22

My goal is to build muscle, especially in the arms/biceps.

Originally I was doing about 10 pushups a day along with some bicep stretches (wall stretch, using rollers, deltoid stretch, etc). In mid-June I started doing 25 pushups daily since I wanted to challenge myself (and I realized 10 a day is close to nothing). So, I continued with 25 daily, up until mid-July because I didn't see any noticeable muscle gain. Again, I upped the ante to 40 a day. Now I'm still doing 40 per day but I have yet to see my muscles getting bigger.

Am I being too impatient, or should I keep upping the count? Thanks!

Note: I'm doing a mix of regular on-the-floor pushups and modified pushups, but mostly regulars

9
  • 21
    People often underestimate how hard it is to grow muscle. That's where the fear of "getting too big" comes from. Your body doesn't want to put on muscle because it is very metabolically costly. If your body can do the work with the muscle it has, why put on more and needlessly burn extra calories?
    – E.Aigle
    Aug 5 at 6:20
  • 7
    I'm 70. In my early 20s I wanted to more easily pull my motorcycle out of mud holes in the environment I often rode in. I did 100 pushups a day - sometimes in several griups but I could do 100 at a time. I never seemed to get any better at extricating my motorcycle :-) Aug 5 at 13:31
  • 14
    @RussellMcMahon: Because for pulling you have to do deadlifts, rowing, pull-ups etc.
    – Michael
    Aug 5 at 13:32
  • 6
    Not a specific answer to this but be careful about doing too many pushups without doing some balancing exercise. Years ago, I was doing a lot of pushups and it caused a lot of back and neck issues. Rows with dumbbells and stable stool/ottoman are easy to do at home.
    – JimmyJames
    Aug 5 at 14:42
  • 2
    What everyone else said. But also, don't underestimate the value of resting. Overloading yourself every day is not an effective way to gain muscle. This is why it's actually recommended that you take 1-2 rest days between workouts.
    – AleksandrH
    Aug 5 at 15:30
36

Please check if you are missing something from this answer on how to build muscle. The two most common things people mess up when trying to grow larger muscles are they don't eat enough, and they don't sleep enough. It sounds like you also aren't working hard enough or even the correct muscle groups for your goals.

While 40 pushups is great progress from your starting point, it is simply not enough to build much muscle even with the perfect diet and sleep schedule. Also, pushups build your chest and triceps primarily, try pullups or some form of pulling movement to work on your biceps. As a rule of thumb, pushing away from you works chest, triceps, quads, calves, etc. Pulling works biceps, back, hamstrings, etc. Perhaps try pullups if you have access to a bar?

You need to try to progress a little bit every time you work out, so one more rep or a little more weight. A lot of the time you might not get an extra rep in and that is perfectly normal. The issue with your current routine is simply that your body has gotten used to how much work you are putting in. If your body can handle your current routine, why would it need to produce any more contractile tissue?

9

It seems that if you insist on doing unweighted push-ups you have to build up to 100s of push-ups every day to see results (1).

Personally I do push-ups with a weight plate on my back instead. That way I can progress with far fewer repetitions, and only doing push-ups 2 or 3 times a week.

Another option is to switch to dips. They are a lot harder than push-ups but train many of the same muscles.

Also as already mentioned you must make sure that you eat enough and in particular a lot of protein.

And as already mentioned it is important to train your pulling muscles also. Otherwise you may risk posture like a monkey and pain. You should do horizontal row exercises pulling shoulder blades together. Inverted rows (australian pullups) is one good option. Barbell rows or 1 handed dumbell rows is another one.

I would suggest you do one of these two circuits:

A (eg. outside in a park)

  • 1 set of dips
  • 1 set of inverted rows
  • 1 set of push-ups
  • 1 set of inverted rows

Repeat

B (in the gym)

  • 1 set of weighted push-ups
  • 1 set of barbell rows

Repeat

(1) https://www.thebioneer.com/bodyweight-training/

8
4

Number of reps

At 40 reps, you're training for endurance. That's great for toning - but not for putting on bulk. Some answers have suggested using a weight plate on your back. A simpler solution though is simply to support your feet on a chair.

Position

Look at how wide your hands are. With wide arms, you're mostly just working your pecs. Standard push-ups for martial arts have the hands immediately below the shoulders to give a more complete workout; hands touching is even harder.

