The Surprising Benefits of Doing 100 Push Ups a Day (Or More)

By on November 16, 2020

You would be surprised just how often I am asked the same question: “What would happen if I did 100 push ups a day?”

There are also a number of variations: “What would happen if I did 300 push ups a day?”

“Should I do 500 air squats a day?”

The reason for this question, I can only presume, is that people like simplicity. Rather than follow some crazy training program with lots of sets and reps of eight different exercises requiring five pieces of equipment… they’d rather just complete grueling sets of the same movement.

And 100 push ups a day just seems like the easiest and most straightforward option.

100 push ups a day

It’s the same logic that drives someone to avoid diets for years, only to suddenly decide that they are going to completely cut out an entire food group. It’s simpler and it seems like it “can’t fail.” At least on paper.

So, what does happen if you start doing hundreds of push ups every day?

The Limits of Performing 100 Push Ups a Day

Let’s start by getting the drawbacks of this kind of training out of the way. First of all: using only push ups is not enough to offer a complete, well-rounded training diet. This type of training won’t offer much for your legs, it doesn’t provide any strength gains in the transverse (rotational) plane, and there are no pulling movements.

Performing hundreds of push ups tends to invite bad form.

Likewise, performing lots of push ups isn’t going to win you any strength awards. The simple fact is that, with only a portion of your own bodyweight as stimulus, you won’t be able to trigger significant muscle damage or neural drive. There are caveats to this though, which we will get to in a moment.

Finally, performing hundreds of push ups tends to invite bad form. If you are performing push ups with a sagging waist and retracted shoulder blades, then you are seriously minimizing the potential benefits and may even be doing harm. Likewise, if you use a truncated range of motion or a bouncing movement… that ain’t no good!

But Here’s the Thing…

push ups

That said, as I’ve discussed in the past, it’s also possible to build strength when taking a low weight to failure without releasing tension (this is called continuous time under tension). The reason this works, is that when you reach failure, you will have fatigued all of the smaller motor unitst are involved in the movement. (See Henneman’s Size Principle.)

Now your body has no choice but to use the larger, faster, motor units and associated muscle fibers. Thus, rep 85 of 100 push ups becomes a lot more similar to lifting 85% of your one rep max on the bench press. Not exactly the same, but more similar.

See also: How to Build Actual Size and Performance With Advanced Bodyweight Training

Likewise, performing all those push ups will increase the number of blood vessels supplying the muscle with blood and nutrients. This is immensely beneficial, as it means you’ll have more energy and endurance during the movements themselves, and better recovery after you finish. This also means you’ll increase metabolic stress in the area and could thus improve hypertrophy.

I quote this article from Christian Thibaudeua on T-Nation regularly. In it, Thibaudeau describes how Tom Platz used sets of 100+ reps on the leg press to build massive legs with crazy endurance. Eventually, he was able to perform over one hundred reps of squats with 225lbs! That’s nuts!

Tom Platz used sets of 100+ reps on the leg press to build massive legs with crazy endurance.

As I’ve discussed on this page many times before, being able to exert strength multiple times over a long duration, is in many ways more useful than being able to perform a single demonstration of amazing max power.

Endurance

When we think of improving our endurance, we often focus on the systemic approach to better cardio. That means improving heart strength for better stroke volume. It means increasing red blood cells. And it means strengthening the lungs.

But what endurance also comes down to is the efficiency of the individual limbs and muscles. What is the fiber makeup of those specific muscles? How well supplied are they with blood and nutrients? What is the mitochondrial density like? What about glycogen stored in the muscle?

This is why high reps of 100 push ups and beyond will build strength endurance in the chest and arms, as well as adding some power.

What 100 Push Ups Does for Your Core

What may also surprise you, is just what sets of a hundred push ups can do for your core.

Because, essentially, the push up is an anti-extension move: just like the plank. As you perform push ups, you need to keep your core flat like a plank and avoid it sagging. Over long sets of push ups this can become an endurance challenge that teaches you to keep a rigid core and that can help prevent back pain. It also results in more powerful and explosive movements.

Explosive push up

And it’s because of all this that I think I had great start to my training career. I began working out by simply performing huge sets of push ups every single day in my bedroom (I didn’t know any better!). While this wasn’t the most logical approach to full-body training, it did result in a rigid core, some decent strength gains, and impressive work capacity and recovery-capabilities for my upper body.

