Ultimate Pushup Workout Routine For Upper Body Mass & Definition – Cuz Regular Pushups Are Too Easy!
One of the all time great exercises is the pushup. I think it’s safe to say that everyone has done a pushup in their lifetime … or at least tried! One thing I’m not too sure of though is that if many people realize just how effective a focused pushup workout routine can be at building solid muscle mass as well as great definition. Probably when most people think of doing a pushup workout they think of doing as many pushups as they can or doing 3 sets of 10 reps. The best workouts do not involve either one of those approaches.
So with an “old-school” exercise like the pushup, comes a retro feeling pic. This reminds me a little of TRON: Legacy except of course it’s missing the cool blue neon lights!
Seriously though, even though doing a “pushup workout” might seem to be a little retro and outdated it’s not. Yes, I do lift weights for the majority of my workout, but I still really enjoy mixing in and incorporating body weight workouts as well. Here is what I think is the ultimate pushup routine for developing both muscle mass and muscle density.
A Routine For Mass & Density
Since busting out 50 pushups as a “workout” isn’t too ideal for gaining size or strength, simply doing some pushups every other day isn’t a good approach to building your pecs. I think many find that standard pushups are a little too easy to get any real results from.
With even a little pushup training it’s not hard to do 50 to 100 pushups straight. The thing is though, that this is strictly endurance training and it’s not going to add any real size, strength or definition.
Here is a full pushup workout based on escalating density training — a solid approach to build muscle mass while performing body weight training.
The Pushup Exercises
In this workout we’ll incorporate the standard pushup and two common variations in order to work the entire pec muscles. There are certainly some much more extreme variations and I wouldn’t call any of the following three pushups the ultimate pushup, but the routine is what will make these effective!
For fun, I’ve got some of the “ultimate pushup” candidates a little farther down.
- Standard Pushup
- Diamond Pushup
- Wide Grip / Duck Toed Pushup
I’m not too sure of the “real” name for these, but they’re just wide gripped pushups with your fingers pointed to the sides instead of straight ahead.
The Ultimate Pushup Routine
Alternating the three variations of the pushup, you’ll perform 3 reps, rest 10 seconds and repeat for a total workout of 15 minutes.
- Standard Pushup – 3 reps
- Rest – 10 seconds
- Diamond Pushup – 3 reps
- Rest – 10 seconds
- Wide Grip / Duck Toed Pushup – 3 reps
- Rest – 10 seconds
When it starts to get tough to do the 3 reps you should add 10 seconds of rest time. At first you will think this will not happen, but it will!
Warning: this may seem a little “too easy” at first and you’ll probably be tempted to start out doing higher amounts of reps. That’s actually not ideal though. In fact, one of the aspects that makes this pushup workout so effective is the fact that you are not pushing to failure.
Ultimate, Amazing & Just Plain Impressive Pushups
Here are a few advanced pushup variations for the adventurous. This is where it gets impressive!
My top 3 pushup variations. Click on the names to watch a pop-up video demonstration of the pushup — 90 Degree Pushup is a “must watch!”
- #3 – Aztec Pushup
These pushups made the top 3 list for a reason! Start off in standard pushup position and push/jump/explode off the ground so that you can do a jack knife in the air!
- #2 – Full Planche Pushup
This is where it starts to get serious. Short description: do a pushup without your feet ever touching the ground.
- #1 – 90 Degree Pushup
The ultimate pushup! Do a pushup without feet ever touching the ground. Oh yeah, that’s after you’ve done a handstand pushup — all without your feet ever touching the ground.
Obviously you’ve got to be in amazing shape to even preform these pushup variations! As far as doing an actual pushup workout based off of these — forget it, right!
For a full-blown workout that you can do in your own home… without a gym membership, checkout this program by Craig Ballantyne. It’s quite impressive as well.
June 8, 2011 @ 12:31 am
I still use and appreciate the push-up in my routine. For one, I do this because it’s a classic and it has proven itself in the gym over the years. And secondly, I still think it works. Doing a set of proper form push ups (emphasis on form) still challenges and interests me. Gonna make use of your routine in tomorrows workout, thanks!
