I am doing pushups for years - single set, evening, at home. I increased gradually the number of pushups in my set and I have managed to achieve 37 and I stayed at it. But I don't enjoy doing them. I enjoy (especially with empty belly) first 15 pushups, then 15th-25th pushop are fair, then 26th-30th pushps are hard and I should stop around 30th pushup. I remain on my hands and then I try to do the remainig 7 pushups. Sometimes I managed, sometimes not. I just fall on the floor feeling exhaustion in my hands and I should wait for some minutes to overcome fatigue and then I can do remaining portion.

Is it alright that I am doing in such a way.

I have started such routing before starting to gym. At the gym I am doing increasing loads until fatigue and at the gym I have no reservation to stop during the set if I feel the fatigue, exhaustion and need for recovery-time. And I can continue my set after pause.

Generally I am really confused about this sense of fatigue. Should I need to achieve it? I dislike it. It is not nice physically. And it is really dreadful psychologically - that I can not do more, that I have to stop, especially because I have not achieve the fit physical form. And if I stop now then there is no progress and I will have no normal physical form at all. I am a little overweigth.

So - I sketched the general reasoning about my design of my 37-long pushup set. My question is - is there any value in such design and how can it be improved? Or is it necessary to experience hardship to attain results? Per aspera ad astra - there the way towards stars goes through thorns? Or maybe I have some medical condition (myopathology or metabolic disease that prevents me from achieving normal load with normal sense of motions?)

1 Answer 1


As most things, it depends on what your goal is. A lot of people want to build muscle and be fit. A lot of people feel a rush when they achieve a physical feat. Different goals will require different training modalities.

Since you've specifically stated that you dislike doing so many push-ups, I am going to assume you are just trying to build muscle and be fit.

is there any value in such design and how can it be improved?

Since you're now going to the gym, then I would say you don't need to do so many push-ups at all. You can build muscle and strength more efficiently by doing dumbbell and/or barbell presses. With added weight and less reps, you'll get build more muscle and gain strength then doing a ton of push-ups.

is it necessary to experience hardship to attain results?

To a point, yes. Working out is about adaptation. To build muscle, you need to give a stimulus to the muscle that tells it that it needs to grow. So you need to work to some level of discomfort (not pain) in order to adapt to it. That way, the next time you do it, it you won't feel discomfort.

What you've described is called training to failure which, as you described, is very fatiguing, uncomfortable, and sometimes dangerous. While training to failure will certainly create that stimulus to grow, it does not seem to be necessary.

In this meta-analysis looking at training to failure vs. not, it looked at fifteen different studies. It concluded that:

Training to muscle failure does not seem to be required for gains in strength and muscle size. However, training in this manner does not seem to have detrimental effects on these adaptations, either.

However, it does state that

In studies that did not equate training volume between the groups, the analysis showed significant favoring of non-failure training on strength gains

The theory of why this is by people like Layne Norton would be that training to failure is too exhausting for strength training, and it impedes recovery. If you want the best of both worlds, you need to train to near failure and then train to failure on the final set when exhaustion is no longer a factor (but that is an option, not requirement).

Now, the problem is most people have a hard time determining what near failure feels like. One strategy is to push until you "involuntarily slow down". For example, with a given weight if one rep takes 1 second to complete, you keep going until it takes 2 seconds to complete a rep. With that you can be reasonably certain that you're getting pretty close to failure. This strategy is best suited for machines which are stuck in a single plane of motion.

Another strategy is to push until your form starts to break down. As soon as you shift in your seat, or your arm flairs a little off the normal path, then you're done. This is best for free weights like barbells or dumbbells.

Training like that, you will still feel tired and discomfort, but it won't be nearly as much.

Regarding the psychological aspect, that's really personal. Some people find really high sets to be very motivating. Others, like me, find lower rep sets more motivating. It sounds like based on what you've stated that it's the latter. So focus on using a weight that causes you to slow down at 8 reps and see if you find that suitable.

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