Will Doing 25 Pushups A Day Give You Gains? An Expert Weighs In…

Doing a pushups challenge for a good cause? Just wondering if there are any perks of the job...

Kirsten Curtis |

If you’re not doing 25 pushups a day right now and posting them to Facebook, chances are you’ve seen your friends hitting the deck daily and you’re waiting for your own inevitable nomination. The global challenge has been going for some time now. The idea is to do 25 pushups a day for 25 days to raise awareness around mental health. Each day you nominate a different person to join the challenge. Really cool initiative, and we’re all for supporting a good cause. But. We couldn’t help wondering… could taking part in such a challenge have any benefits in the gains department? So we asked Tambe Joesha, a personal trainer, strength coach and bodyweight training expert to give us the low-down. For, you know, science.


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Will Doing 25 Pushups A Day Make You Stronger?

It depends. “The effect will mainly come down to the level of strength/fitness of the individual,” says Tambe. “Someone who is relatively new to training will have a far greater response and adaptation to the training stimulus compared to someone such as myself. The greater degree of experience the individual has, the lesser the results.” So essentially, the stronger you are, the less difference you’re going to notice. But if you’re a beginner, you should definitely get on board with this challenge.

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What About Muscle Size?

“A few factors will come into play here,” says Tambe. The main one, again, is what shape you’re in now. “Just like we stated above, if someone has already pushed their body past the required levels of adaptation to perform 25 pushups at body weight, then they will not see any new relevant muscle as there is no overload of the working muscle group. If anything they’ll maintain muscle but not develop anything significant.”¬† Adaptation is how your body adapts to exercise. When you keep practising a move you struggle with, your body realises that this movement is something it needs to be able to do. So it starts building more muscle tissue in the muscles you use to do it. “If our individual is new to training then this would certainly help to develop some size (hypertrophy) as a response to the increased work overload,” says Tambe. But if sets of 25 pushups are something you bang out regularly without breaking a sweat, there’s no need for your body to make those adjustments.

How To Do A Proper Pushup

If you’re going to reap any benefits, you need to do it properly. “One thing I always tell clients is ‘Bum tight. Core tight,'” says Tambe. “The standard variation I teach is with elbows semi-tucked in. Hands should be nearly in line with or even slightly below the pectoral muscles. Shoulders should be gently braced. Keep the glutes braced while performing a gentle abdominal crunch/flex. This will help prevent sagging at the hips, thus preventing lumbar spine/lower back strain.” There are more advanced variations of the pushup, but master the basics before you get fancy.

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Make It Easier

A challenge like this is a great opportunity to master the pushup if it’s something you’ve never been able to do. It’s a brilliant strength move that you can do literally anywhere with no equipment. “When done correctly, the pushup will work the core, shoulders, pectorals and triceps,” says Tambe. Try these tips to work your way up to a set of 25:

Break it up. The challenge said to do 25 pushups a day. No one said you had to do them all in one set. “Personally, speaking as a trainer, I would rather have someone break up the reps into sets which allows them to perform each and every repetition with proper form and complete range of movement – that being from the ground and up,” says Tambe. “Too often you’ll see someone doing pushups and for the first 5 or so their form may be perfect but as they continue, their form starts to decline and this only increases risk of injury.”

Do an easier version. Can’t even do one or two full pushups? “Regress the movement to a variation that you can do properly,” advises Tambe. Try placing your hands on an elevated surface like a gym bench or a table at home. “Then progress the movement as your strength increases over time.”

Use drop sets. “One of the ways I would approach it for strength is to have someone perform the exercise for sets and reps in the hardest variation that they could. When fatigue becomes too great, we simply regress the movement and continue. This happens until all reps are reached.”

Stay Off The Bench

“When it comes to injuries, many people think that shoulders may be the only/main area of risk. This isn’t true, as depending on the way/form that the pushup is done will correlate to the injury,” cautions Tambe.

You stick your neck out: Dip you neck like a turtle and you’re going to strain the many muscles in your neck, shoulders and scapula, says Tambe. Look at a spot slightly ahead of you to maintain a neutral spine.

Humping the ground: If you dip the hips too much due to lack of bracing the glutes and abdominal muscles, you’re going to be putting strain on the lumbar spine (lower back), Tambe warns. Remember his mantra: Bum tight. Core tight.

Trying to be fancy: “Forcing out reps of a pushup variation that you’re unable to perform correctly and you could easily pull multiple muscles/joints that we use in the movement – pecs, deltoids, rotators, elbows, etc,” cautions Tambe. Master basic pushups first. “Performing a pushup variation that is too challenging is the same as going into a gym and racking up 70kg on a bench when you can’t even do 50kg. Build strength, learn the mechanics of the movement and how to perform it properly. Once you’re comfortable, increase the difficulty.”

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Take It Up A Notch

So a set of 25 pushups is easy for you? Time to up the ante. “My favourite is to slap some weight plates on your back,” says Tambe. “Obviously you would need to have grasped the mechanics of the movement and brace your entire core complex.” Not ready for a weight on your back? Use resistance band across your shoulders with the ends under your hands, or try propping your feet up on a bench or the couch to load your upper body more. Tambe advises against the one-arm variety though: “I rarely make people do single-arm pushups as almost no-one can do them correctly”.

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