A Simple Way to Increase the Total Number of Push-Ups and Chin-Ups You Can Perform

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This post is mostly targeted towards women, but there are plenty of guys who should heed this advice as well.

Whenever I start working with a female athlete or client almost without fail one of their long-standing goals is to be able to perform “x” number of push-ups or pull-ups/chin-ups.

NOTE:  thankfully, one of the advantages of working at the type of facility that I work at is that most people know what they’re getting themselves into when they walk through our doors.

As an example we have one treadmill that’s more or less used as a coatrack.

People know that when they come to Cressey Performance they’re there to train.  As such, we rarely (if ever) have women come in who just want to “tone up,” and the name Tracy Anderson is synonymous with the likes of Gargamel and Voldemort.

And even if we do get someone who walks through our doors who’s been programmed to think that women shouldn’t lift weights – whether it’s because they’ve worked with an uninformed trainer in the past or have read too many issues of Us Weekly – we always try our best to encourage and empower them that strength training is a good thing.

Even though having tank top ready triceps, svelt shoulders, and “toned” legs is the goal for many women…….I always try to instill in them that the effort, total work, and dedication it takes to eventually be able to perform one push-up or one chin-up (by actually doing regressed variations of each, as well as things like squats, deadlifts, rows, presses, or everything that guys do) will get them to their goals a helluva lot faster than anything they could do with a pair of pink dumbbells and Thigh Master.

Much of the time it’s about changing the mindset.  Instead of thinking “tank top triceps” or “I need to lose ten lbs by Spring,” I try to get them to buy into more performance based goals like “I want to deadlift my bodyweight….for multiple reps” or “I want to be able to perform an actual push-up or chin-up.”

That changes E.V.E.R.Y.T.H.I.N.G

It’s an awesome sight when someone flips the switch and buys into this mindset.  It’s amazing what happens not only to their attitude, but their body as well.

Just the other day I was joking around with one of our young female athletes who’s fourteen and has been training with us since she was twelve.  I forgot what it was exactly we were talking about – probably having a heated argument as to why she’s never watched any of the Star Wars movies, or maybe we were discussing the overall douchery of Justin Bieber –  either way at one point I said, “Maddie, I bet you can walk over to that bar right now and bang out a chin-up.”

She looked at me as if I were crazy.

After a bit of cajoling she headed over to the bar and banged out not one, but THREE (and she had more in the tank).

Baller.

How many fourteen year old girls do you think could do that!?!

Which serves as a nice segue to today’s topic:

What’s the Best Way to Increase the Total Number You Can Do?

For many just getting to ONE push-up or chin-up seems insurmountable……but lets just assume that you’re “stuck” in the 1-5 rep range and you’re flummoxed as to how you can increase that number.

It’s not some secret system that involves you following a strict regimen of periodized programming that alternates between accumulation or intensification phases.  You don’t need fancy equipment.  And you can still eat gluten!

It’s called doing more push-ups and chin-ups!

Or what’s called “greasing the groove.”

Weird, right?

Here’s the deal – lets use push-ups as an example.  Lets say you can perform four solid push-ups and no matter what you do, you can’t get past that number.

Cut that number in half, which is two.

Every 1-2 hours, perform two push-ups.  Or at least try.  If your at home it shouldn’t be an issue.  And if you’re lucky enough to have your own office or cubicle or backyard at work it shouldn’t be an issue either.

You’ll have to make an executive decision if you want to bang them out while waiting in line at the grocery store or in the elevator somewhere….;o)

The idea behind cutting the reps in half is that you want to emphasize QUALITY, and you don’t want to fry yourself every time you drop down to perform.

By the end of the day, you would have performed anywhere from 12-24 additional push-ups.  By the end of the week that number jumps to 84-168. By the end of the month.  Well, you do the math.

That’s a shit-load of push-ups.  Not only that, that’s a shit-load of QUALITY push-ups.

Using another quick example, lets say you can perform ONE solid chin-up, which is no small feat.  At this stage one chin-up is basically a maximum effort lift.  The same process could be applied here, except a bit more judiciously.

You want to be fresh for every rep, so shooting for every 1-3 hours would be ideal.  But exceptions will have to be made – not everyone has access to a pull-up bar at work – so even if you had to hold yourself to one every hour while at home that would be fine.

Do the math. That’s anywhere from 6-10 EXTRA, QUALITY chin-ups that you otherwise would have never have done. Per day.

So, to summarize:  if you want to increase the total number of push-ups and chin-ups you can perform:

1.  Take the total number you can perform NOW and divide that in half.

2.  Every 1-2 hours, perform “x” number.  If the above number happens to be one, perform one (but you may have to extend it to every 2-3 hours).

3.  You just earned like, a bazillion-kajillion points for Gryfindor today.

4.  Join my Premium Workout Group on WeightTraining.com, because this is the type of programming and insight I’ll be providing on a monthly basis for all members.

Note:  if you want more info you can go HERE as well.

5.  Enjoy the weekend!

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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  • Kevin Styles

    Wow, what a simplistic approach to an overwhelming issue. Nice way to break it down and build up the confidence too.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Doesn’t have to be rocket-science, right? We have a habit of making things more complicated than they have to be.

  • James Spann

    I’m a prostate cancer survivor. I use to be able to do 50 or more push-ups in a set. As a result of prostate cancer treatment, my testosterone level took a dip. Now, I struggle to do 5 push-ups. Do you think your suggested technique can help me get stronger and do more push-ups in spite of my low-testosterone level? http://fitnessandhealthmatters.com

    • TonyGentilcore

      Hi James –

      This isn’t exactly my area of expertise, but assuming you’ve been cleared, I see no reason why this couldn’t possibly help.

    • Trev

      Hey James, consider that women have about a tenth the testosterone levels of men, yet some of them become beastly strong. No reason why you can’t too!

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  • I set up a January challenge for myself: I’m doing 10 chin-ups a day. As I started at the beginning of January, I could do 3 chin-ups in a row, now I’m up to 7! It really is the volume that matters.

    • TonyGentilcore

      Nice!!! That is great! See….not so complicated, right? If you want to get better at doing something you just need to do it.

  • Aysha Bakhush

    This is a great read, thank you.

    see more

    http://www.abouthealthfitness.net/

  • Angela Bergmann

    That is so awesome that the 14 year old girl could easily bang out those chin ups!!! I am twice her age and that is my PR…for now. I am teaching strength first to my kids. With correct form, of course. Love it!!!

    • TonyGentilcore

      Rock on Angela!!!!! Strength first, always!