The Week of a Thousand Push-ups

by Danny Kavadlo on December 10, 2013

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As 2013 winds down and I reflect on the days and months behind me, I find that it’s impossible for me to go a moment without mentally celebrating the launch of the Progressive Calisthenics Certification. From the United States to Sweden (and soon to Australia, Ireland and more), the energy and talent that fills these rooms is simply magnificent. It is almost becoming a common occurrence to witness amazing feats, such as a first ever muscle-up, back lever, or pistol squat. As mind-boggling as that seems, these spectacular displays of strength, balance, and sheer training ethic are becoming what could almost be considered “normal.”

But it isn’t. Not to most.

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The truth is that in the world of commercial fitness, these feats are about as far out as it comes. With machines comprised of shining stacks on sliding tracks have become the standard, our simplicity is bold like a ruby in a pile of rocks. We stand proud, defiantly deviating from product-based workouts encouraged by the man. Given the tightness of the calisthenics community, it is sometimes easy to forget how far we fall from the mainstream. We’re not looking for 7-minute abs and 21 day transformations. We seek something more. We are on the outskirts of physical culture, the edge of the norm. Dammit, we are the freaks and geeks of fitness!

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So, what does that have to do with the Week of a Thousand Push-ups? Well, quite a bit. Even though the noble push-up is one of the most popular—and best—upper body exercise of all time, like the room full of Personal Records at the PCC events, the thought of doing nothing but a thousand push-ups for a week would blow most people’s minds. But that is exactly what my personal training client Mike did recently. As you know by now, we are definitely not “most people.”

Mike’s Story

Mike was going out of town for a week and planned on continuing his training even though we would not be meeting. We have trained twice a week for years and he is serious. On this particular business trip, his time was limited and he was going to be without a gym, bicycle, or pull-up bar. Although my personal clients know better than to make excuses, they are sometimes uncertain of what to do without me. I am often asked some version of “what should I do while I’m out of town?”, to which I generally reply: “Keep it basic–squat, push-up, pull-up.”

But this time Mike already had an idea in mind… and it was more basic and brilliant than I could have imagined!

The week of a thousand push-ups,” he said.

The way it came out of his mouth, I thought it was a movie title: Simple. Concise. Even catchy.

Mike had it figured like this. There are seven days in the week, therefor an average of over 143 per day would put him at a numeric advantage. He intended to keep his plan as simple as possible, doing his first set to failure every day, then doing recurring sets throughout the day until he surpassed his daily goal 143.

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Though it’s nice to start with a plan, like many activities in life, it’s often best to improvise. As I would have done under the same circumstances, Mike changed his intended plan throughout the week. Some days, he did indeed go til failure on his first set; others, he did multiple sets of twenty or thirty throughout the day. There were days of over 300 push-ups before noon. There were also days where he barely met his goal. There are many ways to skin a cat.

Needless, to say, my man Big Mike wound up doing way over the thousand push-ups he planned on! (The next time I saw him, we trained legs.)

Keepin’ It Real

Prior to his week of a thousand push-ups, Mike informed me that to “keep an even playing field’” he would be doing only push-ups of the classic variety—feet together, two handed, no incline. He explained that this method would eliminate the temptation to switch to easier variations if his goal of 1,000 proved too challenging. I respect his decision. The classic push-up is honest, strong and true. It’s a classic for a reason.

However, there’s also something to be said mixing it up, in push-ups and life.

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Mix-Master Mania

Any one who truly knows me is well aware of my passion for the push-up in all of its wonderful forms. From the fragility of knee push-ups, to the muscular methods of plyos, to me, every single type of push-up has an art and beauty intrinsic to it that makes it stand on its own.

We already discussed some training techniques and methods (Divide evenly, go until failure, multiple daily sets), but what about different kinds of push-ups?

Although some push-up varieties are more challenging than others, it can be fun to do a thousand push-ups of several variations. Have fun and be creative. Mix it up! Here are just a few of my favorites:

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The narrow grip push-up, shown here, places more emphasis on the arms.

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The wide push-up is also a great variation and is a precursor to archer push-up.

