The push-up challenge

I like to think of myself as strong. Not just emotionally, but physically strong, too. I’ve got a pretty good constitution, and I know my legs are strong because I regularly set the weight machines at the gym to about double where I find them at. I can easily do a dozen or more leg extensions and curls at 100 lbs, and I’m finding the lower back extension thingee a little too easy at 160 lbs lately.

What I lack, though, is upper body strength. It drove me crazy that even after carrying around my ginormous babies who turned into ginormous toddlers, and even after religiously following a weekly strength-training routine at the gym for at least the past five years, I still couldn’t do a single proper from-the-toes push-up. I’d been doing a dozen push-ups from my knees for a while now, but each time I tried to push up from my toes with my body straight, I’d collapse in a quivering heap.

Last weekend, with sleeveless season on the horizon and my 41st birthday not far behind, I decided I needed to challenge myself. I was going to learn how to do a proper push-up once and for all. I’d start with one, if that’s all I could achieve, and add one or two more each week during my sacred Saturday morning visit to the gym.

Because it was a long weekend, I managed three trips to the gym last week instead of the usual one. My first visit, on the Friday, I managed one whole push-up. I doubled that on Saturday, and made it all the way to five push-ups on the Monday. (And then, I couldn’t raise my arms above my head on Tuesday or Wednesday.)

This past Saturday, I was actually looking forward all through my workout to the matwork I usually save for the end. I figured I’d squeeze out six, maybe even seven push-ups, and I was absolutely delighted with myself when I quavered out a tremulous TEN of them. Never mind the fact that I could barely work my arms enough to drive the car on the way home.

So proud of myself was I, and so in need of an explanation as to why my arms wavered in the breeze like overcooked spaghetti, that I bragged to Beloved about my accomplishment. Tristan, listening from the kitchen, scoffed, “Ten? Sheesh, that’s nothing, I could do ten push-ups.”

Without thinking about his easy prowess on the monkey bars, I told him to go ahead, showoff, and show me your stuff. Which he did. Easily. I figure he might have gotten to 20 or more before he broke a sweat, but I stopped him before he could show me up too badly. And then to add insult to injury, Beloved, who is let us say not as fond of the gym as me, also dropped and showed me 10 in fine form.

Lesson learned: it’s good to be strong, but sometimes strong and silent is a harder skill to learn!

Okay, bloggy peeps, ‘fess up. Can you do push-ups the hard way, with your back straight from your shoulders to your heels? I’m aiming for 25 by my birthday, but I may have to cut down on my blog posts because a day and a half after achieving those glorious 10 I can still barely move my arms to type this!

Author: DaniGirl

Canadian. storyteller, photographer, mom to 3. Professional dilettante.

33 thoughts on “The push-up challenge”

  1. I don’t remember how many I can do. It’s not a lot though. It’s probably somewhere in the neighborhood of a 10. It was not a fun activity.

    If you’re really interested in pursuing this, I’d recommend that you check out this site: I tried it and it was working for me. I think I made to the middle of week two before Mr. Procrastination went back to his old ways.

    The site provides a great set list that everyone can use – whether you can only do a couple or if you’re a he-man or she-woman and you can push out 20.

  2. Nope, can’t do it. I have chicken arms. They’re way stronger than they used to be — I can carry BOTH girls across a parking lot. But I think that uses different muscles.

    Michael figures it’s a safety issue: everyone should be able to lift their own body weight with their arms, i.e. do a chin-up. Which hasn’t really motivated me to get cracking on it yet. Although considering I’ve lost 20 lbs in the last 6 months, it should be easier now, right?

  3. In your defense, I must say it isn’t a fair contest. There are biological factors that weigh heavily in your husband’s favour. And as for Tristan, kids are good at things like push-ups because they weigh nothing. I bet you could do push-ups like gangbusters too if you weighed what he did and had not yet experienced puberty.

    As for me, I don’t know. I’m afraid to find out, actually. I used to be able to do push-ups, when I was practicing karate in university. But I don’t think I’ve tried in years. I have finally signed up for my first yoga class in 5 years, so I’m going to start with that. Push-ups will have to wait for me, but I’ll cheer you on!

  4. I was able to do one real push-up. Jason did three without issue, and self-judged that he could probably do 10 without long-term effects. I did three ladies’ push-ups and self-judged that I could do 20 before needing a break.

  5. Batman, that 100 pushups site is awesome, thanks for that! I might just try it. Twelve weeks sounds a little more my speed that six weeks, but hey — cool!

    And thanks to the rest of you for letting me know that I’m not the wussy wimp I thought I was. Working with military peeps, ya kinda start to think everyone can do 200 pushups except you! 😉

  6. And here I thought this might be another post about your breasts. :o)

    Push ups, not so much. Haven’t tried in years, though I used to be able to do them . . . about 20 years ago.

