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How to Increase Your Pushups Instantly (And Everything Else!) – Grease the Groove (GTG)

“How many pushups can you do?” It’s one of the most basic fitness questions out there and it’s also the basis for several fitness tests. New personal trainer clients are often tested for muscular endurance or strength with push up tests, and the armed forces all use a push up test in their PFTs. Whether you’re simply trying to improve your maximum reps or are sweating that upcoming PFT, this article will help you reach your goal through an incredibly simple, yet little-known, trick. Better still, it works for everything: push ups, pull ups, squats, and even strict hanging leg raises.

Pavel termed it “Grease the Groove”, or GTG, and has written extensively on the subject. He also calls it synaptic facilitation. The basic premise is this: the more you do something, the better you get at it. Pretty simple, right? It follows the one of the core tenets of exercise physiology, the principle of specificity.

It basically states the obvious, that results are specific to the type of training used. It’s why sprinters and marathon runners train differently. So if you want to get better at pushups, do plenty of them. But it’s more involved than just that. (If you want to get to the how-to, skip the next paragraph. If the science interests you, read on for a very introductory explanation of this method).

If you’ve ever lifted weights, you know how awesome those first few weeks are. You feel like a beast. Every week or even every workout you’re adding weight to each of your lifts. Most people assume that they’re simply becoming stronger because they are gaining muscle mass. That isn’t the case. It’s now well accepted in the scientific community that the first 4-6 weeks of strength development come from neural adaptation.

In layman’s terms, the extra 20lbs you slapped onto your squat in the first month has little to do with your leg muscles. It has more to do with your nerves becoming more efficient and using more of your existing muscle mass. In fact, it’s been theorized that muscle development (hypertrophy, or an increase in muscle mass) can NOT occur until neural development has completed. But that leaves us with one important takeaway: Great gains in strength are possible with minimal effort and in a very short time period.

So how can we use this new knowledge to increase our pushups? It’s simple: Do lots of pushups (or whichever exercise you’ve picked) frequently over the period of a day, never going to exhaustion. Every time you walk into the kitchen, drop and do 5 pushups (Beginners, start with 1 or 2 and build up to 5). Maintain perfect form on every repetition. Because you aren’t doing a ton of reps, it should be easy to always have perfect form. If your form suffers, back off a few reps.

Be creative. I personally love doing pushups during commercials or after 30 minutes of studying. Throughout the course of a day, you’ve done 50-100 pushups EACH DAY with minimal effort and strain. After that gets too easy, increase the count. Now you’re doing 10 pushups. So on and so forth.

I’ve used this same method for years to boost my pushups in anticipation of a fitness test, or even just to get back in shape quickly after a few weeks away from the gym. I’ve done it with chin ups to quickly jump from doing 11-12 chin ups to doing over 20 chin ups before failing in less than two weeks! I even used it to help jump start my girlfriend’s workouts and teach her how to squat properly. Pick a task that you do frequently, and attach some activity to it.

Example for a beginner:

  • Day 1: Every time you walk into your living room, do 5 pushups with your knees on the ground.
  • Day2: Every time you walk into your living room, do 5 squats holding onto a doorknob for support.
  • Days 3 & 5: 5 Pushups with your knees on the ground.
  • Days 4 & 6: 5 Squats holding onto a doorknob for support.
  • Progress to 8/8, then 10/10, 13/13, 15/15.
  • Then, if able, do 5 pushups with your knees off of the ground and 5 squats without a doorknob for support. Ensure that perfect form is kept on every rep.

Example for somebody who can do 6 chinups before failing:

  • Day 1 & 2: Every time you walk into your bed room, do 2 chinups. (Tip: Buy a door pullup bar for $20.
  • Best $20 you’ll ever spend for fitness.)
  • Day 3 & 4: 3 chinups.
  • Day 4 & 5: 4 chinups.

So on and so forth. When I could do 11-12 chinups, I did 6-7 chinups every time. I quickly progressed to
doing 10 at a time and before I knew it, I was back up to 20+ chin-ups in a row. If you’re having difficulty
completing the numbers each set, decrease the reps. Remember: Perfect form every time.