I started doing 100 pushups a day on June 15, 2019. It began as a 30-day challenge, but I enjoyed doing them so much that I kept on going. Since then, I have not missed a day, and I now plan to do them every day for a year. On day 42, a question occurred to me: is this actually safe? To find out, I asked an expert and did some independent research. This is what I learned:
It is safe to do 100 pushups every day! Your body is adaptive. It will adjust to your daily pushup routine. As you do more and more pushups, they will become easier, further lowering the stress and risk on your body.
That being said, there are risks associated with doing 100 pushups every day. To keep this a fun, efficient, long-term, permanent, personal change inspiring, and safe challenge, there are many things you should consider. For easy navigation, the rest of this post is organized as follows:
- An Expert’s Opinion
- Common Pushup Injuries
- Proper Form Reduces Injury Risk
- What About Muscle Imbalances?
- Psychological Risk: Unmet Expectations
- Related Questions
An Expert’s Opinion
I do not want to hurt myself doing pushups every day, nor do I want you to get hurt doing pushups every day. Aside from frustrating your overall quality of life, injuries mean no more pushups. That’s bad.
To ensure that my conclusions were as accurate and responsible as possible, I asked an old friend, Dr. Daniel Jaffe, for his opinion.
Dr. Jaffe has a Ph.D in Exercise Physiology from Springfield College. Additionally, he is a researcher and assistant professor at the United States Military Academy at West Point. He has done his fair share of pushups and knows the topic intimately.
His thoughts on the question of safely doing 100 pushups every day are:
Mateveyev’s Principle of Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID)
In simple words, our bodies will adapt to almost any repeated stimulus. Doing 100 pushups every day could be seen as doing any form of repetitive, physical stress (like manual labor) on a daily basis. There may be some challenges along the way, but we will adapt.
According to Dr. Jaffe, you could experience the following, especially at the beginning of a 100 pushup a day challenge:
- Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
- Rotator cuff tendonitis (felt in the armpit)
- Bicep tendonitis (felt in the anterior part of your shoulder)
- Medial and/or lateral epicondylitis (for us laypeople: golf and tennis elbow)
- Upper pectoral pain, specifically in the pectoralis minor (due to a lack of shoulder mobility/flexibility)
- Possible lower back pain (caused by improper form due to upper back and/or rib-cage immobility)
Advice to Beginners
Dr. Jaffe’s advice for beginners is much the same as the way the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) suggests approaching cardiovascular exercise:
“Break the push-ups into multiple sets of fewer repetitions spaced-out throughout the day.”-Dr. Daniel Jaffe
If you are new to doing pushups or can only do a few proper-form pushups at a time, it may take the whole day to complete them. That is OK.
Eventually, you will get to the point where you only need a few sets to complete all of your pushups. By doing it this way, you stay as safe as possible, and will be able to do more pushups in the long-term.
Expert Tip: Flexibility Is Important
If you want to do 100 pushups every day, Dr. Jaffe recommends incorporating adequate flexibility training into your routine. He highly recommends doing these movements. Clicking on each link will bring you to YouTube videos showing how to properly perform these movements.
- Sleeper stretches for shoulder health (interesting video by ATHLEAN-X)
- Pigeon stretches for your hips
- Yoga, in general, is highly recommended
Expert Tip: Do Some Isometric Holds
Dr. Jaffe also recommends incorporating isometric holds into your routine. They will assist with maintaining balance and durability while you progress with your 100 daily pushups.
What are isometric holds? To help you remember:
- iso = the same; equal
- metric = length
- isometric = the same length; equal lengths
This YouTube video by AthleticQuickness has a really nice definition of isometric holds. He defines them as:
“The sustained contraction of a muscle over a certain period of time, where the length of the muscle remains unchanged.”-Definition of isometric holds by AthleticQuickness
Basically, you hold a position and don’t move while engaging the muscles. That’s it.
Try to include some of these isometric holds into your routine. Clicking on the links will take you to YouTube videos showing how to safely perform these movements.
Thank You, Dr. Jaffe!
I am incredibly indebted to Dr. Jaffe for his encouragement and advice as I continue to do 100 pushups every day for a full year. To learn more about his research, you can read all about it by clicking HERE.
Common Pushup Injuries
Aside from the amazingly generous input by Dr. Jaffe, I looked online to see what else I could find about pushup safety. The most common injuries I found while researching were rotator cuff injuries, general shoulder pain and wrist pain.
According to this article by Livestrong, pushups are a repetitive motion. It is the same movement over-and-over, again-and-again. Done improperly, your rotator cuff can become overly stressed, potentially leading to:
- rotator cuff tendinitis: an inflamed tendon in the shoulder joint
- shoulder bursitis: inflamed fluid which greases these tendons
In this article, also by Livestrong, wrist pain may be caused by:
- improper hand position
- improper elbow position
- improper hip and trunk position
This all relates to poor pushup form. If you fix your form, it will greatly reduce the risk of wrist pain.
Additionally, this article by Self points to a lack of wrist mobility as a source of wrist pain. Pushups extend the wrists to the limit of their range of motion. If your mobility is poor, this might hurt. To compensate, you can do alternative pushup variations like the Closed Fist Pushup and/or do mobility exercises for your wrists.
“A push-up is a complex movement for the shoulder joint…”Dr. John Fenlin – orthopedic surgeon at the Rothman Institute of Thomas Jefferson University
In yet another article from Livestrong, Dr. John Fenlin, an orthopedic surgeon who performs rotator cuff and shoulder replacement surgery on patients with pushup related injuries, recommends these tips for better shoulder health while doing pushups:
- Never perform pushups to failure.
- Let your muscles rest before they are so weak that they become instable.
- Perfect form is more important than the number of sets and reps you do.
