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Push-up Challenge: Weekly Habit Practice

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The Weekly Habit Practices are mini-challenges intended to help you fine-tune different aspects of your health and wellness. Offered between Challenges, these practices address fitness, nutrition, stress reduction, productivity, and personal connection — because health is about far more than food and the gym (and we could all use a little practice).

Take the Push-up Challenge by Doing Push-ups Every Day

Simple Instructions:

  • This week, set a daily push-up goal (and complete it for seven straight days).
  • You can meet your goal in a single set of push-ups or across multiple sets throughout the day.
  • You may choose to push your limits or simply to build a habit of daily exercise, depending on your personal style and objectives.

Why Is This Practice Important?

Despite what we might believe after years of fitness industry marketing, exercise doesn’t need to be complicated to be effective (and we can fit it into our days regardless of how busy or stressful they might be).

This week, we’ll prove the principle, challenging ourselves to create a daily exercise habit using only the simple push-up. In the process, we’ll plant the seeds of change (and set ourselves up for success in the next Challenge), building a routine that can be done anywhere, anytime, and with zero equipment.

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Instructions for the Daily Push-up Challenge

  1. Decide how many push-ups you’ll complete each day. If you’re new to bodyweight exercise, pick a relatively low number you know you can achieve, and make consistency the objective of your Push-up Challenge. Your goal is to complete all seven days (rather than to worry about how many push-ups you do each day).
  2. If you’re a veteran, pick a daily number that will push your limits slightly, and see if you can use the Push-up Challenge to build endurance and stamina. Your goal across the week-long Challenge is to complete your number in fewer and fewer sets as we go along. For instance, if your number is 80 push-ups daily, you might accumulate your total using sets of 8 for the first few days, followed by sets of 10, and ending the challenge with sets of 15 or 20.
  3. If soreness might be an issue for you, keep your sets small and spread them throughout the day. This approach will limit immediate fatigue and soreness, and will ensure you hit your goals without breaking a sweat — perfect for those who might need to complete a few sets during working hours. Just be warned — this technique can allow you to accumulate quite a bit of volume without much awareness of how much work you’ve done. As such, you’ll want to limit the total number of push-ups you perform, being conservative until you’re sure you can handle the volume without adverse effect.

Movement Tips and Options for Scaling

To perform a push-up:

  1. Start in a plank. Arms straight, with your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in a straight line. Abs are tight and engaged.
  2. Bend your arms, keeping your elbows against (or very near) your sides, descending until your chest touches the ground.
  3. Push back up to a plank, maintaining the straight line between shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles.

To modify the push-up:

  1. Maintain the form outlined above, but place your hands on an elevated object. You could start with your hands on a chair, table, or couch (making sure it is secure and won’t slide). Choose a higher or lower object based on your success in performing a full range of motion push-up — a higher object is easier; a lower object is harder. Be sure to maintain your shoulders, hips, knees, and ankles in a straight line, regardless of the height of your hands.
  2. Another option — begin with the form outlined above, but drop your knees to the ground. This will effectively shorten your body length, reducing the mass moved, thereby making the push-up easier. If you choose this option, pay special attention to maintain shoulders, hips, and knees in a straight line.

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Jon Gilson
Jon Gilson is a coach and writer, and the former CEO of the Whole Life Challenge.

Previously, he founded Again Faster Equipment, a functional fitness equipment company created to serve the CrossFit community. Established in 2006, Jon took the Company global in 2012, twice landing on the Inc. 500/5000 list of America’s fastest growing private companies.

From 2007 to 2013, he served as a Senior Lecturer for CrossFit, Inc., training aspiring CrossFit trainers at over 100 seminars, including engagements in Iceland, Afghanistan, Moscow, Holland, the United States, and Canada. Jon also served on the CrossFit L1 Advisory Board, helping establish policy for the organization’s training efforts from 2011 to 2013.

He’s also done stints in state government, gym management, and consulting — and currently teaches classes at CrossFit City Line.

Jon graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2003, summa cum laude, with a B.A. in Psychology. He also holds a Graduate Certificate in Finance and Control from the Harvard Extension School, 2006, and has completed coursework in data analytics.