June 8, 2011 @ 6:57 am
Right on Ahmed, it’s good to hear this stuff is actually being used. I did this routine the night I posted this article … I was sore the next day … oops 😉
July 2, 2014 @ 5:38 am
how many push ups should I do? should I just do my max
August 20, 2016 @ 4:02 pm
Does this work biceps and triceps or just chest? It’s hard to find a bicep bodyweight workout these days. Thanks
August 23, 2011 @ 3:41 am
Also, I read somewhere that doing push-ups with your hands in line with your head rather than in line with your chest really strengths the upper and inner pectoral region. Could I add a 4th kind of push-up to the routine, or is there already a push-up in the routine that works that area?
September 19, 2011 @ 6:52 pm
I was just curious the concept behind not working to failure being better than working to failure … Just had never heard of this before. Also daily with this or every other day ?
November 15, 2011 @ 4:41 am
are you supposed to do it everyday or every other day and if you do it for a while do you increase the time to maybe like 25 minute or just stick with 15 minute? thanks!
January 26, 2012 @ 2:39 pm
Hey Daniel, I definitely wouldn’t do it everyday. Even every other day might be a bit much. Shoot for twice a week at 15 minutes and see how that works for you.
January 11, 2012 @ 5:34 am
thank you for the info. im 50 years old my dad a retired lapd 71 weve trained all our lives. my dads in great shape,does push ups as a staple. i have 6 black belts all following navy seal programs with push ups as a staple. if thats not enough join the usmc and find out. i mainly wanted to thank you for your time. the last site said very little then asked for a donation. god bless you. hope you make lots of money training people.
March 4, 2012 @ 9:04 am
Thanks for the comment Kirk! That’s quite the resume, keep up the good work.
March 18, 2014 @ 5:47 am
Come on Kirk… You didn’t make that comment to thank Kevin for his time. You made that comment so could describe how much of a bad ass you THINK you are. Nobody cares.
January 26, 2012 @ 2:06 pm
Found your site after crapping out my knee and needing to find a temporary substitute for running. I’ve been doing the 15 minutes once a week (up to 17 minutes now after a very achy first couple weeks) with another shoulder/arm dumbbell workout weekly, and after 8 weeks there’s a visible difference in how I look. Wife says, “I like your new body!”
Thanks for publishing this, and keep up the good work.
January 26, 2012 @ 2:37 pm
That’s awesome EJ, I’m glad it’s working for you!
I know how crappy knees go … I’ve got one too. I can’t even run anymore so I do all my cardio on the bike and elliptical.
January 28, 2012 @ 1:48 pm
This is a solid workout. You can also try to add some instability to it by placing your feet on a stability ball and get some core action with it.
March 4, 2012 @ 9:06 am
Hey Jonathan, thanks for the comment. That is a great idea … I would recommend doing that once this push up workout gets a little too easy.
March 7, 2012 @ 8:58 am
I like to use bands to make them more difficult. You don’t get the same variety but you can always change the band to increase the challenge.
March 20, 2012 @ 11:36 am
Thanks for the comment Jason! I can’t really say that I’ve used bands with my push up workouts all that much … I might have to give it a shot.
March 7, 2012 @ 10:42 am
In addition to Jonathan’s suggestion of adding instability to make pushups harder, you can also do a couple of other different things to make them challenging again.
1. Slow down your reps. The slower you go, the harder each rep becomes.
2. Use a weighted vest. This is a staple for anyone looking to make any type of bodyweight exercise tougher.
I’m a huge fan of bodyweight exercises in general, so I love it that you took the time to write about one of the staples in any bodyweight routine, the pushup. It’s classic yet effective.
March 20, 2012 @ 11:35 am
Thanks for the recommendations. I have messed with varying speeds before as well as a putting a weight plate (and even my daughter) on my back but I haven’t tried a weighted vest yet … those do look nice and a bit more comfortable!
Michael @ somebodylied.com
March 7, 2012 @ 4:01 pm
Those are some good pushups to hit multiple angles of the chest. One day I will have to build up to a level where I can do the advanced ones.
March 8, 2012 @ 7:25 am
Yeah, that would be cool to be able to bust out a few (or one) 90º pushup.
Brad - Awaken The Abs Within
March 8, 2012 @ 3:57 am
Nice! One of my favorite pushups is the “around the clock push up”. It’s a great plyometric workout as it takes explosive movements to rotate your body in a circle (like its the arms on a clock). Try doing one full revolution and see where your heart rate goes!