Push-ups are not the whole story

I had a similar idea, about 3 years back. What I found was that simply doing push-ups without any corresponding exercise for my back muscles resulted in my pecs pulling my shoulders forward into a "hunch". My pecs may have been toned, but that posture just made them sag. I looked worse, not better.

My solution was to add a workout on my shoulders and back. Nothing excessive - arm raises, rhomboid pulls, and so on. I now have much better posture than I ever remember having before, because my back development has naturally helped to pull my shoulders down and back. If you're about the looks, then this opens your chest up and pushes your pecs out, making you generally look better.

3
  • I don't really buy the endurance thing. By increasing volume, e.g. going up to 60, 80, 100, 120 reps the muscles will be obliged to grow to do that.
    – Džuris
    Aug 6 at 10:02
  • But I totally agree about the final point. Too often people focus on the muscles that they can see in the mirror. For men that's chest, abs, front deltoids (and biceps) — all the muscles that curl you forward and inward making a terrible posture. For pretty much any goal — health, looks, athleticity, ... working on your back is at least as important as the front.
    – Džuris
    Aug 6 at 10:04
  • @Dzuris Muscles develop differently depending on training for endurance with lighter loads, or fewer reps with heavier loads. There's a reason marathon runners and power lifters don't look the same. :)
    – Graham
    Aug 9 at 21:17
3

For reference I started seriously taking my fitness into account Mar 20 and went from this: enter image description here

to this: enter image description here

Some of my thoughts on my journey:

  • To get to the same level of definition that you see on TV, social media, and Hollywood is just not possible for regular people, at least naturally. Those folks have $$$, 6+ hours a day, and a private chef and trainer.
  • Even if you have those things it takes a LONG time of CONSISTENT training to get visible results. The two pictures shared was from Jul 19 to Aug 20.
  • During that time I was training 2-3 hours a day every single day and averaging anywhere between 300 > 800 reps a day.
  • I realize that it's not the number of reps but the efficiency of the progression that matters most. 10 planche push ups with perfect form >>> 100 regular push ups any day.
  • I was also fasting (8 eat; 16 fast) and eating purely protein and vegetables. Zero carbs, dairy, or sugar. And I mean zero; maybe one "cheat" meal a month (if even that). A lot of them also dehydrate for the "shot" to get that crazy level of tone.
  • Enjoy the process. The best feeling is when you get to a level of consistency that you wake up and look forward to working out. And feel yourself grow stronger and lighter all the while at it.

Hope you stick with it!

0
1

I gotta add some information for you:

First of all, doing the same excercise will get your muscles "used" to it. At some point there is a plateau and it takes a lot more time to actually grow.

So variation in your excercise is key, you should switch up ever 6 - 8 weeks.

Also you honestly dont do enough for muscle grow. You really need to do more excercises than "just" push ups. Get some weights honestly. Depending on how much you weigh, weightless training can only do so much for you. As a big feller it does a lot for you, as a lean boy not much at all.

Lastly it is REALLY important to work GROUPS of muscles and the "antigroup". Like dont do JUST biceps, you also need should and lower arms because it looks stupid and you need to support that biceps. You also need to train triceps, so your biceps doesnt become to strong for your triceps and you cant extend your arms anymore.

One last tip, dont forget to stretch, you do it and that is great. Otherwise your muscles will pull together and get short.

4
  • 1
    Do you have any scientific reference about getting "used" to it? I am under the impression that the current science doesn't believe that. It's just total volume and good rest that counts.
    – Džuris
    Aug 6 at 9:35
  • theconversation.com/…. There you go. There is literally loads of information about your system getting "used" to certain workout. And why shouldnt it? From a evolutionary standpoint it totally makes sense that doing the same work over and over again stops becoming tiring and stops making you "heavy" with muscles. You get stronger, yes, but muscle grow stops.
    – bibleblade
    Aug 6 at 9:48
  • 1
    The article that you linked is not a scientific publication and it doesn't even argue for switching exercises, it just tells to increase the amount/intensity.
    – Džuris
    Aug 7 at 8:11
  • @bibleblade - This site is based on gathering answers that are sourced in scientific research. Don't get upset and start namecalling when someone asks to see the research that backs up your claims.
    – Alec
    Aug 16 at 23:29

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.