Zen & The Art Of Daily Pushups

Man doing pushups on the beach at sunset

The 100 Pushups Challenge was created as a cure to “Workout Of The Day” syndrome, which is a malady that involves the constant flip-flopping between different types of workout routines.

Our philosophy is that this desire for workout variation denies you one of the essential sources of long-term motivation, which is the ability to see consistent progress over time. By flip-flopping, you have no reference point, no previous workout to base improvements on, and working out quickly becomes a chore and an obligation.

100 Pushups is a minimalist approach to training. There is:

  • clarity in your goal (do 100 pushups)
  • clarity in when you train (every day)
  • clarity in what you are going to do each workout (pushups)
  • clarity in what progress is (you are able to do more pushups)

There are zero barriers to training, and this itself is empowering. The option of having an excuse to avoid training is removed. There is no need to join or visit the gym. There is no cost. There is no need for any special equipment. You don’t even need to put shoes on – there goes the excuse of having to expend effort tying your shoelaces…

With this clarity comes focus, something which we can all use more of. Especially when you do morning pushups, you start the day off with just the right dose of focus – and discipline – that can set off a cascade of positive choices throughout the day. Don’t believe us? Give it a try. It can sound a trifle absurd in writing here, but it really does work in practice.

The Motivation of Mindful Training

Results come quickly with pushups. They do not require weeks, months or years of sacrifice to see a meaningful improvement. At the same time, the movement itself is just complicated enough to require mindful attention to technique, particularly towards the end of a hard effort.

It is rare that at the end of a set of pushups, you come away thinking that there is nothing to improve upon next time. Much like an advanced yoga move, pushups are a skill that you cultivate over time, rather than a mindless exercise where you end up clock-watching.

Energizing Power Breathing

Eastern meditation relies heavily on the power of breathing to help focus and clear the mind. But you do not have to be a practitioner in order to reap the benefits. Pushups clear the mind. They also force you to breathe correctly, by inhaling and exhaling against a braced core. The rhythm of pushups leads automatically to a rhythmic breathing pattern – one powerful breath per pushup. This mimics the prescriptions of meditation, with the same results. Do not be surprised if you begin to feel a sense of elation that comes with pushups, it is not just the endorphins from the effort at play.

Total Body Training

The humble pushup is seeing a resurgence of interest among experts in the strength and fitness field. Studies in muscle activation show that certain types of pushups (namely banded pushups) activate higher muscle contractions in the chest and triceps than the bench press. And unlike the bench press, the pushups facilitate a more natural movement pattern for your scapulae (the rear of your shoulder), leading to higher levels of functional strength (a.k.a real-world strength).

It doesn’t end there. The common misconception is that pushups are only a chest and tricep exercise. They are so much more. Suspending your body horizontally against gravity requires a total-body effort – regardless of your chest and tricep strength, the number of pushups you can do is limited by the amount of time you are able to hold your body in a horizontal position.

You will come to realize this quickly once you begin doing pushups planks, an element of the 100 pushups training plan (pushup planks are essentially holding the top of a pushup positioned for a prescribed period of time). From a training perspective, you gain most bang for your buck when you recruit a large percentage of your body’s muscle fibers in one go. The pushup has this easily covered.

Pushups For Life

The 100 Pushups Challenge involves a 45-day training plan, but consider these 45 days preparation for a lifetime of daily pushups. During the training, you are instilling a sense of discipline, mental fortitude and perseverance. These traits do not vanish come the 45th day.

See how far pushups take you. Use them as a foundation for further physical challenges. But never leave behind the daily pushup. There is something modestly life-changing about the humble pushup. I’m glad you have joined us for the journey.

Next Section: Can’t do one full pushup? →

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