Add karate, capoeira, and eventually bodybuilding and rock climbing onto that foundation and you have something pretty functional. I was able to succeed in those other areas perhaps because I started out with the push ups.

My pecs have always been my strong suit, and I believe this is why! It’s also why I believe I was able to lift nearly 100kg the very first time I tried the bench press, aged 13.

And it’s why my eBook and training program SuperFunctional Training recommends high reps of push ups, pull ups, and squats at the starting level.

In short: doing sets of 100 push ups daily was my superhero origin story.

What to do With This Information

So, am I recommending you do 5 x 100 push ups every single day? Yes and no.

No: do not make this your ONLY method of training. And no, every single day is not necessary.

But YES to incorporating super-high repetition bodyweight movements into your routine. Balance this out with other bodyweight moves like squats or Hindu squats for the legs and pull ups for the antagonist muscles. I say pull ups because most people have a pull up bar, but even better would be to choose bodweight rows/inverted push ups (lie underneath a bar, grip on, and then pull your upper body upward keeping your heels planted firmly on the ground). This movement is a closer match for the push up in terms of difficulty and it also ads in an anti-flexion element as now you must prevent your waist sagging the other way.

These effects conspire to flatten your stomach while also making you more stable and rigid in every other movement.

See also: The Key to Bruce Lee’s Athleticism: Core Stability

How to Do 100 Push Ups

Can’t perform 10 push ups? Then combine with an easier variation – like push ups on the knees. Perform as many full push ups as you can in one go and then drop to the knees to complete the rest.

If you can’t do 100 push ups in one go, then take short breaks. Keep the rest time to a minimum and just stay in one place until you have completed the entire set.

Once 100 becomes easy, aim for 150.

As for whether you should aim for 100, that all depends on your recovery and how you feel. Listen to your body. Every other day or three times a week is better to start with but eventually this will stop feeling like a challenge and you’ll be good to go again the next day. That’s adaptation for you!

Adaptation

I always talk about “adaptation” on this site. The body is designed to adapt to its environment, which is why training often doesn’t go far enough to really trigger that response.

Train for everything

But this is where doing hundreds of push ups can be profound: this is such a big number that it really does become a stimulus for transformation. And this goes double if you spread the training throughout your day. That could mean doing 100 push ups every few hours to rack up massive totals.

Now it’s not just training. This is now a part of your routine – a part of your very environment.

See also: Should You Spread Your Workouts Throughout the Day?

Or not. Even if you just 100 push ups, 100 bodyweight rows, and 100 squats to your workouts as a finisher, it may just transform the way you feel, look, and perform.

It’s no wonder that Jax Blade calls push ups “anime God-Makers!”

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About Adam Sinicki

Adam Sinicki, AKA The Bioneer, is a writer, personal trainer, author, entrepreneur, and web developer. I've been writing about health, psychology, and fitness for the past 10+ years and have a fascination with the limits of human performance. When I'm not running my online businesses or training, I love sandwiches, computer games, comics, and hanging out with my family.

4 Comments

  1. Abdulrahman Altayeb says:

    Great!
    I guess I’ll add high rep work to my incidental training rather than only focus on more difficult skills.
    Also, I’m assume you meant you 100ibs not kg on the bench which is still very impressive for a 13 year old.

  2. Bruce Feltus says:

    Adam,
    I think your ideas and methods are very sound.
    You have built a very impressive physique.
    Watching your videos is inspiring.
    At 66 I cannot do the ballistic moves or pound the weight I used to but I still work out according to how I feel.
    Recently I have a been doing TABATA 20 on 10 off x 8 sets on an elliptical. I mix this with bands weights etc.
    It’s hard not to overtrain as I still have an 18 yr old mind. Pains greater and recovery time longer.
    Platz legs are a genetic outlier. First time I saw him I couldn’t believe it was possible. I soon learned I wouldn’t have legs like that.
    I think the early muscle magazines did a
    disservice because trying to emulate those guys was impossible genetically and we didn’t really know about steroids. I’m talking about when Arnold first came to the USA and bodybuilding started to take off.
    Anyway, Hats off to you and your system.
    Thanks for listening.
    Bruce

  3. Rob Thoreson says:

    Should the push-ups be 100 all at once or is it OK to spread them throughout the day?

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