The Year of 10,000 Push-Ups

I’m overweight. I haven’t weighed myself for quite a while, and I’m a little scared that my weight might not fit in 8 bits.

I toyed around with a goal of getting my weight down to 220 by my 40th birthday (Jul), but really what it’s all about is not weight so much as function and shape. That is to say, I want to be able to play a good hard game of ultimate without huffing & puffing the whole time, and I’d rather have huge pectoral muscles (insert voice of Ren Hoek here) than moobs.

So instead of focusing on the single value of weight, which is the effect of a large number of difficult-to-control input variables, I thought I’d set a more concrete goal, one that I’d have more control over. As you no doubt realize from the title of this post, that goal is to do 10,000 push-ups this year.

The push-up is widely recognized as the single best all-body exercise:

The push-up is the ultimate barometer of fitness. It tests the whole body, engaging muscle groups in the arms, chest, abdomen, hips and legs. It requires the body to be taut like a plank with toes and palms on the floor. The act of lifting and lowering one’s entire weight is taxing even for the very fit. … “It takes strength to do them, and it takes endurance to do a lot of them,” said Jack LaLanne, 93.

I chose the number 10,000 because it’s a nice round number which sounds really impressive, but it shouldn’t actually be that hard to attain. Even though I’ve missed the whole first month of 2010, what’s left divides out to only 30/day. So the challenge is really more tortoise-y than hare-y. As a matter of fact, I expect that as I grow stronger, 30/day will become quite easy. Even this morning I initiated the challenge by busting out 20, and here’s a training plan that advertises six weeks to 100 in a row. And hey, this kid only took a few hours! So, barring injury, the goal should stretch to 15,000 or 20,000.

As an aid to accountability, I’ve created a public spreadsheet to track my progress. I’ll be posting periodic updates (1,000-push-up milestones, goal adjustments, etc). I invite you all to check on my progress and heckle me as appropriate.

23 Responses

  1. Hmmm, interesting. I think I could get on a fitness program like that…

  2. I think our buddy Paul M. did 10,000 in one afternoon once.

  3. He could probably do 100 in the time it takes to read this post!

  4. BTW, I haven’t studied your fitness plan and don’t know much about this sort of thing, but isn’t it possible that you might end up with moobs stacked on top of huge pectoral muscles?

    I hesitate to emphasize the word “stacked” but you get the idea.

  5. A couple years ago I lost ~20 pounds using the Hacker’s Diet, an engineering- and statistics-based approach to weight management that really struck a chord with my analytical inclinations. Unfortunately I quit paying attention to the process for various reasons and gained it all back (with interest).

    I started watching myself more closely again this year, and it’s working quite well. The system also includes a light exercise program that includes a few basic movements (including push-ups) that increase in number of repetitions as you get comfortable with each successive “rung” of the ladder.

    The Nintendo Wii I recently bought is helping me get a bit more active, too. :)

  6. You should get the perfect push-up. It will significantly slow down your goal of 10,000 push-ups, but it does a much better job of working all the muscles.

  7. Yeah, I tried those out once, they are harder.

    As of last night, I am beginning my Y10Kp by going through the Hundred Pushups program. After that, I might switch to Perfect Pushups.

  8. Jack LaLanne? Last I heard he was hanging around bars in Morro Bay, hoisting beers and probably still doing push ups.

  9. So I toyed with entering hundredpushups at week 3, and then week 2, but I just started all from scratch this week, and completed week 1 (third column).

    The ~60 (in 5 sets) every other day is keeping me on pace with the ~30/day needed for 10K, and as the weeks go on, the number of pushups will obviously increase.

  10. I am doing this program with #1 and #2 and it has been great. #1 wasn’t very excited until he started doing it. #2 being wiry and light can really whip out the pushups and started out on level 2, so he’s ahead of us level 1s. #1, being ultra-competitive, already has plans to jump up to level 2 or 3 after the week 2 pushup test. #3 being 4 can wait 2 years 2 participate.

    2009 was a mediocre year of running for me and the pushup program has been a real jump start to my running this year. We all do our pushups before breakfast and after dropping off at school, I run. I’ve been able to go longer, faster without those bad aches and pains that sometimes occur in over-training. I’ve also been incorporating interval training which may have helped as well.

    I’ve been doing guy pushups until usually the last set where I resort to girl pushups. Surprisingly, I haven’t been that sore, just a little the morning after and it usually goes away quickly. I’m not working towards 10K pushups, though.

  11. FAIL!

    This morning, according to week 3, day 3, column 3 of, I was supposed to do 22+30+20+20+25+. Most days the first set is hard, and later sets I have a sensation of lightness (combined with tiredness). Today, just tiredness. I collapsed 17 into the 30, and just could not get them all done. Not sure if it’s because I accidentally did extra pushups on Wed (misread the schedule), or because week 3 column 3 ramps up ridiculously fast!

    In any case, I’ll repeat week 3 next week (so T and #1 and #2 and I will all be on the same week). No hurry, I got all year, and the schedule is keeping me on track for the 10K.

  12. Cracked 1000 today. Daily required pace remains very close to 30/day.

    Repeating week 3 is not really easier than the first time for week 3. I might end up taking many more than 6 weeks to get to 100. However, week 3, day 2, column 3 is the first point in the program where daily pushups is at least 100. From here on out, it’s getting to where I can do all 100 at once, rather than in 5 sets.

  13. Passed 2000 today. At this rate, I am projected to reach 14,207 this year.

    This thing is hard though. I’ve decided not to let myself past week4, column 2, until I can do the whole week with only the recommended rests between sets (60,90,120sec). This is currently my third week. And 2nd week in a row that I reach exhaustion after just 4 sets, so I have to rest 10-15min before set 5. Not sure what to do here, as I don’t seem to be progressing.

  14. 3000 done. Projected: 15851.

    I finally advanced myself from week 4 column 2, to week 4 column 3! I’ll be here another few weeks, until I can do 29+33+29+29+40 with only 2-minute breaks.

  15. I’m finishing up week 4 on week 4 and repeated week 3 at least twice, and I’m only utilizing column 1! It looks like the “6 week” program is totally unrealistic unless you are a dock worker or a 6 year old Chinese kung fu schoolboy. I will perservere! I don’t have a goal of 10K push ups in a year; I’m more interested in being able to do 20 push ups at a time about 3-4 times a week for maintaining upper body strength and keeping that calcium in my bones.

    On an up note, the interval training for running has been awesome and I feel really strong. Might have to look for half marathon to run this year- but it better be flat!

  16. Belated status report. I crossed 5000 at the end of may (and should pass 6000 today); that’s half the goal in four months, so well ahead of schedule. I fell off the wagon quite a bit in June though. I’m thinking this 100 pushups in 6 weeks thing is not really achievable (except for people who start skinny and strong). Maybe they were talking about six “analogical weeks”?

    I have gotten myself up to 65 in a go. I’m thinking maybe if I could do 100 in, say, 3 minutes (with as must resting as can also fit in 3 minutes), I’d call the program a wrap and just get on with 30+/day (50/day?) for the rest of the year (and beyond?)

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