This 50 Push-Up Challenge Will Transform Your Body in 30 Days

Yes, you can get to 50 push-ups! Try our 30-day challenge.

The push-up comes close to the perfect exercise. It works multiple muscle groups—the arms, chest, back, and core—to build overall functional strength. However, many people struggle to perform more than a few of these gym-class classics.

Enter New York City-based Master Trainer Shaun Zetlin. Something of a push-up guru, Zetlin authored a book all about this body-changing move (and its many variations) called the Push-up Progression ($16, amazon.com).

Zetlin suggested setting a goal of working up to being able to do 50 reps in a month's time. "This is totally doable," Zetlin assured. The following 30-day plan can help you go from five to 50 push-ups in just one month.

The 50 Push-Up Challenge

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Week 1

During the first week, you will start with five push-ups and work your way up to 10. This gentle warm-up period will give you a chance to focus on your form.

Start each session in a straight-arm plank and remember Zetlin's tips:

* Find a neutral spinal position—so shoulder blades align with upper back and glutes.
* Engage those glute muscles.
* Draw abs in.
* Keep hips from drifting up, and elbows from flaring past wrists.
* And most importantly, breathe.

Zetlin describes the push-up as a "movable plank," which can be a helpful image as you lower yourself down. Do these reps as mindfully as possible until the movement starts to feel natural.

Week 2

During the second week, you will go from 12 to 15 push-ups. The jump from one workout to the next is never more than 2 or 3 reps, so the process is feasible and hitting your daily goal can be extremely motivating.

The beauty of this old-school move: It can be done anywhere, any time, in virtually any clothing. You can squeeze this exercise into small pockets of time regardless of where you are or what you are wearing.

Week 3

In the third week, you'll go from 20 to 32 push-ups. "The third week is when it gets a little daunting," Zetlin warned. If you find you cannot do the full set without stopping, Zetlin noted it is OK to split it into two or three sets, with a pause in between.

"It's always better to hit your target number without stopping," Zetlin explained. The longer muscles are under strain, the harder they're working. Plus: There are aerobic perks to staying in motion. But if you need to rest, Zetlin suggested keeping each break to less than a minute.

Week 4

In the fourth week, you'll go from 35 to 42 push-ups. At this point, you may find that the time of day matters. It may be easier to perform the reps in the morning than in the evening when your muscles are already tired. Breathing also becomes more important as you increase reps.

"Take a deep breath as you go down and then exhale as you're pushing away from the floor," Zetlin explained. "Breathing is where you get your power to come up." Focusing on your breath can help distract you from the burning in your arms.

The Final Two Days

In the final stretch, you will go from 45 to 50 reps in just two days. This can be rough, and it's OK if you need to split it into two sets of 25.

Aside from bragging rights, you will likely pick up better posture in general, thanks to muscle memory.

"If you learn how to find the neutral spinal position in your workout, you'll start doing it in your everyday life," Zetlin said. Remember to lift your head, draw in your abs, and straighten your pelvis, until your body feels perfectly aligned.

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