I have a desk job which involves a frankly ridiculous number of phone meetings. As a generally hyperactive person, I take advantage of my wireless headset and pace back and forth, do dips using my office chair, go to the restroom, etc.

I recently had the idea that, once each meeting, I would do 10 pushups, something I can do without difficulty. My thought was that if I do this each meeting, I would end up doing somewhere between 60-120 pushups over the course of a day, with about 30-60 minutes between each "set". My question is, would there be any benefit to "working out" like this? Given that each set doesn't stress the muscles so much, would the compounded fatigue have any benefit?

  • Cure for insomnia.
    – MDMoore313
    Nov 13 '13 at 19:53
  • Why only 10 pushups? Why not go the threshold of becoming difficult, or something like that?
    – user4644
    Nov 13 '13 at 20:28
  • @Kate Two thoughts behind that: (1) do something that won't cause me to max out each set, and (2) do something that won't put me too out of breath, as I am supposed to be able to talk on the phone if necessary, and it would just be weird if it sounded like I was running. The exact number isn't as important; I'm more curious about the benefit of mini-exercises.
    – eykanal
    Nov 13 '13 at 21:12
  • They'll burn more calories than not doing them. However, unless you tax your body in some way, you're not asking it to adapt. While the exact number doesn't matter, how "mini" the exercise set is relative to your capacity does matter.
    – user4644
    Nov 13 '13 at 22:42
  • Anything is a step up from zip!!
    – techsmith
    Apr 24 '14 at 22:09

This sounds a lot like Greasing the Groove by Pavel Tsatsouline to be. As explained at this link, it is about training the movement patterns and efficiency, especially around bodyweight exercises. If 10 push-ups is 50-80% and you're not going to failure or overtraining you should be good. I'm not sure if the compounded fatigue is supposed to have any benefit, but I could see how training movement patterns could provide significant benefits.


Absolutely yes!

One, it constantly elevates your heart rate, burning more calories.

Two, the pushups work your entire body (increasing the reps over time will be ideal as it allows your body to get stronger).

Three, do that everyday and people will start thinking you're on steroids because of the consistent energy level you'll develop.

Four, as long as you're not pushing your body to the max every time, you shouldn't feel any (much) fatigue.

Five, this will allow you to incorporate the exercises in your regular workout sessions and train your body to want to workout constantly.

Awesome! Go for it.

Mind your nutrition as doing that doesn't give you the license to have a bad diet.

Also, don't make them substitutes for your regular workout sessions.

Now, drop down and give me 10 push-ups :).

  • I would love it if you could provide some more information on this. On one hand, any exercise burns calories; any movement does, of course. On the other hand, I've also heard people say that exercise that doesn't actually cause exertion has little effect in terms of building fitness. If you're not the least bit sore or tired, your muscles haven't broken themselves down to rebuild. Of course, that could be a rumor too... Jun 24 '14 at 12:06
  • @SeanDuggan It's not that you won't be tired (at least initially); it's that your body will recover faster (because the sessions are short) and it adapts to the program faster. And as exercises increase your energy levels, doing them multiple times a day allows your body to maintain that high energy level throughout the day. That might even replace morning coffee :) Try 2-3 exercises (body-weight exercises, if possible) every 4 hours for a week and see if you noticed any difference in your energy level and metabolism :) Jun 24 '14 at 15:24

There are factors to consider and you could vary when exercising. These are intensity, volume and rest between each set. You are doing a low-intensity workout because you said that you could do them without difficulty. You are doing a lot of sets, seeing that you target to do 6-12 sets of 10 pushups each day but you're giving yourself too much rest in between that you won't be able achieve the area where you're pushing yourself. If you want to get stronger in the sense that you'll be able to do more push-ups per set, I advice you to change this routine and go for more reps each set or shorten the rest in between sets to maybe about two minutes.

My question is, would there be any benefit to "working out" like this?

There are benefits, yes. You'll burn a bit more calories just from doing the movement itself but the added benefit is that you raise your heart rate for a bit. This also trains the connection between muscle and your brain but a simple pushup is a simple movement unlike more compound movements.

Given that each set doesn't stress the muscles so much, would the compounded fatigue have any benefit?

Since you're not really pushing yourself even for the first six sets of 10 pushups with about 30-minute rests in-between, I'd say that you won't grow that much stronger. If you want to get stronger, you have to get out of the comfortable zone and strive to increase pushups for the last sets until you can't do them anymore. I'd advise you to do the last set of pushups for the day with increased reps up to the point where you'll just drop.

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