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30: The 40 Pushup Challenge

Jan 28, 2020

Men who can do 40 or more pushups have a 96% less chance of forming cardiovascular disease. Scot and Troy decide to have a friendly pushup competition and bring in the Director of Sports Science Dr. Ernie Rimer to judge and share his pro tips to improve your pushups and increase the number you can do.

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Episode Transcript

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If You Can Do 40 Pushups, You’re Less Likely to Have Cardiovascular Disease

A recent study released by the Harvard Department of Environmental Health claims an association between the number of pushups a person can do and the likelihood of suffering from a cardiovascular event. According to the study, participants were able to do 40 or more pushups were 96% less likely to have cardiovascular disease than participants who could do 10 or less.

With the findings of this study in mind, the guys at Who Cares About Men’s Health wanted to learn how to improve their pushup form and learn the best strategies to increase the amount of pushups they could do. So they brought in an expert.

Dr. Ernie Rimer is a certified strength and conditioning coach and the Director of Sports Science for University of Utah Athletics. He works with the elite athletes on the university sports teams and as such, happens to know a bit about pushups.

What Makes a Good Pushup?

According to Ernie, the technique of your pushups is more important than the number you can do. The form is crucial to get the strength benefits of the exercise. Doing fewer pushups with good technique will be more beneficial than doing a lot of pushups with bad form.

In general, there are a few things to keep in mind with your pushup form:

  • Keep your body straight during the full movement. One of the biggest benefits of a pushup is that it can work your whole body if done correctly. Make sure your abs and core are engaged in a plank position during the pushup.


  • Put your elbows in a neutral position. Elbows should be bending at a “neutral position” or somewhere around 45-degrees from the body. If the elbows are too close or too wide, it can put undue pressure on your joints, especially when you’re first starting strength training.


  • Chin Up, Chest to the Ground. To really work your chest and feel that stretch, focus on getting making your chest touch the ground before your chin. Try looking ahead of you rather than down at the ground.


  • Don’t let your hips dip. As the body starts to tire, you may find it difficult to keep your hips in a straight line with your body. If your hips touch the ground first, you’re not working your chest. Try engaging your abs more or take a break between sets to make sure you keep proper form and really condition your upper body.


How to Increase the Number of Pushups You Can Do

For people who struggle to do even ten pushups, Ernie suggests two strategies to train your body to do more:

It’s important to keep the same form as a regular pushup when doing these modified exercises. Make sure to keep your upper body straight, chin up, and don’t let your hips dip.

Say you want to set a goal of 40 pushups in one set. Start by doing as many pushups as you possibly can with good form. Write down the number, and take a break. Once you’ve recovered do another set until failure. Repeat these sets until you reach 40 pushups total. It may take a bit of time, but you’ve worked your body through the same volume of pushups as your goal.

Next time you work on your pushups, review the number of reps and sets, then push yourself to complete the total number of pushups in fewer sets. You’ll eventually find that you’re able to do the full amount of pushups in fewer and fewer sets until one day you’ll be able to do your goal in a single set.

  1. Start From the Knees
    If your upper body is not yet strong enough to do a high volume of pushups, modify the pushup by placing your knees on the ground. This will reduce the amount of weight your arms are pushing until they’re strong enough to handle your whole body weight.


  2. Work Up to Your Goal with Cumulative Sets
    Ernie loves going back to the “Arnold Encyclopedia” when it comes to strength training. If you have a goal in mind of how many pushups you’d like to do, rather than modify the exercise, try breaking your goal into multiple sets.


Another thing to consider when starting with strength training is that the “negative portion” of an exercise builds a lot of strength. These “eccentric muscle contractions” can help your muscles as much as the positive movement. If you’re having difficulty completing the exercise, try focusing on just half of the movement to start.

For example, Scot is working to increase the number of pull-ups he can do. He has difficulty pulling himself up, so instead, he will jump up for the first part of the exercise, then slowly lower himself while engaging his muscles. By completing the “negative portion” of the exercise, he’s still building strength and it will eventually help him do the full exercise.

“Remember, you gotta start somewhere,” says Ernie. Don’t push yourself too hard at the expense of good form just to hit a number you think you should be doing. A pushup with bad technique doesn’t build as much strength as a pushup done correctly, and bad form can lead to injury.

You don’t have to do 40 pushups right now to be “healthy.” It’s important to focus on increasing your activity level and getting in the practice of good habits. Start by being a little more active. Start doing however many pushups you can then work up to that magic number of 40.

ER or Not: Trauma to Your Testicles

As a man, if you’ve ever been kicked in the groin or racked yourself on your mountain bike, you know it hurts. A lot. But is that testicular trauma something that needs to be seen at an ER.

According to Troy, if you’ve severely injured your testicles, go to the ER.

Don’t go to an urgent care. Don’t wait three to four days to see your primary care doctor. Go to the emergency room.

If your groin hurts and continues to hurt for more than an hour after the initial injury, you may have testicular torsion. Testicular torsion is when the testicle twists in such a way that it cuts off the blood supply to the organ. This is a serious condition.

Without blood supply, you have a six-hour window to get the torsion surgically corrected to save the testicle. The only way to tell if you’re experiencing a torsion is through an ultrasound, which the emergency room will have available.

If you’re experiencing bad pain in your testicles for more than an hour, have difficulty walking due to the pain, or have a large amount of swelling in the area, it may be a torsion. Go to the ER and get it checked.

Housekeeping - The 40 Pushup Challenge

Scot and Troy actually did complete the 40 pushup challenge, but it was cut for time in the episode. If you’d like to see the pair push themselves in the studio under the watchful eye of the elite athletic trainer Dr. Ernie Rimer, visit our Facebook. There will be a video there of the challenge

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Just Going to Leave This Here

On this episode's Just Going to Leave This Here, Troy finds that not every person respects the Rules of the Trail while hiking in the great outdoors. Meanwhile, Scot has been experimenting with bird photography and learning it may just be easier to get shots of landscapes.

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