Health Disclaimer: If you experience any pain while performing 100 pushups daily, consider consulting a doctor or physical therapist before continuing. The goal of this challenge is not to get injured. If injured, it may be some time before you can exercise again. Play it safe, and use proper form to reduce your risk.
Proper Form Reduces Injury Risk
The best way to reduce injury risk is to use proper form. By moving the body properly, you prevent stressing your muscles, joints, tendons, ligaments, bones, etc. in ways that they were not meant to be used. While injury can still occur, you greatly limit the risk by using proper form.
But why do injuries occur? According to this article by Self, we do not engage our core enough throughout the movement and we are not strong enough to do a proper pushup. As a result, our joints and ligaments compensate for our lack of strength and core control. They become overly stressed as they help us complete the pushup movement. This can lead to injury.
Additional benefit of using proper form: Using proper pushup form better engages the muscles you want to target. In this case, you probably want to have nice-looking chest muscles. Proper form forces your chest muscles (plus your shoulders, triceps, and core) to do the work, thereby making them bigger and stronger, not your legs or some other muscle group.
I have read many articles and watched many videos on proper pushup form. Without question, Jeff Cavaliere at ATHLEAN-X has my favorite pushup form tutorials. They are informative, entertaining and easily understood with a taste of the scientific.
Before considering this challenge, and even if you just occasionally do some pushups, watch these videos. It could make the difference between a fun-safe-effective challenge and one that leads to injury or non-optimal results.
What About Muscle Imbalances?
Doing 100 pushups every day, especially at the beginning, will put a lot of stress on your chest, shoulders and triceps. They will grow and get stronger. This is good.
The body, however, is much more than these three muscle groups. It is a whole, and to work properly and look fantastic all of its parts need to be in balance. If you only do pushups, you may put your body out of balance.
Why is this a problem? Well, it could lead to a muscle imbalance between your pushing muscles (chest, shoulders, triceps) and your pulling muscles (back and biceps).
Our muscles pull our bones. Our chest muscles pull our arms forward while our back muscles pull them back. They are opposing muscle groups. If these opposing muscles are balanced, our should joints receive an equal amount of tension from all sides. This is good for our shoulder health, functionality, and for avoiding injury.
If one of these opposing muscle groups is stronger than the other, than the tension in our shoulder joints will also be unequal. The stronger muscles will be shorter at rest than they should be, and the weaker muscles will be stretched too much. Posture problems may occur, and eventually other parts of your body will be affected, too.
What is the solution? Include a fully balanced exercise routine to your daily pushup program. Hit all of your muscle groups at least once each week. Not sure which muscle groups there are? Train these:
- Abdominals (core)
- Shoulders – especially the side and rear deltoids as your front deltoids are already regularly engaged while doing your pushups
While you are at it, add some cardiovascular training to your program, too! You want to be able to see your newly defined chest muscles, right?
You can learn more about muscle imbalances caused by pushups in this article by SportsRec that I read and referenced here.
Psychological Risk: Unmet Expectations
Your muscles adapt to the stress you put on them over time. This is great at the beginning when doing pushups is difficult. Like me, you will probably see quick increases in strength, muscle size and definition.
Wonderful… let’s keep doing more pushups!
As you get stronger and performing pushups becomes easier, you also experience less stress. Strength and size gains may begin to plateau or stop altogether. When you look in the mirror your body may not seem to be changing as it once did. If you keep track of the number of pushups you perform in each set, they may not be increasing anymore.
Very not wonderful… I have no reason to do pushups anymore!
Motivation can be lost. Why do all of these pushups if you no longer receive the benefits you desire? At this stage, it can be tempting to give up and stop doing your daily routine. Psychologically, you have just lost.
There is, however, a solution: add variety and more resistance to your pushup routine!
According to a YouTube video by Calisthenic Movement, fitness goals need to be individualized. While performing 100 pushups may be difficult for me, it might be very easy for you. To be effective, know what your current level is and adapt accordingly.
A good pushup routine should also be progressive. As you advance, your pushups will become easier and easier. To continue making progress, you will need to make progressive adjustments. You could try:
- Increase the number of repetitions you do every day. So, 100 pushups per day is too easy for you, huh? How about 150 per day, or 200 per day!
- Increase your time under tension. Slow down the movement and/or add pauses to the movement. The number of pushups you do per set will decrease, but the amount of time you spend doing your pushups daily will increase significantly.
- Increase your resistance. Add some weight to your pushups. Make yourself heavier by wearing a weighted backpack. This will make the pushups more challenging without altering the number of repetitions.
- Decrease your rest time. Do not eliminate your rest time, as not resting is asking for an injury; instead, try completing your daily pushups with less rest in between sets. This will challenge your muscles and help you continue to make progress.
Your goals may also differ from mine. Knowing your goals for doing 100 pushups every day will allow you to choose an optimal program for you. Do you want to get stronger, more muscular, more defined, or something else?
Whatever it is, there is a program that is right for you. Find it, use it, and don’t give up!
Should I do 100 pushups every day? While you can safely perform 100 pushups every day, it does not necessarily mean that you should. Rest is an important part of strength and muscle building programs. Depending on your goals, there are undoubtedly alternative routines which promote better results than simply doing pushups every day. Still, there seems to be no major harm in doing it. The choice is yours.
I’m a beginner, how do I begin? If you are currently unable to perform a pushup with proper form, begin with these alternatives:
- Wall pushups
- Assisted knee-pushups
If you can do 1-5 pushups with proper form per set, performing 100 pushups a day will probably be too much of a challenge. Begin with a smaller number, and gradually increase the repetitions performed each day. You might also compliment your proper form pushups with wall pushups, assisted knee-pushups and negatives to reach 100 per day.