March 8, 2012 @ 7:30 am
Brad, those look awesome. I had too look them up (http://youtu.be/QjOPuUUqrvo) since I haven’t heard of them until now … very cool, thanks for the suggestion.
March 8, 2012 @ 2:30 pm
Pushups are awesome.. And free too!
I had no idea that there were so many variations!
Thanks for sharing this!
March 20, 2012 @ 11:32 am
No problem Ralph … I’m glad found a few new push ups!
April 10, 2012 @ 1:52 pm
This is awesome but when you say 3 reps, do you mean 3 reps of 10, 20, 30 etc. ?
May 4, 2012 @ 8:41 am
Nope, you’re thinking sets. It really is only 3 reps and then rest 10 seconds, 3 reps and then rest …
Sounds too easy, but just wait until you’re 10-12 minutes in! 😀
June 1, 2012 @ 3:05 pm
What do I do when doing 3 reps of each pushup for 15mins gets to be to easy? Do i increase the number fo reps or the time?
June 4, 2012 @ 3:33 pm
Instead of that, try elevating your feet for the workout. Put them on a chair or your couch or something and let me know how that goes! I’ve never tried that, but that should be good. You could even try doing the first half of the push up workout with elevated feet and the second half not, if you need.
June 5, 2012 @ 7:23 am
I’m totally out of condition for 20 years or so, because of overwhelmed office work – so without any physical training and wish to gain some body mass in my hands and chest, so I thought I could use your workout routine, just to test how bad I am doing now. The result was that I made 2 reps of 3 standard pushups and couldn’t do three of them for the third time! What do you suggest, for a start, should I try doing 3 reps with resting for more than 10 seconds and repeating it until those 15 minutes is up, or should I stop right there when I can’t do 3 reps at a time and repeat two-three days after and increase until I reach those 15 minutes?
June 11, 2012 @ 2:32 pm
is it 15 minutes of rest time or 15 minutes of normal times my rest time was at 8 minutes when 15 min was complete
June 11, 2012 @ 2:40 pm
which is only 144 pushups which doesnt seem like alot
September 6, 2012 @ 2:17 pm
The total workout time is designed to be 15 minutes.
If you can do 3 reps, rest 10 seconds, do another 3 reps, rest 10 seconds and so on for the full 15 minutes, good job!
June 13, 2012 @ 1:24 am
Great guide ! Its really good for both beginners and to those who have been working out. What exaclty do I do within the 10 secs frame? Just stand-up then count till 10 then next reps ? Thanks
September 6, 2012 @ 2:19 pm
Yeah … I prefer laying there and counting but whatever is cool.
November 7, 2012 @ 12:04 pm
Plank. 10 seconds doesn’t seem like long but if you do it for 10 rounds or so you will have been engaging your core for the better part of 3 minutes. Lay still in between the next 5 or 6 rounds and then plank for the next 10. Will definitely add up to a nice little ab burner.
June 17, 2012 @ 9:01 pm
Will give this routine a try. Thks.
September 6, 2012 @ 2:17 pm
Awesome, let me know what you think!
July 9, 2012 @ 4:00 am
Same question as sean.. Should the rest time in between push ups (10 secs. rest in between) total 15 minutes? Or should you just workout for 15 minutes regardless of how much time you spent resting..
Because if you total 15 minutes of rest time that’s 270 push ups in total, however if you just do this in 15 minutes the number of push ups you’ll be able to do will vary, the variable being how fast you do each push up..
September 6, 2012 @ 2:19 pm
Yep … total workout time is 15 minutes, regardless of how many you are able to bang out.
August 6, 2012 @ 11:43 am
This looks like a good routine, but how often should I do it to get good results in terms of mass and strength? is 3 times a week a good amount? I want to be able to build muscle.
September 3, 2012 @ 6:11 pm
Hi, it is motivating to read about some results here. I started the workout program last week and in 2 weeks I will post my progress and results. Now I can follow the program for 12 minutes only. What I can say is, I have been working out in a gym for years and it surprised me to don’t achieve the 15 minutes.
September 6, 2012 @ 6:35 pm
Just did this for the first time, seems to be a great workout. Should I do this everyday or every other day?
February 13, 2013 @ 7:38 am
Steve, I would shoot for twice a week. No need to over do this one!