  7. I wish I could. I have an injured wrist (broke it when I was a kid) and I can’t flex it all the way which makes it almost impossible for me to do a push up properly. Sometimes I wonder if I worked out more maybe my wrist would gain flexibility. Oh who knows. Maybe it is just easier to keep saying I can’t 🙂

  8. I forgot to say that I did pull ups instead of push ups when I went to the gym. I used the assisted lift machine and really enjoyed it.

  9. Thanks for the reminder! I can only get up to 10 when I’m not actually doing anything, and methinks it’s time to get back to it… 😀

  10. heehee. i am a huge fan of the 100 pushups program…made it to week 6, but could not do the 100…but i could do almost 50 in a row…and about 150 in total reps. crazy!!! my arms looked soooooooooo much better than before:))

    i am restarting the program this week:)

  11. I’ve been meaning to do this program for ages:

    Nice to hear that Angela had a lot of success with it. I can’t do any real push-ups, yet, but now I’m feeling more motivated!

    And thanks for your response about cooking. I would love to get more into cooking and it’s nice to hear your story.

  12. I read this post last evening and started the program right away. I joined Greco Lean & Fit just over a year ago and went from not being able to do more than a couple real push-ups to being able to do sets of at least 10 or 12. Now, with this program, and your inspiration, maybe I’ll take it to the next level.

    If you happen to watch Celebrity Apprentice, or have seen promos for it, you might have noticed that Summer Sanders has the most amazing arms. She apparently is quite a push-up junkie! Hope it does something similar for me.

  13. Like you, I could not do a proper push up to save my soul, until this year! I started doing the “girl” push ups and worked my way up to the “real” push up. I wanted to improve my upper arm strength for my golf swing this summer. I was doing 50-60 a day, in increments of 20 at a time. Then a few weeks ago I came down with a cold, fell out of the routine and haven’t gotten back into it. Golf season has started so I’d better drop and give myself 50! My husband is in a “push-up crew” competition and has to complete 100 a day for a year. He’s on his second year and last year surpassed his goal of 36,500 push-ups in a 12 month period. So, I suppose you can guess who taught me how to do a proper one!

  14. Wow, lookit all you guys and your push-ups!!

    Okay, so I just did Day One of Week One at I’m in, who else is in with me? Batman, Liisa, Finola, Angela? Misery loves company??

    hahaha, I’m not kidding, catchca = “that grunt” (Actually, it was more of a whimper.)

  15. Hellll no. I’m a 4 push up girl if I’m doing them properly. Mine are more like…. strain/fart/push… collapse onto your boobs. Strainfartpush… collapse onto your boobs.

  16. LOLOL, Andrea, I’m a 32F. My nose doesn’t touch the floor when I’m lying on my stomach!!

    (Okay, so that’s my excuse and I’m sticking with it!!)

  17. a real pushup? i’m ashamed to say i can do 1, 2 max. i consider myself a fairly fit person, until we got the wii fit. it reminds me constantly that i suck ;(

  18. I can manage three. I only know this because it’s presidential-fitness-test time around here, and the kids challenged me.

    Maybe I should add this to my workout routine.

    Wait, first I need to get a workout routine. Oops.

  19. One hundred push ups? I would love to do the challenge but I’ll have to check it out first b/c that number sounds scary – and impossible – to me. My arms are pretty weak, but I’m like you and have very strong legs and thighs. Except mine are gigantic. I could do 20 push ups last year after I did 60 days of Jillian Michaels’ 30 Day Shred, but it was a lot of work getting there, and I started out doing them on my knees, and moved up to my toes eventually. Right now I suspect I could do three max.

  20. That’s great Danny!
    I can’t even do 2, and not even remember if I ever did LOL.
    The only I can are pull ups, and i mean the pull ups of my toddler when going to the bathroom.
    I kind’a agree with the genetical point, as I have never been able to do push ups, not even claimb a tie when I was a child: my gens are not claimbers nor pushers.

  21. Ohhh!! I MUST do that one hundred push up program!! I’m on a mission to get in shape. I used to be able to 25 or 30 back in the days of me being in shape, when I used to bike everywhere. I could probably do 5 now. But I’m sitting on the couch eating chocolate…too lazy to get up. I’ll do it tomorrow, k? 🙂

  22. Wowser – back in my karate days I could do lots. Over fifty I’m pretty sure – maybe at my peak a hundred. Nowadays – after two kids, with my youngest only 7 months….I can do a very sweaty and trembly twenty. And to be fair – men find it easier to do pushups because their shoulders are wider than their hips. Women not so much. And we have boobs. I’d like to see how well men did pushups with extra weights strapped to their chests. lol. I’m going to check out this pushup website…see if it motivates me. Thanks for the inspiration!

  23. I saw your tweet about the challenge and your amazing results. You’re doing grrrreeat. I think it’s awesome that you’re takin’ charge and and showing those arms of yours who’s boss! 🙂

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