OlderBeast 90-Day Push-Up Challenge: Why & How

For 40+ guys intent on maximizing the second half of their lives, willingness to be a little New-Age-y helps. It opens your mind to things like eating more vegetables, doing yoga, and prioritizing “wellness.”

At the same time, for physical fitness, there are Old School things we should stick (or return) to. Like push-ups, man.

They build upper body (and core) strength we strive to maintain or restore, in a time-efficient way. And you can do them anytime, anywhere. That’s why push-ups should be an OlderBeast staple.

So, here’s a CHALLENGE to meaningfully increase your max push-ups # in the next 90 days.


For 40+ guys intent on maximizing the second half of their lives, willingness to be a little New-Age-y helps. It opens your mind to things like eating more vegetables, doing yoga, and prioritizing “wellness.” At the same time, for physical fitness, there are Old School things we should stick (or return) to. Like push-ups, man.

They build upper body (and core) strength we strive to maintain or restore, in a time-efficient way. And you can do them anytime, anywhere. That’s why push-ups should be an OlderBeast staple.

So, here’s a CHALLENGE to meaningfully increase your max push-ups # in the next 90 days.


But first a little more rationale on “why push-ups” and pointers to great how-to sources on the Web.

OlderBeast mentions push-ups frequently for good reason. They work multiple muscle groups, require zero equipment, and build actual, functional strength (not just make a certain muscle get bigger).They give you a great, motivation-nurturing sense of accomplishment. They’re free.

Technique is important, though, especially at our age. And if you’re not in shape, they’re hard at first, so it helps to know “starter” variations. Or more-challenging variations if you want them.

Here’s a great, simple tutorial on push-ups. It clearly shows basic technique and multiple variations.

Maybe you haven’t done a push-up in a long time. TODAY can be the day you end that drought, dude.

Perhaps you do push-ups currently, but want to be less vulnerable to straining something. Or maybe you’re a push-up king (or at least prince) and want more variety and challenge. Me? I sometimes feel princely, but at other times aches and pains, or other normal-life factors, push me back toward something less awesome.

Push-ups are a never-ending cycle and quest I’ve learned to embrace. I hope you will too, brother.


Challenging yourself is a great way to add motivation and focus for working out. Sign up for a running, bike, triathlon or obstacle race (especially with a friend). Then you “have to” get in shape for it. Join a gym with High-intensity Interval Training (HiTT) classes, and go there X times a week to justify your investment. Identify a hard yoga pose you want to become capable of, and use online “build up to” videos to get there.

Or, just give yourself a physical challenge and a deadline.

Example: at OlderBeast a few months ago, we discussed the importance of keeping “adventure” in our lives. I mentioned plans to bike up Mt. Diablo (near San Francisco) on my 50th birthday. This was a “to myself” challenge: I resolved I WOULD do it, told a few people, and it helped spur focus on endurance, and more cycling.

For the record, mission accomplished. No one mistook me for Lance Armstrong speed-wise, I promise. But I made it, and felt awesome for having done so.

This push-up challenge is another self-issued one – which I invite YOU to take as well.


We’re all at different start points, so there’s no “do this many” number for everyone. Rather, this challenge targets the same “improvement factor” for all participants.

On a day you haven’t done other strength work, get warmed up, then see how many (good form!) push-ups you can do before you hit muscle failure. That’s your Current Max.

Your target for improvement? Well, it’s easier to make proportional improvement from a relatively low base. If you can do 10 push-ups right now, for example, you should be able to at least double that. But if you can do 50, that same doubling — getting to 100 — is really hard.

So the target formula blends a “plus X number” and a “times X improvement factor,” to create a similar challenge from any starting point.

Formula: (Current Max + 10) * 1.2.


  • Current Max NONE = 90-day target of 12. [(0+10) * 1.2 = 12]
  • Max 5 = 90-day target of 18. [(5+10) * 1.2 = 18]
  • 10 ==> 24
  • 25 ==> 42
  • 50 ==> 72


There are different theories on how to most-effectively increase your max.

Some are straightforward: do several sets of push-ups each time you work on them, and try to do 1+ more per set than you did the prior workout day. Variations on this have the # of push-ups in each successive set declining from a “max,” ascending as you go, or going up and then down in a “pyramid.”

Others approaches change the style of push-up you do, to vary intensity. For example, using narrow, normal, or wide hand placement, or putting your feet up on something, to make push-ups harder. Or putting your hands on a bench or table to make them easier (or wall even, if you’re starting from zero). Or your knees on the floor instead of your feet. Yeah, these are called “lady push-ups” by some…but I’m not too proud to do them if I’m trying to hit a total # and I run out of steam. Neither should you be, he-man.

There’s also a “grease the groove” theory about doing lots of push-ups via multiple sets throughout the day, with each set being a manageable quantity that doesn’t end in muscle failure. The idea is that your muscles (and neurological connections driving them) get habituated to doing push-ups.