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Doing push-ups on your fists places a unique challenge on your hands, and extends the range of motion of your push-ups.

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Get creative. Employing inclines is an excellent way to step up your game. Combine this method with different grips (like fingertips) for an added challenge. Have fun with it. The sky’s the limit!

As with the Week of a Thousand Push-ups, Mike and I have continued to keep our training exciting and, of course, effective. That’s what it’s all about. As is often the case, the client inspired me!

***

Danny Kavadlo is one of the world’s most established and respected personal trainers. He is a Master Instructor of Progressive Calisthenics and the author of Everybody Needs Training: Proven Success Secrets for the Professional Fitness Trainer. A true in-person experience, Danny is known globally as a motivator and leader in the body-weight community. Learn more about Danny at: www.DannyTheTrainer.com.

 

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  • Carter Doud

    The more I read this blog, the more I forget that calisthenics is an art that the general population has yet to experience. I find that a lot of people who practice calisthenics drift away from the “classic” exercises such as the regular push up or pull up in favor of other variations. Returning to the classic exercises always provides a unique challenge for everyone.

    Great post Danny!

    • dannykavadlo

      Thanks Carter! I’m really glad you wrote that comment. We all know that calisthenics gets you in shape and feels great, but I agree 100% that it’s an art. The simplicity and purity of movement, and the empowerment of needing nothing but your body! And yes, returning to the classics is always a good thing. “Standard” push-ups, pull-ups, squats and dips are as much a part of my training as press flag, pistol squats, and muscle-ups. Always will be. Keep training hard!

  • Dan

    Hi Danny, love this last article like the ones before. I live in the UK and would love to know when you are heading to Ireland?

    • dannykavadlo

      Hey Dan,
      I’m glad you dig the article! To answer your question, Ireland’s first ever PCC certification will be May 9-11 in Dundalk. Scroll above to “Workshops” then to “Progressive Calisthenics (PCC)” and then click “View dates and location.” You can sign up right then and there. I believe there are still spots available. I hope to see you there Dan!
      All the best!

  • Marcus Santer

    RAH! Thanks Danny. Your article is fresh, like a breath of fresh air and it makes me feel proud to be part of the PCC community =) More…

    • dannykavadlo

      Thanks Marcus! On behalf of the PCC Community, we are proud to have you on board! Rock on!

  • Aleks Salkin

    I find myself getting bored easily with pushups (well, when they’re done on two hands, anyway). I just can’t bring myself to train them, and I know tons of variations.

    But this – this 1000 pushup challenge – this intrigues me! If there’s anything that could get me to stop worrying and love the pushup (again), it’d be this.

    I may just have to report back when I’ve got the guts to do this and let you know how it went! Thanks for the article, Danny.

    • dannykavadlo

      Thanks Aleks!

      I love one-arm push-ups too but you gotta give it up to the ultimate equipment-free, upper-body, exercise… the classic push-up!

      I’d be honored for you to take the challenge and let me know how it goes. I’m sure you’ll have a blast with it! Thanks for the comment, bro!

      Keep hitting it hard,
      -DK

  • Guest

    Hi Danny,

    a thousand push-ups per week is an
    interesting challenge.

    I do push-ups for many ways, in nature, in parks, with
    raised leg or downhill .. No exercise is not without push-ups. When I exercise, usually only do about 100
    push-ups because want to work out whole
    body. That is not far from 143 yet, but I have to do 200,
    compared to the
    days when not work out.

    I do not want to neglect rest of the
    body, but it is a great challenge
    and I accept it.

    Thanks for the inspiration, I let you know then! .-)

  • Jiří Bunda Mrňa

    Hi Danny,

    A thousand push-ups per week is an
    interesting challenge.

    I do push-ups for many ways, in nature, in parks, with
    raised leg or downhill .. No exercise is not without push-ups.
    When I exercise, usually only do about 100
    push-ups because want to work out whole
    body. That is not far from 143 yet, but I have to do 200,
    compared to the
    days when not work out.

    I do not want to neglect rest of the
    body, but it is a great challenge
    and I accept it.