October 29, 2012 @ 11:02 am
Hey this was great. I mean I did the normal, diamond and wide grip and couldn’t last 15 minutes but around 8. I use to go to the gym regularly but now I don’t anymore (been 2 months) . I’m pretty built however I was planning on not lifting anymore. Would this 15 minute workout maintain well my upper body area and perhaps even bulk it?
Also I use to do just normal pushups after my chest workout and noticed that pushup push out my trap muscles way too much and looks rather ugly. Was it me doing it wrong? Genetics? or do pushups really push out ur trap muscles a bit too much?
Thanks a lot.
November 7, 2012 @ 12:06 pm
If you want a bit more burn you could start in diamond, do a plyometric pushup and land in regular, and then another plyometric pushup to wide position. Add a bit more explosiveness to your strength.
February 13, 2013 @ 7:36 am
Thanks for the suggestion Brandon!
February 10, 2013 @ 5:09 am
This is GREAT. However I wanted to ask you a question. I can do around 5-6 minutes of the ultimate pushup routine. Should I do do 5-6 minutes and than wait 10 minutes for another set of the same workout or should I just leave it to how much I can do (5-6 minutes).
February 13, 2013 @ 7:00 am
KEVIN, this is great, i was looking for this kind of push up routine.
In addition to Edoardo’s question (im waiting for your answer to that one) i would like to ask what is the minimum number of pushups to failure one should be able to do in order to complete this 15 min routine?
im currently doing around 50-60 push ups max…., but maybe one should increase their strength to maybe 100? i dont know..
February 13, 2013 @ 7:35 am
Just leave it at 5-6 minutes if that’s all you can do. You will be surprised at how quickly you will improve.
February 13, 2013 @ 3:12 pm
KEVIN, i just ended it, it was amazing!
now, my wrists are killing me, they started bothering me around minute 10. do you have any suggestions or advise to avoid injuring them?
August 1, 2013 @ 12:04 pm
push up stands (or dumbbells) help me with my wrist issues.
February 14, 2013 @ 4:32 pm
This is really nice. I’m a middle aged bald fat guy – or I was. I started with body weight stuff last fall, dropped 30 lbs and still rolling. In September, I could do 7 regular pushups. By December, I could bang out 100, so I was looking for some variations on my workouts and started this three weeks ago. I first thought the 3 x 3 would be a piece of cake. NOT SO! And, the results are better than expected. Thanks for the work you’ve put into this.
By the way, I HATE doing the Aztec stuff, but will stick with it, anticipating even better results.
March 5, 2013 @ 10:28 am
Would supplementing protein be effective with this workout?
April 7, 2013 @ 1:12 pm
3 reps? You mean sets, right?
May 20, 2013 @ 11:51 am
i only do a press up routine ,i don’t stop till i’ve breached the 800 mark ,not all at once, but several bouts, first bout around 120 , final bout usually in the 40’s, all straight press ups. routine takes about 35 minutes. i do this 3 times a week. would your routine give better results?
(i hate exercizing, but have managed to make my current press up routine bareable and stick with it. after each bout i do double the amount of stomach crunches then straight back to the press ups, i always push to failure with the press ups)
thanks. advice from people who know what they’re talking about is always appreciated.
May 28, 2013 @ 7:16 am
I am looking to tap into my body fat by depleting my glycogen levels in my muscles as per Rusty Moore’s Cardio manual but he only mentions cardio machines.. can you tell me how to use outdoor running to deplete my glycogen levels so I can tap into body fat? How do I guage from outdoor running how long I need to spend running to know that I have depleted glycogen etc? My routine is that I hit the weights at home (5 reps for 9 sets on each body part as you recommed) and then do a run outside straight afterwards for cardio and fat loss.
Appreciate any advice you can give as joining a gym isn’t an option and wanna lose some fat : )
June 8, 2013 @ 3:05 am
Very nice, another great push up is while lowering down and then holding as long as possible instead of instantly pushing up.
June 10, 2013 @ 7:21 am
Thanks for posting this. I have been trying for a while to get really good chest defenition. Will try this workout and report back. How long roughly does it take to see a noticeable difference?
June 27, 2013 @ 5:56 pm
I can only do 3 sets of 10 regular pushups. After that I get bored. I think I should try these variations, especially Hindu pushups. Thanks for the info Kevin.