Here are a few sources with more detail on different approaches (and also some further technique stuff):

However you choose to do ‘em, just do a lot of push-ups, man. And consider roping in your buddies who are into fitness…or want to be.


My normal routine includes the fairly conventional multiple-sets approach (normally declining from a biggest-first-set). So, I’m going to try out the multiple-hand-positions approach on some days, and the grease-the-groove approach some others, then see how I’m doing one month in.

If you have questions getting started or along the way, or after 90 days you want to check in on results, let’s use OlderBeast’s Facebook page to discuss.

And for the record, my Current Max today was 58. So my challenge is to reach 82 by July 10, 2017. I’m telling you in order to put some more healthy pressure on myself!


Whether or not you do this challenge in the short-term, please bring push-ups back into your life, guys.

There are some cool and fancy things emerging in the world of fitness and health. Like the understanding about how much interval training helps fitness. Or how nutrition does, of course. And on the horizon, more “personalized” nutrition and fitness regimens based on our DNA itself.

But sometimes it’s simple. Man gets on ground, with hands and feet forming four contact points, keeps his body rigid, and lowers/raises himself. The push-up.

Be something you love and understand. Be a simple kind of man.” (Lynyrd Skynyrd, Simple Man—click to listen)


If you think this would be useful to others, please help spread the word about OlderBeast by sharing this post with the social media buttons below. THANKS, MAN.

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Four Online Yoga Sources for Busy (or Reluctant) Guys — Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge, Week 4

Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge, Week 4. If you need to catch up, no big deal (this is a self-paced challenge during Oct-Dec this year, and you don’t need 12-13 weeks to meet its basic goals). Click on “Yoga for Men” in the Challenges box to the left, to see Week 1 and other posts.

As a reminder, challenge goals are: (1) Do at least six yoga practices during October-December 2017; (2) Have those practices span at least two sources of instruction (yoga studio instructor or online class), including at least one in-person studio experience; (3) Achieve at least three weeks in a row where you get a yoga practice into your routine, during the span of this challenge; and (4) Decide by New Year’s if-and-how you will keep yoga as part of your fitness and wellness routine.

To seek these goals — and for life-with-yoga after the challenge, if you go that way — online yoga classes are a great resource. You can use them when you don’t have time to get to a studio, are traveling, or for any number of other reasons. Including this honest one: you’re just not “up for” doing yoga in public yet. I get that. I felt the same way. But after doing a bunch of online yoga practices, I knew enough about what an in-person class would entail — and could do “enough” of the stuff” — that I was ready to brave the studio.

So here are four recommended online yoga class offerings. Each has a bit of a different style. They all offer free or sub-$1 trial periods so you can experiment with two or more of them if you want.

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I Experimentally Reduced Cardio in My Fitness Mix – Here’s What Happened

There are good reasons for cardio-intensive guys to move to a better mix of endurance/strength/flexibility in the fitness mix.

Overtraining on cardio – especially without super-disciplined rest and nutrition regimes – can wear down your body, contribute to muscle loss, and allow development of imbalances that make you more prone to injury.

Also, in our time-challenged lives, too much cardio usually implies too little strength and flexibility training. And maintaining muscle tone and staying limber are huge parts of looking and feeling our best, and maximizing longevity, as we move through life’s second half.

And one big concern about reducing cardio – gaining weight/fat – may be misplaced. Evidence is emerging that strength training (with at least a somewhat-intense cadence) burns fat as well as, or better than, cardio.

With these things in mind (but still needing to overcome a “cardio reduction paranoia” mental hurdle), here’s what I changed and what I learned.

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Advice from “The Yoga Man(ual)” Author Jen Murphy — Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge Week 5

Recently, I sat down to talk about “yoga and men” with Jen Murphy. She’s the author of the great new book The Yoga Man(ual) and the widely-read Wall Street Journal column “What’s Your Workout?” She’s also written numerous OlderBeast-relevant things in publications like Men’s Journal and Men’s Health.

Here are excerpts from our conversation. I think this is really useful reading for guys currently in the Fall 2017 Yoga Challenge AND guys who are not.

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Something You Need for 2018: Your Next (or First) Yoga Mat

If you’ve been trying out yoga, you probably fall into one of two main camps when it comes to owning a yoga mat. (If you’re not aware of our Yoga Challenge and want to check that out for context, click on the “Yoga Challenge” link in the box to the left).

Maybe you ran out and bought one soon after your first class (the male stereotype is that we do love our gear, after all). Or, you might have figured you’ve got other stuff to worry about — like surviving challenging yoga practices — and using borrowed or rented mats seems fine for you.

In either case, if you’ve been stringing together some weeks of yoga and intend to continue in the new year, now’s a good time to think about a mat. Either your first one, or the one you wish you’d known to buy the first time around.

“What’s the big deal?” you might ask. What’s so great about the “right” mat? This is one of those things that’s best understood in the reverse. As in, what issues does the wrong mat bring? So let’s start off there — hopefully to motivate you, man. Then we’ll identify a number of mats that might have your name on them.

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