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Steve_A's avatar

What is the difference in doing push ups in sets compared to all at one time?

Asked by Steve_A (5125points) May 2nd, 2010

Like for example lets say I had a specific number in mind sometimes I like to do sets of 15–20 because usually I can reach it easier.(I take a couple seconds stretch little more, and get some good breaths.)

But if I try to go all out in one burst I tend to not come close at all.I think is it called doing a “burn out”?
Also is it a good for all exercises(push ups,pull ups,etc) to do sets and go all out or always go in sets?
What is better?
Should I do both ways?
And what is the difference in doing them this way or the other?

Thank you.

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8 Answers

nailpolishfanatic's avatar

I think its better to do push ups in sets and you rest a little and then continue. I would probably think its good because if you try to do them just in one way, you would not reach as many as in sets.

Fyrius's avatar

Doing them all in one go will train the stamina of those muscles, but doing sets will allow you to do more reps, which is more effective for strength development.
Either is good, but the effects are different. So in order to choose, you’ll have to decide which you want to train; endurance or strength. (My advice is to do both, but dedicate individual workout sessions to one of the two.)

roundsquare's avatar

@Fyrius Does it make sense to alternate? E.g. if you do pushups 4 days a week, 2 all in one go and 2 in sets?

Is it bad to do push ups every day? What I mean is, if I do a moderate number (say 60 % or 70% of my max) each day? Or is it better to push my limits 3 or 4 days a week?

Fyrius's avatar

It makes a whole lot of sense to alternate. :)
That’s what I do. Endurance/plyometric push-ups on Tuesdays and strength push-ups/dips on Fridays.

Although when you do sets for strength, it helps not just to do the same thing as when you train for endurance, but to add to the difficulty a bit. To make every rep as hard for your muscles as they can handle. For example:
– Put on a backpack full of books or other heavy stuff.
– Elevate your feet as much as you can, by putting them on the edge of your bed or a desk or whatever. The more vertical the angle of your body, the more difficult. (The ultimate version of this are hand-stand push-ups. That’s what body-weight exercise fans do.)
– Do push-ups with just one arm, with the other behind your back. Side note: one-armed push-ups are tough as heck, if my own experiences are any indication.
– Do bench presses instead; lying on your back on a narrow bench and lifting a barbell upwards from two support stands. That’s what most gym people do. (It takes more equipment and it’s dangerous, so I prefer a backpack full of weight plates instead, at least for the time being. You can put more weight on a barbell, though, so later on this might become the best option.)

The idea for strength training is that your muscles have to do a lot of work per rep. It’s recommended to use so much weight that you can only do around five reps per set.

As for doing them every day… I think you’ll get better results if you occasionally go all the way than if you frequently train but go easy on yourself.
Your muscles will develop if they have to do something they’re not strong enough for. You need to activate the innate survival mechanisms in your body that make it build more muscle, and those only kick in under conditions where it seems necessary to become stronger, i.e. when your strength is not enough for the things you do. You need to “convince” your body it needs to become stronger. That’s what training boils down to.
That goes for strength and endurance alike. Your body will improve if you push the against boundaries of what it can do.

À propos, don’t just do push-ups, either. Your body is full of muscles that all want to become stronger.
And since – as far as I know – all human muscles have the same basic structure, my advice is the same for all of them.

Steve_A's avatar

Sounds good thanks all. :)

roundsquare's avatar

@Fyrius Nice, thanks for the advice.

I was thinking of push ups, situps and squats (plus cardio). Anything else good to work into a routine?

stratman37's avatar

the Aristocrats!

Fyrius's avatar


Sounds like a good start.
I’d add pull-ups, so your arms are strong in the other direction too. And if you have a barbell, deadlifts for a strong back. Then you’ve got all the basics.

I do recommend getting a barbell, or going to a gym to use one there.
Doing squats with a barbell on your shoulders is also much more effective than with only your body weight. It turns squats from mediocre cardio into an awesome compound strength exercise that trains your lower body and midsection all in one go.
But if you’re going to do that, do learn how to do it right before you try it with weight. As simple as it seems, there’s a lot you can do wrong about a squat.
I could link you to a pirated copy of a book that has a chapter on how to do squats with a barbell, as well as a few other basic barbell exercises. It’s how I learned it.

As the author of this book puts it: “There is simply no other exercise, and certainly no machine, that produces the level of central nervous system activity, improved balance and coordination, skeletal loading and bone density enhancement, muscular stimulation and growth, connective tissue stress and strength, psychological demand and toughness, and overall systemic conditioning than the correctly performed full squat.”

If you’re not going to get a barbell, I’d recommend you forget the squats and go climb stairs instead, with three or four steps at a time, and no running. Then at least your legs have to do hard work.

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