    Thanks for the inspiration, I let you know then! .-)

    • dannykavadlo

      I’m glad you enjoy pushups so much! I with you: You should never neglect the full body, but it’s great to mix it up. Taking one week to execute 1,000 push-ups won’t set the rest of your body back. I’m glad you accept the challenge. I want to hear how it went. Be sure to let me know! Right on!

  • Really great post!
    I’m 57 and very fit and am called lucky often to look so fit.
    I say don’t call me lucky since I work daily doing exactly these types of simple and cheap exercises.
    Folks say “Well Nicholas I don’t have time to go to a gym.”
    Hey I don’t belong to a gym and have not for 20 years.
    Which seems to surprise folks.
    I say that to say this that you verify as a world class trainer what I do is a good thing in using body weight exercises since I try to be creative as you say.
    I’ve only just found you through Dragon Door and glad I did.
    The push up is most certainly under rated as an exercise.
    This post inspires me to do more of them.
    Getting on the floor right after I send this.
    Thanks.

    • dannykavadlo

      Wow Nicholas. You really get it, man! The gym is a relatively modern invention. No one “needs” it. We need exercise, movement, and the like but, you don’t need a gym. Mankind has been getting fit for centuries, way before gyms.

      I’m glad people think you’re lucky that you train hard. Here’s a quote you may enjoy: “I am a great believer in luck. The harder I work, the more luck I have.”

      Push-ups rule! Keep killin’ it brother.
      -DK

      • I like the quote young man.
        I do these body exercises Danny to stay in shape for my work and life which is doing renos with my bro-in-law.
        So swinging sludge hammers, big 45 lb bars, yesterday digging for the plummer…etc…but for many hours at a time.
        So it’s about staying functional to me for as long as possible.
        Look our bodies change and we can’t stop it since I looked like you 25 years ago just bigger at 250 and 6ft 6inches.

        Yes I look good but I realize my age and trust me swinging a big sludge hammer all day will tax anyone at any age…but the big one for me is recovery.
        And that’s my secret is that I eat very nutrient dense energetic foods daily.
        It’s great to connect with another passionate person Danny like yourself.

        • dannykavadlo

          Likewise brother!

  • Reid

    Hi Danny! Great write up. I was curious to how you incorporate recovery into your clients training. I’ve always thought proper rest is necessary for strength gains. Just curious! Can’t wait for the PCC in St. Paul this coming April – I’ll be ready!

    Reid – Minnesota

    • dannykavadlo

      Hi Reid,
      Great question! I incorporate recovery time differently for each individual. Clearly, after a week of a thousand push-ups, it was time for Mike to give his upper body a few days off. That said, I personally have weeks where I train 5 or 6 days in a row. Other weeks, I may rest for a few consecutive days if my body tells me to. You’ll be feeling that after PCC! I’m looking forward to meeting you!

  • dannykavadlo

    Hey Angus,
    Nice job, Killer! 1225 in an hour is no joke! It shows what a man is capable of. Sometimes these numbers seem overwhelming, but as you already know, we can often do more than we expect. Reps definitely build strength and you can’t argue with the classics! Great story–thanks for sharing it.

  • Very possibly my favorite PCC post so far!

    Do NOT approach Danny Kavadlo to train you, unless you are prepared to become a very, very impressive athlete….

    • dannykavadlo

      Thanks Coach! You’re too kind, man. You can do A LOT with the basics!!!!

      • ‘sall about the fundamentals, big dude!

  • bryan

    Danny,

    I read this article a couple of weeks back and tried the challenge, Love it!

    Ive been slacking on pullups/ chinups, squats etclately but when I did the challenge not only did my endurance go up but my GF and friends noticed that my traps, tri’s and of course pecs grew. I also noticed my glutes grew a bit, my lats and shoulder blades didnt even lose any muscle tone but actually got more defined!

    I progressed of course from a week of a 1000 to 1500 and now (yesterday) 2000. Would you recommend this type of progression for muscle building along with other floor work exercises?

  • He’s Hot! I want to see a vid of him doing push ups from the the POV of the ground up!!!

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