the press up (plank) position daily
  • My chest should look better, but may not actually grow as my nutrition won’t facilitate that. This is the part I’m most interested to track changes in!
  • Triceps and shoulders should look better through being used lots
  • Left alone my posture would probably deteriorate. Hopefully my plan will stop this happening and my posture may actually improve!
  • I’m guessing I will hate press ups with a passion by the end of it all

Anyway, here is my log of Days 1-30:

Day 1: I begin with a plan. 165 press ups per day for the next week to see how I ease into it. I will split them into 3 sets of 55reps and place them before breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am also going to be diligent with my stretching and perform pull-aparts with a resistance band whenever I remember to.
Day total: 165 Running total: 165

Day 2: Same as yesterday. I will toy with other rep schemes after next week I think
Day total: 165 Running total: 330

Day 3: Ditto!
Day total: 165 Running total: 495

Day 4: I did them today as part of a chest/back workout which made them easier to fit in, but also a lot harder to complete. I also did too many.
Day total: 175 Running total: 670

Day 5: Chest is sore but I’m hoping getting it moving will help. I have recently got into golf so 2 hours at the driving range prior to the gym hasn’t made my shoulder feel very happy.
Day total: 165 Running total: 835

Day 6: Playing golf again which has loosened my shoulder off, as did some self myofascial release. No press ups today though.
Day total: 0 Running total: 835

Day 7: Forgot to do them! Too much chilling out on a Sunday!
Day total: 0 Running total: 835

Day 8: Gotta play catch up now. But then I get a monster migraine and my day goes down the pan. 3 days in a row with no press ups. Oh dear.
Day total: 0 Running total: 835

Day 9: I’m back on it. I have 22 days to go and 4365 press ups to go. 198 per day! Shit just got real.
You’ll notice that my sums above are completely wrong. I did 200 at the gym earlier and have realised that I don’t need to do 198 per day. It was actually 189 per day before today. Oh well. Anyway…
Day total: 200 Running total: 1035

Day 10: Seeing as I did my chest workout yesterday with 200 press ups added in, the first lot of press ups I did today felt like crap. I soon warmed up though. Did 3 sets of 21 in the morning, and the other 168 in amongst a back workout. Feeling good!
Day total: 189 Running total: 1224

Day 11: I did 115 narrow press ups as part of a monstrous arm workout based on the karma circuit. Then did another 74 after I finished dying.
Day total: 189 Running total: 1413

Day 12: Did 9 sets of 21 throughout the day. Fairly uninspiring stuff to be honest.
Day total: 189 Running total: 1602

Day 13: Due to my new obsession with golf I rushed to the golf course after I had finished work and completely forgot to do any press ups. I also attended a wedding reception that evening so didn’t get any done after golf. I am so behind my goal here!
Day total: 0 Running total: 1602

Day 14: A quick shoulder workout in the gym before the GIRL OF MY DREAMS comes over and takes me bikini shopping in Primark. I don’t know if they are for me after all these press ups, but I assume she needs them for her holiday. Probably best not to take any into the changing room!! Anyway, I did 9 sets of 21 again in the gym.
Day total: 189 Running total: 1691

Day 15: I have no excuse for this day. I just didn’t bother doing ay press ups. I am starting to hate them. But, I am approximately half way through and still have 3309 to go. Or, 220ish per day.
Day total: 0 Running total: 1691

Day 16: I gave myself a good talking to today. If you set out with a goal in mind, stick to it. It is THE EASIEST thing in the world to give up on something, but completely worthless. Nothing worth having comes easy! Do I really want to let the last 15 days of work count for nothing?! No I don’t. So, I have decided to up the ante a little. I am adding all my required posture work (for my gammy hip) alongside my press ups. This is a great tactic by the way. If you want a new habit to be formed, plug it alongside a long standing behaviour and let it ride the wave to habithood. To celebrate being rubbish at golf I ‘boshed’ out 300 press ups throughout the day. I am the Dark Knight.
Day total: 300 Running total: 1991

Day 17: I woke up this morning with the goal of doing 1000 press ups today. What a stupid idea. I have managed 450 split throughout the day and also included a new 15 set chest programme and some football training. 1000 was a little ambitious, especially since I work and don’t get paid to just hang about doing press ups. Anyway, 450 gets me closer to the total, and approximately half way. I think i am going to try some higher numbers over the next few days to stay ahead of the curve. In terms of aches or pains I don’t really have any. I tweaked my neck during a shoulder routine last week, but I got a rubber ball straight into the area and released a lot of what had tightened up. Let’s hope it stays this way.
Day total: 450 Running total: 2441

Day 18: Off the back of doing 450 yesterday I have to admit that every press up I did today felt sluggish. I did sets of 10 and 20 here and there throughout the day and have just got into bed with 210 under my belt. I’ll settle for that. I am going away for my birthday weekend this weekend so I will see how many I can do before I annoy the boss. I’m betting 50 before she puts a stop to it. I’ll have to sneak off and do some crafty ones. I’ll just tell her I’ve started smoking.
Day total: 210 Running total: 2651

Day 19: Had to get up early to get my gym session in before work this morning as I was getting picked up for my surprise birthday treat at 10. I was glad I did. Early morning gym sessions leave you feeling so energised! Plus I felt good that I prioritised something I have set out to do. Makes me feel I’m in control of my goals! Anyway, enough rambling, I did 200 press ups in amongst a back workout which featured a 50 rep finisher. Now to enjoy my weekend away!
Day total: 200 Running total: 2851

Day 20: Squeezed in 150 press ups today. Would’ve liked to have done more but it was my birthday so ended up distracted!
Day total: 150 Running total: 3001

Some hotel room press ups to celebrate my birthday. What a dork.

