Have you ever seen those insane calisthenics videos on the gram?
Guys doing fancy stuff on the pull up bar, defying gravity with the planche pushup and then doing the human flag?
That’s what got me interested in Calisthenics in the first place.
The idea that I could build a strong, muscular physique using my bodyweight alone seemed incredibly appealing.
To give you some background on myself, I am 30 and quite fit for my age. My compound lifts numbers are again quite high.
But somehow, I was never interested before in bodyweight workouts.
So, I decided to push myself, literally, and try something that’s called absurd by a lot of fitness experts.
It’s called the 500 pushups a day challenge.
The name’s pretty self-explanatory.
You wake up every day and bang out 500 pushups and you continue this for as long as you want to.
I did it for a whole 6-months.
This is my story.
Why I Decided to Do 500 Pushups a Day
Because I wanted to stretch the boundaries of my limits and get my ass out of the comfort zone that it had waltzed its way into.
But when the shiz storm hit our world and gyms downed shutters, suddenly, I was left with a bunch of cheap dumbbells at home and nothing else other than me, myself, and I.
I did what I could for about 4-weeks and then boredom and monotony hit me.
I slowly found myself making excuses not to lift anymore.
Calisthenics seemed like the perfect recipe to get out of it. Not only was it something that I’d never done before, it was also something that I always wanted to try but had procrastinated.
‘Aah…there are no cosmetic benefits to this.’
‘It’s not good for hypertrophy’
‘This ain’t gonna get you strong. Lifting like a mule is’
All these were reasons that I told myself repeatedly over the years whenever I wanted to get out of my comfort zone.
Let’s say that the pandemic gave me one good reason to try it out, and I did.
How I Got Started
First things first, you will not be able to hit 500 pushups right off the bat. So do not even attempt it.
You’ll end up severely worn out and possibly, injured.
The first step is figuring out the average number of push-ups you should be able to do in the first place and then build from there.
I started off with five sets of 30 pushups in a day. Stuck to this for a week and then bumped it up to 6 sets and so on.
Each week, I would bump up a set.
When I got comfortable with the 30-rep number, I started to bump up reps.
Increased it to 40 first and then to 50.
Finally, I touched 10 sets of 50 reps each after 3 months.
Much longer than I had anticipated. But that’s the truth.
My Typical Workout Routine
In the beginning, I was churning out set after set of regular pushups.
But after a while, I noticed that my shoulders and pecs were sore as hell, even on the next day and the day after it.
So I figured that some variation might help involve more muscle groups. I started to divide the sets into different types of pushups.
Here’s what a typical day of 500 pushups would look like for me.
3 x 50 – Standard Pushups – 7 am
3 x 50 – Wide Pushups – 11 am
3 x 50 – Close Grip Pushups – 6 pm
1 x 50 – Incline Pushups – 8 pm
3 x 50 –Decline Pushups – 7 am
3 x 50 – Spiderman Pushups – 11 am (Nasty stuff)
3 x 50 – Hindu Pushups –6 pm (Burn)
1 x 50 – Diamond Pushups – 8 pm
I would rest on Sundays as I felt that it was essential to allow my upper body to recover from the onslaught that it was subject to.
It was clearly not enough rest, but since I wanted to log this, I continued to do it every day.
Here’s a one-word tip for better recovery though, massage.
I was noticing extreme soreness for the first three weeks. That’s why I decided to add massage sessions to my rest days and the recovery improved significantly.
I just got myself a massage gun from Vybe and use it on literally every part of my body that was sore. I have since tried other options, like Medmassager, but I’ve become fond of using my Theragun before and after workouts, still got my Vybe gun lying around though.
The soreness reduced, the muscle pain eased and my body felt more flexible.
Do You Need to Vary the Grips and Hand Positions?
Not really. You can very well do 500 regular pushups if you want to.
But the variations prevent monotony to an extent.
Also, they help you target different muscle groups instead of the same bunch of muscle every day.
Let’s cut to the chase.
Here are some results I got from my 500 pushups a day journey.
My upper body got way more defined by the end of month four. My shoulders were popping as they say, with a couple of veins starting to make an appearance. I have a tendency to store fat near my pecs and underarms, which had all but disappeared.
My core was looking tighter and so were my biceps and triceps. By the end of month five, that movie star bicep vein had appeared.
In the first couple of months, I would be so worn out by the end of the day, that I’d have to drag my ass out of the bed to do the sets in the morning. But as I kept doing the sets, I got stronger. I was able to do them easily as opposed to being grueling.