June 28, 2013 @ 6:39 pm
How many seconds will the repetition time be for each push-up?
July 15, 2013 @ 12:33 pm
Will this workout routine define the upper body or soley the chest? And is this workout better then the perfect pushup workout?
September 19, 2013 @ 10:17 am
3 reps? really? whats the point? stopping for 10 seconds and getting back down to do them again is the real workout. I do three sets of 60 , 60 wide grip, 60 close grip, 60 regular, and have gotten much stronger and noticeably bigger in my shoulders chest and triceps.
December 23, 2013 @ 12:22 am
Will this workout routine build muscle? and how long will it take to see results?
May 12, 2014 @ 10:08 am
Did this today and was smoked by the 12:30 mark, especially on the diamond pushups. Really want my chest to grow, so could I alternate this with days of doing bench work?
July 30, 2014 @ 3:02 pm
I have been doing push ups every day taking every Sunday off. I’ve been doing that for 3 and a half weeks now. I started doing sets of 25 and doing 200 a day. The last couple of days I am up to 400 a day doing 10 sets of 40. I also do a 50 second plank after each set of push ups….I also hit the heavy bag (90 lb bag) 3-4 days a week for 5 – 3 minute rounds with a minute rest in between. I also jump rope on those days for anywhere from 12 minutes to 18 minutes…..Feeling great….
October 26, 2014 @ 1:02 pm
Sounds great, going to try this as soon as possible.
Have just one question tho, will this work with other moves like pull-ups, squats and ab’s?
November 18, 2014 @ 10:14 pm
Can someone show me a link to a video or something on the duck toed push ups? I feel like i’m doing it wrong and would like to see it done visually.
January 4, 2015 @ 6:44 pm
Since you said that the workout should last about 15 minutes, how many cycles of the routine should it be? — so I’m correctly pacing myself
Your blog is awesome, by the way. It really puts things in black and white.
January 6, 2015 @ 6:28 am
The amount of cycles change really… just depends on if you can stick with the 10 second rest period. As far as tempo of the pushup, just nice and controlled.
January 9, 2015 @ 6:47 am
Initially I thought I’d do it for 15 minutes easily. I died literally after 6 minutes… Lol 🙂
September 8, 2015 @ 10:41 am
Is this workout recommended for a skinny guy looking to build upper body muscle mass?
November 10, 2015 @ 8:34 pm
Do you have a pushup routine for just density and no mass building?
November 14, 2015 @ 2:07 pm
Yah pushups can be easy, for maybe a couple sets. But try doing 12 sets of 12, keeping in that hypertrophy reps 8 to 12. No need to do 20 40 50 or 100. Just try to do 12 being the highest for 12 sets. Don’t tell me you are not worn out by set 9 or 10. Do this every OTHER day. You need to rest for 48 hours at least for muscle recovery. Mon Wed Fri are great days. Working a certain exercise with a certain angle. About 140 reps in total is generally enough. If you think you can do more, try for 160 or 180. But not necessary. You will build a lean muscular build, probably about another 10 to 20 extra muscle poundage. Iron weight dudes can poo poo this, but I am a living example. On your odd days, Tues Thurs Sat, take sunday off for rest. Do squats, 10 of 15, with bands, bodylastic has a good set. Move up in your colors if it gets too easy. I’m on purple right now, and it aint easy. 15 reps for legs are higher because legs require more reps. More slow twitch fibres in your legs. I’m going to prove this all in a few months. I will build a website and show the amazing results. All from doing 1 great upper body exercise alternating with one great lower body exercise. Good luck!
January 13, 2016 @ 10:06 am
What u mean repetition??
I mean how many pushups in one repetition
January 15, 2016 @ 3:49 am
i’ve been studying Mauy Thai for a few years now and it is all about cardio and strength training. I looked at this workout and thought to myself that it seemed a little too easy.
After having a go myself I realised that was not the case. I was surprised at how tough the diamond press ups became only a few rounds in, not to mention the huge gain on the pecs.
I’ve done this over a few weeks and really built up my strength and endurance. Once you get used to it try them with both an incline and a decline. It really helps boost other muscle groups. Happy training folks!
October 18, 2016 @ 10:16 pm
I am doing this workout since last month and notice that my upper body got wider even everyone says that 🙂 Good workout kevin