Static Push Ups: making major progress

Along with the static contraction weight training, I’ve been working on bodyweight exercises. If static contraction techniques in the weight room can help you develop more top-end power and strength, I think that bodyweight exercises are great to build lasting strength and endurance. I think the two compliment each other. Plus, it is just so much easier to drop and do a few dozen push ups than to head to the gym.

Lately, I’ve decided to mash-up the two! I have been working static holds into my bodyweight exercise routine.

Most people are familiar with just pounding out push up reps or loads of crunches; but when was the last time you just held a push up for as long as you could? Most people never do this, but I think it might be a great way to stress the muscle more effectively.

The technique is this: after stretching a bit, place your arms slightly wider than shoulder width apart, and lower yourself only 3 inches. Hold this pose. Do not go too far down. Your arms should be almost (but not at) their point of complete lock-out.

The first time I did this I thought I could hold it forever (back on April 30th)….I made it 30 seconds before collapsing. Two weeks ago I made it for 2 min 30 seconds! I have been doing holds since then but haven’t timed myself. Will do a spot check later this week to see where I am at.

In parellel, I’ve been testing my 1 set max for pushups. I have been curious to see how only doing this minimal amount of training would help me progress. Here is my 1 set push up max has progressed in the past month:

  • May 7th: 30
  • May 14th: 37
  • May 16th: 38
  • May 29th: 41
  • (today) June 6th: 44

I haven’t been trying to set a personal record each time…but it has ended up happenng. Between May7th and today I have primarily been doing static push holds (one hold to failure every other day) in between my one-rep max tests. I have also done (3-4 times) some Hindu Pushups (yoga combo of downward/plank/upward dog), a few yoga classes and 1 full-on weight room session.

The point is, I am finding my self making some reasonable progress by only doing 1 set of static push ups every other day or so. Could I attribute the gains to the other random stuff I do? Perhaps, but when I was really into doing pushups in high school it tool me a very long time to make the progress I have made in the past month, and I worked a heck of a lot harder! I think there is something to this technique.

I’ll keep going and see where it leads me. My personal best for nonstop push-ups is 52. If I can beat 60 using this method…I will be a true believer!

btw….if you are reading this blog, let me know what your personal 1 set max is for push ups; just curious! Pls add a comment to the blog!

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19 thoughts on “Static Push Ups: making major progress

  1. Started doing pull ups every other day as well as pushups. “For about 2 months now”
    Although my pullups haven’t increased dramatically, my push ups have interestingly.
    My record in high school “10 years ago” was 45..
    And yesterday I did a 70 rep set..
    Shooting for 100, but pull ups are helping me for sure!/)

    • 40. Cool blog will try. I have tried the 100 push up plan, but wasn’t impressed. The workout was less than my current workout and I can’t do 100 straight. (takes over 4 minutes). I’ll try this.
      Do you see any advantage in static holds in different positions? 1/2 way down etc

  2. I’ve been doing isometrics and isotension (exclusively, but relatively sparingly) for some time now. I feel that they have helped to “jump start” neurological junctions that were atrophied or unused, or used inefficiently (resulting in a pseudo-Kenyan marathoner body). Not that I regularly indulge such vain considerations, but I’m on my way to an ab six-pack on a very limited amount of isometric contractions alone (plus running, except running never produced any ab definition on its own). Basically, just squeezing the abs and other muscles, either during an “exercise session” or whenever I remember to and feel like it, whether sitting, standing or lying.

    Recently, I discovered this:


    The old photo illustrations are sometimes a bit (erm, what’s the word I’m looking for?)… but I believe that “building the muscles by nourishing them via enhanced circulation, rather than by stressing them” is worth looking into. It seems to me to be something akin to “isometrics with golf swing coaching”, i.e, squeezing with technique rather than brute force.

    Also “Vacuuming the Stomach” seems to have merit (of course, as a yogi, you’ll already be familiar with it (if by another name). See:

    Great for inner core strength. Hits exactly where you feel those knuckles driving into your mid-back at the end of a marathon, as well as around the obliques.

    Another thing I’ve been doing is hanging from a pull-up bar (you can use any bar, or basically anything you can freely dangle from). It’s similar to your static push-up, but from the other end. As you practise, you’ll be able to hang longer. Use different grips, and different arm direction set-ups, including arms out to the sides (iron crossish), hanging on two parallel bars, etc., and any static position that looks like a still frame from a gymnast’s routine, e.g. a static dip, with the legs together and at various angles behind you. Basically, it’s static gymnastic routines.

    Good for the V-shape torso, chest, shoulders, arms, sucking the gut in, etc.

    People warn that it may be rough on the shoulder joints. I haven’t found that to be true.

  3. I’ve just started doing these myself and would suggest doing static squats with arms held in front at 90 degrees to upper body. Really hard at first, but you make rapid progress.

  4. first time for GYM class, did it for 54 seconds, (I’m in grade 9) we held it at 90 degrees. I have been doing them nightly, and now my highest is 1 minute :), 6 seconds longer =P, not much difference, but still better than my first.

  5. hey, cool blog man. I am super into body weight exercises, and really want to boost my push-ups from about 40, current PB(which ive been a few reps over or a few under for the past month, But I am still hoping to hit 70 or so by November. I am 6’6 and weigh 220, so I feel my arm length/weight ratio may play into the difficulty I experience when performing push ups. I am going to use this tip. Cheers.

  6. hey, im 17 and big into dooing push ups and stuff, i tried these kinda of pushups and agree they realy help. i dont really have huge arms or anything but i do pushups all the time so i can do a lot. right now i can do about 80 w/o stopping.

  7. Hey C. Conrad, I’m glad this helped you. It is really a great routine and if your goal is to increase your max push-up count…it is well worth it.

    Heck, if you are just interested in getting more fit it is worth it as well!

    It takes hardly any time.

  8. I’m working on getting into the Army’s OCS program, and this has definitely helped a bunch. I’m not totally out of shape, but I wasn’t up to the required levels for push-ups. Thanks a bunch man! Great routine.

  9. wow….. 79 is awesome! I use to be able to do 3-4 sets of 50 back in high school; though I nevertried to max out then. The most I ever remember doing in 1 set is 52.

  10. cool. have you tried doing a isometric/static push up hold yet?

    33 is pretty darn good…u sure your knees weren’t on the ground? ;)

    I am shooting to get up to 60 (a new PR). We’ll see how far this goes.

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