The 100 Push-Up Program

by Al Kavadlo on March 15, 2016

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Al Kavadlo 100 Push-up Challenge

There’s a famous Zen parable that says, “If you want to be monk, you’ve got to cook a lot of rice.” In other words, you can’t get to the destination without doing the work.

Well if you want to be a PCC, you’ve got to do a lot of push-ups. If you’re into calisthenics, chances are you’re no stranger to this classic exercise, but have you ever attempted 100 of them in a single session?

This 100 Push-Up Program consists of doing just that, no matter how many sets it takes. Even if it means you are doing sets of just one rep by the end. For example, you might start out with a set of 20, followed by two sets of 15, then do a couple sets of 10, before finishing with several sets of just 5 reps or less. You are allowed as long of a break in between sets as you need. Focus on keeping your form clean and avoid going to failure.

Completing all 100 reps could take a while at first, but with repeated efforts the amount of sets required to reach that target should start to decrease. Eventually you might even complete all 100 reps in a single unbroken set. Just be careful not to sacrifice good form to get there.

Furthermore, if you feel that standard push-ups are not challenging enough, choose a more difficult variation. Fingertip push-ups, close push-ups or archer push-ups are all viable options. Conversely, you can adjust this workout for a beginner by using knee push-ups or push-ups with the hands elevated.

If you feel standard push-ups are not challenging enough, choose a harder variation.

If you feel standard push-ups are not challenging enough, choose a harder variation.

Here are a few more things to keep in mind:

– A full push-up requires a minimum of 90 degrees of flexion along the outside of the elbow at the bottom of the rep, and a full extension of the arms at the top.

– Make sure you maintain a straight line from your heels to the back of your head throughout the entire range of motion.

– Keep your elbows relatively close to your body; do not flare them out to the sides.

– Your shoulder-blades should come together at the bottom of your push-up, but make sure to spread them apart at the top to get the most from each rep.

Danny Kavadlo Demonstrating Push-up form

Don’t feel constrained to using this training tactic with push-ups only. This simple program is a fantastic way to increase your strength and endurance on any basic calisthenics exercise: squats, pull-ups, dips, etc. are all fair game. Advanced trainees can even use this template for more difficult exercises like muscle-ups and pistol squats.

At first I would recommend only doing this once a week per body part, as it can be a bit of a shock to your system. Eventually, however, you can condition yourself to doing this type of thing regularly. When 100 is no longer a challenging number, pick a harder exercise or raise the total reps to 200 or more. Additionally, if 100 reps is just not realistic for you right now, then pick a smaller number (maybe 50?) and build up from there.

Programming your workout does not have to be complicated. No matter your fitness level, this infinitely scalable template is a great way to increase strength and endurance on any movement. Just remember, you have to train consistently to get results. You don’t become a monk without making a lot of rice.

***

Al Kavadlo is the lead instructor for Dragon Door’s Progressive Calisthenics Certification. Recognized worldwide for his amazing bodyweight feats of strength as well as his unique coaching style, Al is the author of five books, including Raising The Bar: The Definitive Guide to Pull-up Bar Calisthenics and Pushing The Limits! Total Body Strength With No Equipment. Read more about Al on his website:www.AlKavadlo.com.

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  • Tillmann Jacobi

    Thank you for the inspiration – as always!

    One strategy, particularly for beginners, could be to aim for six push-ups every hour (either in one go, or even just a single one every 10 minutes) for the first day, to see how that goes. It prevents the risk of going to failure immediately with possible injury, physical strain and/or a discouraged mind as a consequence.

    Good form and slow speed (4-5 seconds per rep) are crucial to ensure productive growth.

    It could be more productive to add resistance (e.g. elevate feet, put an increasingly heavy ruck-sack on etc.) once one is at 50 reps or more, rather than adding further reps.

    • Glad you liked this post! And thanks for your input – There’s a lot of ways you can mix it up with this kind of template. 🙂

  • Aleks Salkin

    More solid gold! I love this idea.

  • Bret Hamilton

    Great stuff, Al. Thanks for sharing this idea.

    I am curious, what does your current training program look like for yourself, and what are your current fitness goals or goal?

    I am a firm believer in if it ain’t broke don’t fix it, and what I’m doing is working great and don’t plan on changing it up until that wave has passed, but I am always interested in what other calisthenics trainees do for their own training!

    • Thanks, Bret! As for how I train, there’s too much to say on the subject to give you
      a complete answer here, but my latest book Zen Mind, Strong Body should help shed some light. 🙂

      • Bret Hamilton

        Awesome, I will be checking it out, then!

  • I like that sets/rep scheme there! Some of my circuit workouts regularly include a total of 50 push ups, and on occasion 100… and those are both TOUGH days!!! Going to try that 20, 15, 15, 10… etc. pattern. Very cool!!!

  • John Du Cane

    Great post Al, I am looking forward to seeing how long it takes me to accomplish 100 in one session and to hearing the numbers from others who take the challenge…

    • Thanks, John! I did it the other day but I didn’t time myself. I’d estimate my time was around 5 minutes though.

