I do 5 sets of push-ups every other day. I do alternating workouts, like in the first day, I do push-ups for increased reps, then the next day I do weighted push-ups for 2 sets with added weights and 3 sets without added weight.

When doing the increased reps workout, when I start to work out, I do about 28-30 reps in the first set, then I can do only 15 reps or so in the second set, and thus I am unable to go near my first set rep count in set two. For increased rep days, I take 2 minutes rest between sets, but in weighted push ups I take 3 minutes.

Why can I do so many fewer push-ups in the second set?

  • I had to guess a little at your intent. Please let me know if I went counter to what you intended.
    – Sean Duggan
    Mar 2, 2016 at 17:18

2 Answers 2


I'm guessing that 30 reps is about the maximum push-ups you can do.

For training purposes and if you want to do several sets. You most of the times don't go for the maximum reps in the first set. You intentionally do less to be able to complete your 5 or N sets routine.

If I were you I would cut down the reps and try to start with 20 reps or so and build from there on.

Increasing reps

Personally what helped me increase my rep range was to change my routine every other week or month. For example:

  • Normal sets: N reps for M sets.
  • Weighted: I would do less reps. Don't take too much weight you can't handle. I would keep the rep range +10.
  • Pyramid: You would start with 1 rep for the first set, take a short break, then 2 reps, break, 3 reps and so on. When you hit your limit say 10, you go down, 9, 8, ...2, 1.
  • Half pyramid: same as pyramid but without going down. Make sure to really go to the max.
  • Modified pyramid: when I got in the higher range reps (+50), instead of increasing my reps by one, I increased them by 2 or by 5. For example: 2, 4, 6, 8 ... 18, 20 or 5, 10, 15, 20 ... 45, 50.
  • Max reps every set: you would notice decrease in reps here the more sets you do.

Personally the pyramid routine really helped me a lot: I once noticed a progress of 10 extra reps the next week.

Side note: the numbers may seem arbitrary. They partially are, try to figure out what works out best for you.

About rest time

Some people would say 2-3 minutes for beginners. Some would go boot camp style and suggest 30-60 seconds. Some would take 90 seconds. I personally even go for 5 minutes depending on the situation. Bottom line: it depends on your condition, your goals (and motivation :)). Listen to your body but do try to break the limit.


The most likely case is that you're at an upper limit in the number of push-ups you're doing in the first set such that your arms and chest are already fatigued by the end of the first set. When you start the second one, despite the rest, they may still be too fatigued. Are you training for a faster recovery or a larger number of push-ups overall? If it's the former, you're basically training it correctly by forcing yourself to strive despite the fatigue. If the latter, I'd advise cutting down the amount of reps in the first set so that you can more evenly divide your fatigue and energy expenditure.

Either way, it might be worth taking a week or so off to let your body recover. Sometimes that's what it takes to get past a plateau. Your body's so busy rebuilding itself that you have fewer muscles fibers to recruit into performing your exercise.

  • my goal is increased muscle mass in chest and more reps like 100 in a row.what rest time do you suggest on weighted pushups and increased reps pushups.in between sets.?
    – ASD
    Mar 3, 2016 at 8:51
  • Yes i do have to take few seconds and continue doing push ups in first set
    – ASD
    Mar 3, 2016 at 9:00

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