Working Class Fitness: Why You Shouldn’t Be Doing Push-Ups

Working Class Fitness LogoI’m going to make a statement that many people won’t like hearing… especially trainers.

The vast majority of people who prescribe or design bodyweight workouts for other people totally screw it up.  Like bad.

As in horrible.

Why? Because there is absolutely no way possible to design a bodyweight program that will have the same effect on everyone, regardless of what the program was designed to do.  This is because everyone has different abilities. So what makes a trainer think that the same push-up workout would be good for everybody?

Tell you what, how about I digress for a minute and give you an example that makes a little more sense.

Let’s say the cool peeps that run asked me to put together an exclusive program for the readers of this site that would help them increase their Bench Press 1RM (1 rep max… in other words, the heaviest amount of weight you can lift in the Bench Press for 1 rep).

Then, let’s say I come out and say that the best way to get stronger in the Bench Press is to do a warm-up set of 135 pounds for 10 reps, then a set of 5 reps with 185 pounds, then 6 sets of 4 reps with 225 pounds.

Now sets and reps aside (I just used those as an example – they’re not really pertinent here), would it be a good program to give people?  Hell no, it wouldn’t!

Why not?

Because who is to say that everyone reading could do 6 sets of 4 reps with 225 pounds?  There might be guys reading that can only Bench Press 245 pounds… meaning this workout would be impossible to pull off with all the sets and reps of a weight so heavy compared to their 1RM.

Other guys might only be able to Bench Press 200 pounds… making the workout impossible on any level.

But on the flip side, there might be some monsters that can Bench Press 400+ pounds, and this workout would be entirely too easy.

See what I mean?

That’s why you never see weight training workouts with actual numbers (how much you should lift) assigned.  Sure, you’ll see sets and reps. And you’ll many times see a percentage of your 1RM prescribed; that way the program can be altered specifically to a guy and his own personal capabilities.

But you’d never see someone tell you how much weight to put on the bar.  That would be crazy, right?

Well, tell me how bodyweight training is any different?

5 sets of 20 Push-ups is going to be different to that 15-year-old kid who’s skinny and never worked out a day in his life than it is to the solid middleweight who’s been an athlete and working out for most of his life than it will for the elite powerlifter who can Bench 600+ in competition, but weighs 330 pounds.

Just like telling everyone to Bench Press 225 pounds isn’t a good idea, telling everyone to do the same sets and reps of a particular bodyweight exercise is just as poor of an idea.

With a weight training program, you can prescribe exercises, but it’s up to the individual lifting to put the right amount of weight on the bar for the given sets and reps (which are defined by the goal one wants to achieve).

Well, bodyweight training has to be attacked from the opposite direction.  The sets and reps will remain the same (because again, they’re dictated by the goal).  However, this time, the weight can’t be changed as you’re using your body.  So instead, you have to pick the appropriate exercise.

Some guys might have to do 5 sets of 20 regular Push-ups.  Other guys 5 sets of 20 Push-ups with their feet on a bench.  Or other guys 5 sets of 20 Push-ups from their knees.  And other guys still, 5 sets of Handstand Push-ups.

See how that works?

Approach bodyweight training from this perspective, and you’ll be getting a lot more out of it.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

Before you go to the gym again, you owe it to yourself to find out what kind of MMA workout pro fighters, boxers, recreational MMAists, or just the “regular guy” who wants to be in shape like his favorite fighter *should* be doing.  (HINT – it’s not the crap you see in the magazines.)  To discover the truth, hit up Wiggy at or on Facebook at

(Physical exercise can sometimes lead to injury. and are not intended to be a substitute for professional medical or fitness advice. Please consult a physician before starting any exercise program, and never substitute the information on this site for any professional medical advice or treatment you may receive or the assistance of a fitness professional.)