Even after I had banged out 500 reps from Monday to Sat, I wouldn’t feel beaten on Sunday. Apart from the pushups, my strength also improved with pull-ups – mainly Australian pull-ups and neutral grip pull-ups.
I was able to do handstands, got started with a 5-second planche pushup and am on the way to the human flag.
It would be a lie if I told you that I gained a truckload of muscle on it. I did not. More than actual muscle growth, it was definition, vascularity, fat loss and muscle hardness.
I had started to look soft after the gyms shut down. This let me maintain the definition and lean body mass that I always wanted to.
What I Did Not Like About It
Despite all the positives that I experienced, not everything went as planned. There were hurdles, quite a lot of them.
Even with all the variations that you can do, at the end of the day, it’s just push-ups.
It will start to get boring after a while.
The problem though is that 500 pushups are way too many. It still beats me that I later went as far as hitting 1000 push-ups a day just for kicks.
Trust me, this will sap that last bit of energy you have, which means that you probably won’t be able to lift weights after this.
That was one of my initial plans. To hit the weights after I was done with this. Never happened.
There’s Not Enough Time for Recovery
One of the problems with the 500 pushups a day routine is that you will repetitively target the same muscle groups every single day, with no time in between for rest.
Let’s take a look at the muscles that you target with the pushup.
There are six of them primarily. There are;
- The pecs,
- The delts,
- The triceps,
- The serratus anterior,
- The abs and…
- The coracobrachialis.
In an ideal workout routine, you’d hit these muscle groups twice a week.
At best, thrice. It’s more like doing single-set training, where you are better off doing a single set to failure 3 times a week, and only rarely would any instructor worth his salt will advise doing a single set to failure every day.
Even every other-day workout would be better than doing push-ups six days a week.
This is not only overstressing them, but it’s also a recipe for injury, as I discovered.
It Can Cause Injuries
At the end of the sixth month, I had a mild shoulder soreness that took a couple of weeks to go away, which forced me to stop.
In hindsight, I think I overdid it a tad. Shouldn’t have dragged this on for as long as I did. Neither should anyone else.
It is given that you will overwork your shoulders. But it is very likely that you might injure it as well.
What Supplements I Used
Supplementation helps with muscle repair, recovery, and protein synthesis, irrespective of whether you believe it or not.
It’s all the more crucial when you are performing a workout routine as brutal as 500 pushups.
I don’t spend a bomb on supps and usually buy the cheapest brands as long as it gets the job done.
These were what I used for my 500 pushups a day routine.
- BCAAs: If you are bulking and you are consuming enough protein, then you most probably won’t need BCAAs. But if you work out fast in the AM like me, then adding BCAAs will completely change the way you feel. You’ll feel less sore; you will recover faster. You can take them pre, post, or intra. I like to take them intra. About 15 grams.
- Pre-Workout – Here are my favorite beta alanine-free options.
- Glutamine: Zero muscle soreness. Period.
- Creatine: The only legal and safe performance-enhancement chemical around. It’s cheap too. So, why not?
- Whey Isolate: Normal Whey gives me the nasties. Has almost disappeared since I switched to Whey Isolate with less than a gram of Lactose.
- Fish Oil: Any brand works.
- Zinc and Copper: The minimum recommended dose is 30mg for men. I use just 15mg.
Before settling on these two, I’ve tried many other brands including Huel, Soylent, Shakeology, Shaklee, and more. I even compared them to find the best options. (check out my recent Kachava vs Athletic Greens comparison).
That’s it. Nothing fancy. But definitely not cutting corners on the essentials either.
Would I Recommend the 500 Pushups Workout Routine to Anybody?
In all honesty, I wouldn’t.
There were definite positives. It helped me break out of a plateau.
It kept me accountable and motivated through this time that we are all going through nowadays. It kept me in shape. It increased my muscle endurance and stamina.
But the negatives are far too many. Overexertion and injury are my biggest concerns.
I believe that no workout routine is worth it if it ends up injuring you.
What do you think?
Hi there! I'm Ben, main author and chief editor at Fitlifefanatics.com. I have been obsessed with Strength Training and Fitness for 18 years now.
My passion for living a happy fit lifestyle is what made me realize that fitness is what I wanted for my future.
I went on to earn my Masters in Sports Training & Biomechanics.
My passion for Strength training & fitness and my love of helping others is what made me start Fitlifefanatics.
Here, myself, and a team of specialist aim to provide the most accurate, and actionable information possible in hopes to help foster the fitness community forward.
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