      • John Du Cane

        Sounds like one continuous set or very close to it then….nice…

  • AppalachianMatt

    Nice work Al.

    • Thanks, Matt.

      • AppalachianMatt

        Your a good guy Al and I still have the first book you wrote. Keep living your dream of helping others and that’s a fierce beard.

  • Kishore

    I got this with knee push ups. After getting 3×30, I trained by adding 5-10 reps for each week. Trained twice a week. When the rep load got above 50, it didn’t seem that difficult to add reps. After a while, I got my 100.

    Nice article Al.

    • Thanks! It sounds like you may be ready to try it with full push-ups now. 🙂

  • Dan Söderberg

    i will do this with divebombers

  • Matt Schifferle

    Volume training in ‘da house! Although i guess its kind or relative. i once heard an interview with a calisthenics master who claimed he did 200 dips and 200 pull ups as a warm up!

    Anyway love these two workouts Al. is there any inspiration behind these volume articles? Something you’re doing more of in your workouts yourself?

    • Thanks, Matt! I’ve long been a believer in establishing/maintaining a baseline of high reps on all the basics. It serves as the foundation to safely acquire more advanced skills, and keeps your joints strong and healthy.

      • Mohammed

        Hi, Al.

        Quick question regarding: “I’ve long been a believer in establishing/maintaining a baseline of high reps on all the basics…It serves as the foundation to safely acquire more advanced skills…”

        What is, in your opinion, the minimum number of reps to fulfill this safety requirement? To extend the question, what would be the minimum reps for slightly more advanced exercises, such as close pushups or uneven (one hand on basketball) pushups?

        • The numbers for the Century test represent a good baseline to shoot for before trying anything too intense. That’s 40 squats, 30 push-ups, 20 hanging knee raises and 10 pull-ups (all continuous, unbroken sets).

          As for other exercises, a full chart will be included in my next book with suggested rep ranges for many other calisthenics staples.

  • Susan

    I have pain at the base of my thumb. In my 60’s and determined to increase my push ups but it
    hurts sometimes. Any suggestions?

    • I get that on my left thumb (that first joint at the base) sometimes, and find that by switching up my hand positions (using handles, and if your wrists are up to it, knuckle push ups are a LOT of fun) to get in some variety while increasing reps. Also observe any undue pressure that may be happening out of habit (part of my own problem!) that you can change. There’s no rush though, and its good to be easy on the joints at all ages!

      • Susan

        Thank you. Will try that today.

  • RedTed

    “Simplicity is the key to brilliance” – Bruce Lee

    Thanks again Al for another great article! For sure spreading the word that workouts don’t need a ton of equipment (if any) and that they don’t need to be convoluted and complicated 🙂

    • You are very welcome. It always great to hear from folks like you who get it!

  • I was never into push ups until about 18 months ago – dips was more my thing, just 2 sets of 5 slow as I could. I did a set of incline push ups one day for a warm up & liked it so carried on. Sets of 101 most days have become the norm, some days I do more. I felt good one day & did 250 straight off. The other week I thought about having a go at flat push ups – I did 30 good form, though not easily. Last time I did 30 in one set was 1991 – I was 17 & 50lbs lighter.

    I did the 100 too the other day – 25, 15, 10, hours rest, 20, 15, 15. I’d like to think that in a year or so I might be doing 101 on the flat. Time will tell.

    Thanks Al, beard is coming on well!

    • Thanks, Dan! I’m look forward to seeing your first post-millennium set of 30 unbroken push-ups at PCC next month. 🙂

  • Mohammed

    Hi, Al.

    Quick question regarding: “I’ve long been a believer in
    establishing/maintaining a baseline of high reps on all the basics…It
    serves as the foundation to safely acquire more advanced skills…”

    What
    is, in your opinion, the minimum number of reps to fulfill this safety
    requirement? To extend the question, what would be the minimum reps for
    slightly more advanced exercises, such as close pushups or uneven (one
    hand on basketball) pushups?

    • The numbers for the Century test represent a good baseline to shoot
      for before trying anything too intense. That’s 40 squats, 30 push-ups,
      20 hanging knee raises and 10 pull-ups (all continuous, unbroken sets).

      As for other exercises, a full chart will be included in my next book with
      suggested rep ranges for many other calisthenics staples.

      • Mohammed

        Nice, thanks!

        Forgive my ignorance, but what is your next book and when is it out?

        • It will be out this summer. More info will be available soon. I’ll have to keep you in suspense til then. 🙂

          • Mohammed

            Look forward to it!

  • Thomas Fuchs

    Last week: 150 push-ups in 15 sets in 1 hour! Today: 20 slow pull-ups in 20 sets of 1 😉 in 1 hour approx.! I’m 4 months and 1 week into Calisthenics.

  • Joseph Akande

    Awesome article. Last year I made a target of trying to achieve
    a 100 press-ups in a single set, but through that time I NEVER
    considered breaking it up in multiple sets with rests in-between.
    Instead I set a weekly single-set target and tried to force myself to
    increase it over time.

    Time to turn a new leaf.

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