Performing 50 push-ups in a minute is a classic fitness benchmark. “But you rarely see guys do even 1 rep with perfect form,” says Rob Shaul, C.S.C.S., founder of the training facility Strong Swift Durable.

“So whenever a guy tells me he can do 50 in a minute, I tell him to do it with the dead-stop push-up, where you lower yourself to the ground and lift your hands.”

That pause eliminates help from the stretch reflex—the tendency of a muscle to spring back to a shortened state when stretched—and forces you to move through a full range of motion.

The result? No cheating. “It’s a true test of strength,” says Shaul. Read on to test yours, and then follow Shaul’s plan to increase it.

THE DEAD-STOP PUSHUP TEST

Assume a push-up position with your feet together, your body straight, and your hands below but slightly wider than your shoulders, as shown above. Lower your body to the floor. Lift your hands off the floor, pause, and then place them back on the floor and push up explosively.

It’s literally as simple as it sounds—don’t overthink it. Do as many repetitions you can in 60 seconds. Twenty is average; 30 is exceptional.

BOOST YOUR STRENGTH

 

Add the dead-stop push-up to three of your weekly workouts. Do 5 sets, using the plan below to guide your reps. Retest yourself after 4 weeks. Repeat the 4-week cycle until you reach your goal: 30 perfect reps.

Week 1: Do 40% of Your Test Number*

Week 2: Do 40% of Your Test Number

Week 3: Do 50% of Your Test Number

Week 4: Do 60% of Your Test Number

*If the result isn’t a whole number, just round down. So if your best test score was 14 reps—40% calculates to 4.6 reps—you’ll do 4 reps per set.

PERFECT YOUR FORM

While lowering your body all the way down and lifting your hands off the floor is what makes this version of the push-up different, you also want to make sure your technique for the rest of movement stays spot-on. Do just that by using the tips that follow and the graphic at the top of the page.

1. Straighten 
Keeping your arms straight so your hands align with your shoulders reduces stress on those critical joints.

2. Twist
Driving your palms down and screwing them outward into the floor increases stability through your shoulders, neck, and upper back. Stability equals power.

3. Brace
Increasing core tension boosts stability all over. Imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut.

4. Squeeze
Clenching your glutes locks your hips in place, keeping your body straight from head to heels. It also takes stress off your lower back.

5. Press
Holding your feet together adds muscle tension in your legs, enhancing energy transfer and power production throughout your body.