Day 21: Had a rest day today. So ZERO press ups for me
Day total: 0 Running total: 3001

Day 22: As part of my KARMAGEDDON workout today I put in 10 press ups in between each block of 4 ‘playing card’ exercises. That gave me 130 press ups. Pushed it up to 200 with a cheeky 70 before bed.
Day total: 200 Running total: 3201

Day 23: I was training my chest in the gym today so I put a set of 10-20 press ups after every exercise I did. In the end I accumulated 200.
Day total: 200 Running total: 3401


Day 24: Chest was pretty hammered so I needed a rest day.
Day total: 0 Running total: 3401

Day 25: Flew to Spain today for a spot of golf. Had a bit of a workout during the evening and knocked out 250 press ups.
Day total: 250 Running total: 3651

Day 26: It’s pretty hard to fit in your workouts when you’re 1. On holiday 2. Expending all your energy being terrible at golf. Nevertheless I did a solid 200 to ‘loosen up’ after my game.
Day total: 200 Running total: 3851

Day 27: I really didn’t feel up for doing any work today, but thought I’d get the number to 4000 to keep things neat. So, 149 squeezed out in between sun bathing and reading.
Day total: 149 Running total: 4000

Day 28: You know how hard it is to do a circuit, on a sun terrace, with nothing but patio chairs, 5 litre water bottles and your own body weight in 40 degree heat? Let me tell you!!! It’s horrible, and not something I will ever do again. After half hour or so of prancing around in my pants, sweating profusely I had managed a measly 100 press ups, amongst other things.
Day total: 100 Running total: 4100

Day 29: After the disaster of a sun terrace based workout yesterday I decided to hit the local gym for a proper SESH. Unfortunately, a mixture of being new to golf, being rubbish at golf, being dehydrated and being tight in new places (from the golf) I managed to make my levator scapulae (muscle of upper back and neck) spasm whilst doing an overhead press. Luckily, I managed to do 140 press ups before this happened so my total went up slightly. Buuuut, it was a pretty bad spasm and it meant an end to any press ups for the last 2 days of the challenge.
Day total: 140 Running total: 4240

Conclusion: By the end of my challenge, I had press-upped 4240 times over 29 days. An average of 146 press ups per day. I ended the challenge injured, but the nature of the injury did not leave me to believe that the press ups had anything to do with it. It was almost certainly my terrible golf swing that led to my lev scap having a little spasm to slow things down around the shoulders. So, that amount of press ups didn’t harm me in any way. But did they help me progress? In a word; no. My chest wasn’t visibly and bigger or ‘ripped’. My strength was exactly as it was at the beginning of the challenge. On the plus side I had no press up related aches or pains in my chest, shoulders, elbows or wrists. I should add to this that I was already pretty efficient at doing press ups, so the number I was doing every day was more of a stress on my time management than it was on my body. I would assume that an abject beginner would see more visible signs of progress, but also feel more chronic aches and pains as their body adjusts. There’s no way of really knowing though unless someone willing to potentially injure themselves steps forward! Basically, this presents a paradox. The only time I would recommend this type of regime to a client would be if I knew they could handle it, which would suggest they wouldn’t really see any tangible signs of rapid progress. All a bit pointless really! I do have to say that I got very good at doing press ups (although slightly sick of them too). If someone wanted to be very good at press ups to impress their GF or neighbours then this would be a great programme. If you decide that you want to undertake a very high frequency training programme I would suggest that you design it with your current performance levels in mind. If you are good at the proposed exercise, you will need to find a way to make it suitably taxing in a progressive manner over the course of the regime. If you aren’t so good then you will need to plan in plenty of ‘pre-hab’ techniques to stave off potential injuries. As ever, there are no ‘quick’ ways to bring about profound results.

Hope you enjoyed reading. For my next challenge I may pick something I am slightly less proficient at, like chin ups, or back flips.

2 thoughts on “5000 press ups in a month – Very high frequency training put to the test

  • i can currently do 3 press ups in one go. reckon i can manage 1,000 in a month (didn’t even consider typing 5,000 there, haha!)? you’re welcome to document my struggles if required!

    • Give it a shot and let me know how you get on! I’d suggest it is worth planning it out to have some higher rep days, some lower rep days and some rest days if you are new to press ups. Plus, be prepared to stretch more, and do some ‘pull’ work for the shoulders.

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