I'm sporting moderately for about half of a year, dropped lots of weight and got some muscle. The only problem there is, is with pushup repetitions.

  • Previous summer I was doing 10-15 normal pushup reps.
  • Next, I strarted doing them with "handles" (or whatever they are called, for deeper pushups). And I still could do only 10-15 of them.
  • Then I trained myself enough to do 10-15 diamond pushups in one set.

Everything seems pretty nice, right? However, when I now try doing "basic" pushups, they seem to be horribly easy for me at first, but I still can't do more than 15 of them! My arms do not hurt, my chest does not hurt, I just feel horribly tired after doing 15 of them and just collapse on the ground trying to do 16-th. It's like my hands can't handle more than 15 reps

Some of my friends told me that I need to drink more water. Well, last month I've been drinking 4-5 litres per day. The other one told me to try Creatine - with same result.

What can be the problem? I don't think that is linked with lungs and oxygen consumption, as I can run 8km at 10 km/h with no breathing problems. Maybe I need some special training program?

Thanks in advance.

Information about my training:

I'm following one of training programs described in book Convict Conditioning. Basically I'm training every day with Sunday as an off-day. Program targets different muscle group every day, 2 times a week. So basically I'm doing pushups 2 times a week (tuesdays and thursdays).

Usual pushup session looks like this:

  • 2 sets (15 reps) wide hands with handles
  • 2 sets (10-15 reps) diamond pushups
  • 2 sets (5-10 reps each arm) of 1 arm + 1 arm with handle (training with aim for one-armed pushups).

The whole program goes like this:

  1. Mondays: Pullups, Situps, Grip Work (hanging)
  2. Tuesdays: Pushups, Leg-raises, Calf Work
  3. Wednesday: Hand-stands, Bridges, Neck-work (bridge-like)
  4. See Mondays.
  5. See Tuesdays.
  6. See Wednesday.
  7. Day off + some light stretching over the day.

Also, I think it's worth mentioning that I get 8 hours of sleep, and 100-150g of protein per day (+multivitamins +potassium +magnesium +fish-oil). Moreover, no smoking, no alcohol and healthy food only.

  • How often do you train and are all workouts the same or is there some variation?
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 8:17
  • I'm training every day, following a program targeting different muscles 3 days in a row. So basically I'm doing pushups 2 times a week (tuesdays and thursdays). The pushups are with variations: 2 sets (15 reps) wide hands with handles, 2 sets (10-15 reps) diamond pushups, and 2 sets (5-10 reps each arm) of 1 arm + 1 arm with handle (training with aim for one-armed pushups).
    – bezmax
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 8:24
  • I suggest you edit that somewhere in the middle of your question, some people might not read the comments. Could you also elaborate on what you do on the other days, because if we would encourage you to do more pushups, it might require changing your entire program to accommodate it
    – Ivo Flipse
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 8:26
  • @IvoFlipse Updated the question.
    – bezmax
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 8:31
  • There is a website called onehundredpushups.com (or something similar), which has an incremental workout schedule for you to use when ramping up your push-up repetitions. It worked quite well for me, though I never used it to the completion (I stopped around 70).
    – Moses
    Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 15:15

2 Answers 2


First - I'd recommend just forgetting training for one-arm pushups and probably even nix the diamond pushups. You need to work on the primary movement first, then expand to variations.

Next, if you really want to increase the number of consecutive pushups you can do, I'd suggest doing them more frequently - maybe every other day. A few extra sets of pushups shouldn't interfere with your other training.

Finally, try a version of cluster training. Chose a total number of pushups to achieve (say 64, since that would be one more per set if you did 4 sets of 15), and take as many sets as you need do that many. Don't push all the way to complete failure, and rest for up to 2 minutes between sets. You might end up doing something like:

13, 13, 12, 10, 7, 6, 5

You'll finish with more pushups than you would have even if you were able to max out at 15 for four sets. Each workout try to bang out one extra rep for your last two or three sets. Do this for a few weeks, then retest your max and see if there's improvement.

  • 1
    +1, I used the cluster training method and got awesome results. I also agree on only focusing on the standard push-up until the time is right.
    – Moses
    Commented Mar 30, 2012 at 15:19

It sounds like the problem is muscular endurance. Because you haven't trained for muscular endurance (20 or more reps), your body hasn't adapted itself to do that. There are two approaches to improving your ability to do more reps when you can't hit that 20 rep goal:

  • Increase weight (add a weight on your shoulders, or wear a weight vest), and then do a back off set of just body weight. Keep increasing weight. Eventually, your base of strength will help power the longer sets.
  • Just increase by 1 rep no matter how ugly it is. This forces you to develop the mental fortitude necessary to get past that sticking point.

Depending on how true to the spirit of Convict Conditioning you want to be, you may choose to try one or both options. It's definitely true that if you can lift a higher max weight, lighter weights are easier to deal with and you can do more of them. It's also true that the biggest hurdle to going past the point of fatigue is mental. You will feel like throwing in the towel, but you can't give yourself that luxury.

  • 1
    In addition, incline pushups would be easier, so could be also used to train muscular endurance.
    – user3085
    Commented Mar 28, 2012 at 15:20

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