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I am doing 100 push ups program and I have reached a plateau at around 65. The program suggests to have a day off between training days, but since I don't get desired results I would like to increase frequency. Is it the right move or should I think about something else?

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As an aside, I do hope you are doing other exercises to balance out all the arm/chest work you are doing... Any pullups? –  Berin Loritsch May 13 '11 at 15:13
    
Have you seen this question? I would suggest mixing up your routine, aka different variations of pushups and changing the amount of rest between sets. –  Tony R May 13 '11 at 15:17
    
@Berin: I am doing biceps exercises and have martial arts trainings twice a week, where we do general exercises. @Tony: Thanks, I'll try to read about different versions of push ups and see, what how to mix it all. –  gruszczy May 13 '11 at 17:22

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

Frequency, weight to use, sets/reps are all point-in-time individual specific settings. What works for you today many not work tomorrow or for anyone else. What I would recommend is:

  • incremental improvements - start light and slow and build up
  • if you're not fatigued, getting injured and see improvement, continue increasing intensity
  • if you start to see a decrease in desired results, become exhausted, start to experience injuries, cut back

Specific to plateauing - there are different methods to get over your current max:

  • change the exercise slightly - move your arms closer in, further apart, do t-ups, dive bombers, etc....vary the routine and see if that gets you past the 65 #
  • change the # of sets/reps - more or less time in-between the sets
  • tabata it - 20 seconds of pushups followed by 10 seconds of rest and continue until you hit your goal
  • do 60 (don't go to failure all the time) - break for an hour and then do another 30

to provide specific advice we would need to know what happens after 65 - are you sore? hands numb? just tired?

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At around 65 my arms are not strong enough to lift me up again. –  gruszczy May 13 '11 at 12:37
    
are you doing 65 in one shot? or in sets? try doing sets of 20, taking anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes breaks inbetween and see if you can past 65 - if not increase the rest period –  Meade Rubenstein May 13 '11 at 13:41
    
I am doing those 65 as a test of how many push-ups I can do in one series. I am usually doing it in following series: 36, 40, 30, 24, <as many as I can>. –  gruszczy May 13 '11 at 14:10
    
@gruszczy - how long have you been at 65 in a single set? and how long have you been doing push ups? (looks like your at 130 per day) –  Meade Rubenstein May 13 '11 at 16:03
    
Two or three months now I have been at these 65. I have been doing for about a year now, but I had some gaps in the meantime (at times I lost motivation, but recently I kept doing them very regularly). –  gruszczy May 13 '11 at 17:09

Your muscles only build while they are resting. Exercise breaks them down and works them hard. When you are not working your muscles, they start rebuilding themselves and making them strong.

In short, rest is an important aspect of building strength. If you can't go past the 65 barrier, it's possibly because they aren't getting enough rest in between. At a certain point, your muscles may need more rest than the one day in between. Your two choices are then:

  • Reduce the frequency of working those muscles
  • Reduce the load on those muscles (load is weight * reps)

In free weights, you can sometimes break through a plateau by a process called deloading. Essentially it is taking 10% of the weight off the barbell, and then slowly increasing back to where you were. Many times you can get through the plateau because you gave your muscles some more recovery time. If the deloading doesn't work a couple times in a row, you have to resort to cutting the number of sets.

Applying the same principle to you, I would recommend that you:

  • cut back the number of pushups by 10% (about 6-7) next workout
  • add them back on 1-2 at a time over the next workouts.

You might feel like you are going backwards, but you are putting your body back into a place where it can rebuild its muscle in time for the next workout. The hope is that it has spare capacity when you hit the limit.

I wish I could produce a direct link to the source of this information, but it is contained in the Stronglifts 5x5 special report. The report is free, has some pretty good information, but you have to register to get it.

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+1 for the importance of rest. A surprising amount of people dont/don't want to believe how necessary rest days are. –  Phil Quinn May 13 '11 at 13:00
    
I am a firm believer in hard day followed by easy/ rest day AND scheduling a down week every 3 or 4 weeks. Applying that means do less for a week (like cut by 25 percent) and then the next week begin with where you were. –  Christopher Ickes May 14 '11 at 4:11
    
@Phil Quinn: rest days are the primary reason people are unhappy with their results. They misunderstand when and why they should be resting. –  Merritt Mar 27 '12 at 20:35

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