It’s January 1st, and everyone wants a new exercise program. One that will help you get into fantastic shape, but that you can stick with rather than falling off the workout wagon a week after getting on. The following advice has worked for beginners and advanced athletes alike, and I have personally used this method on six occasions with great results — but more on that later.
This article falls somewhere between workout plan and motivational tip. It spans the gap between novel idea and ancient concept, and simultaneously it’s ridiculously easy and excruciatingly hard.
Virtually anyone can begin, and complete, this workout within the next ten seconds …and yet a person who finishes the regimen to the end of its cycle is truly at an elite level of physical fitness and strength.
Alright, that’s the set-up… now here’s the program: Do one push-up. That’s not a typo. Let me explain.
In the same way that 6th-century BC Greek athlete, Milo of Croton, purportedly built his legendary strength by lifting a newborn calf every day until it had grown to maturity, this program is going to start you off with one push-up, and add one more every day until you can’t do any more — or until you can do 365 of ’em!
This is one exercise plan that really is as simple as it sounds. Today you’ll do exactly one push-up; tomorrow you do two; the next day, three. Wash, rinse, repeat. If you start on January 1st you’ll pass certain milestones as you progress throughout the year. On Valentine’s Day you’ll be banging out 45 push-ups before your big date. Come the 4th of July you’ll be rocking 185. Make it to Halloween and the frightful number you’ll be hitting is 304. By the time Thanksgiving rolls around, you’ll be doing 331 push-ups — and you’ll be able to eat as much pumpkin pie as you like without feeling an ounce of guilt.
If you attempt this challenge, an interesting thing happens along the way. Sure it’s really easy at first, and very very difficult at the end, but somewhere around week six you get to look back and realize that you just exercised every day for nearly two months — and this is probably the biggest payoff for people who have had prior difficulty sticking to an exercise plan. Being able to drop and do 50 push-ups any time you want isn’t too shabby either.
“Today you’ll do exactly one push-up; tomorrow you do two; the next day, three. Wash, rinse, repeat.”
A lot readers might be saying, “Hold on. I can do more push-ups than that right now.” Great — we know that too. The first time I tried this, I was in pretty good condition. I could eke out 100 push-ups with a bit of effort. I was in the gym four days a week. If I went for a swim I wasn’t embarrassed to take my shirt off. BUT, as I progressed through this regimen I started to notice I became more disciplined than ever before. Somehow, being a few hours away from having to do my push-ups, or having just done them, made it easier to pass up the junk food that seemed to be everywhere I turned. It became easier to remember to get in that extra protein meal. Those early-morning jogs seemed less arduous — in fact, even just getting up early became easier.
Now this program doesn’t replace the need for other types of exercise, and if you’re a competitive powerlifter this is probably not a regimen that you want want to follow, at least for very long. However, if you’re looking for a challenge that will kickstart your willpower as much as your body, try out this plan starting right now. Drop and give me… ONE!
Success Tips for this Program
- Don’t do more than required. One of the ways this regimen helps to instill discipline is by establishing an exact number of push-ups to do — and your job is to stick to it. Quite often, bridling your enthusiasm is harder than cranking out the reps. It’s like eating just one potato chip — I dare ya!
- Use good form, but vary your hand positions to stress different muscle groups if you like. Try placing your hands wide or narrow. Elbows in. Elbows out. Rotate your palms so that your fingers point inward or outward. There are lots of different ways to perform this powerhouse upper body/core exercise.
- If something interrupts your training for the day, don’t panic. Just add two push-ups to your tally on the following day and pick up where you should be on the calendar.
- If you hit a point where you can’t go on, try this technique. Let’s say you can do 60 push-ups but you just can’t get 61. After your 60th rep, pause for 30 seconds, then do your last rep. The next day, do 50 push-ups followed by a 30 second pause, and then try to do 12 more push-ups. Continue this way for one week — each time adding one rep after the pause — and then try to do as many push-ups as you can before pausing if necessary. Whenever you hit that type of impasse, just subtract ten push-ups from the maximum you can complete, take 30 second pause and then finish with your remaining reps.
- If you start to think you are undertaking an impossible task, consider that the world record for non-stop push-ups is 10,507, set by Minoru Yoshida in 1980. Keep in mind this program is not about breaking records, but about forging discipline and improving fitness. The thing that truly matters is this: Did you push yourself further than you thought you could go? Did find yourself applying your newfound willpower to other areas of your life? …Not bad for one simple push-up.