I’m a firm believer in the phrase ‘anything boys can do, girls can do better.’ But while that definitely holds true at my job and even on the subway (looking at you, man-spreaders), it goes right out the window the moment I step foot into my regular workout class.
Pullups? Chin-to-the-ground pushups? Not so much. I stick to my corner of the studio and pray my boot-camp instructor doesn’t meander over to see me pitifully flail.
It’s not that I can’t do a single full pushup. But 20? Must be nice.
While I have full faith in my lower-body strength (I can squat more than my body weight), my upper-body strength just isn’t there. I can’t even do a cartwheel. Nor can I make it across the monkey bars.
The 30-Day Pushup Challenge
Unsatisfied with my meager upper-body abilities, I decided to prove to myself that I could bang out pushups like the boys. Not that there’s anything wrong with pushup modifications—but I was ready for the challenge!
The game plan: Every day for 30 days, I’d perform as many full-body, perfect-form pushups as I could. I hoped the number of reps I could do would gradually increase as the days passed.
While I knew that I’d inevitably grow stronger by the end of the month, I had no clue what amazing truth my body was about to reveal.
Day 1: I Am The Most NONATHLETIC Human On Earth
The first day of my pushup experiment happened to land on a particularly hectic day at work. With no time at the gym, I had to make do with performing my first set of pushups at the office—in tight jeans and kitten heels, nonetheless.
Oh, and I awkwardly asked a coworker I didn’t know well to snap a picture of me for this piece.
As if the circumstances weren’t dismal enough, I was only able to squeeze out seven measly pushups. One more and I would have fallen to the floor, perspiration coating my brow and pits.
Day 2: Well, This Isn’t Much Better
My second day of pushups was slightly more successful—10 pushups! I attributed the improvement to the fact that I actually did these pushups in workout clothes at the gym, and therefore wasn’t fearful of flashing my boss while doing them.
Still, the pushups weren’t easy. (Truthfully, I think I’ve had an aversion to them since we were forced to complete them for the Presidential Fitness Test back in grade school, which, c’mon, was absolutely cruel.)
Given my first two performances, I was seriously doubting how successful my experiment—and the article I’d write about it—would really be.
Day 3-6: Am I Even Improving?
By the sixth day of my experiment, my optimism had fallen even further.
I’d been able to boost my total number of pushups up to 13, but that number seemed… underwhelming. I felt like there was no conceivable way I could consistently up my reps for 30 days.
Day 7-12: Slowly But Surely Increasing In Strength
Despite the tough beginning of my 30-day pushup experiment, something miraculous started to happen the seventh, eighth and ninth day: I was growing stronger—and visibly muscular, too.
On day 12, I was able to execute 22 solid pushups with my face lowering to just an inch or so above the ground in each descent. I was pretty sure I’d never been able to do that many pushups in a single shot before.
Suddenly I felt re-inspired and rejuvenated for my next attempt.
Day 13-20: Okay, This Hurts!
My chest, biceps and triceps were a tiny bit sore throughout the first two weeks of my pushup challenge. But that slight, annoying twinge quickly turned painful around the halfway mark. After churning out 25 pushups on day 13, I was legitimately sore.
Even worse? Over the course of the next few days, I totally burned out. By day 20, I could only perform a pitiful 10 pushups.
Day 21: I. Can’t. Do. This.
After 20 consecutive days of pushups, a feat I had never attempted before, my body and my ego were hurting—bad.
As exhilarating as it was to hit that 25th pushup a week earlier, my current fatigue made hitting that number every day for the rest of the month seem impossible. My chest, shoulders, biceps, and triceps burned. Even simple tasks, like shampooing my hair, took a gargantuan effort. So, I decided to take a day off.
Day 22-29: Onward And Upward
The next day, I still felt tired, sore, and utterly exhausted. But as I got dressed for work that morning, something caught my eye in the mirror that I’d never seen before in my life: my deltoid. (FYI: The deltoid is that roundish muscle located at the uppermost part of the arm and top of the shoulder.)
It was a part of my body I had never seen such definition in before, and there could be only one cause for its newfound pop: the pushups.
Fired up by the sight of my newly-visible muscle, on day 22 I performed 25 pushups with a vengeance. I decided to taper the number of pushups I’d perform every other day for the rest of the challenge so my muscles could get some rest.
With the end in sight, I felt a new surge of motivation. Thanks to that momentum (and probably the extra rest, too), I charged through a whopping 45 pushups on day 29.
I was really proud of myself for being able to perform 45 pushups without dropping down to my knees, but it definitely came with some pain.
As I got further and further into my 30-day experiment, I began to notice a few strangely uncomfortable side effects while doing my pushups, including a rush of blood to my head and hands, and a subtle sense of nausea.
Day 30: The Final Day (No Pressure Or Anything…)
On my final day, I made it to my 45th pushup despite the throbbing of my entire upper body. I could feel the blood surging towards my fattening fingertips. But, like in the final leg of a race, when the finish line is in sight, something magical happened.
Despite my aching body, I squeezed out an additional 15 (yes, 15!) pushups—with a few pauses to regain my sanity, of course. After 30 days of physical and mental challenge, I was utterly shocked: I’d somehow just performed a whopping 60 pushups.
The Final Results: Success!
My 30-day pushup experiment proved to me that if you commit to literally anything for an entire month, you will see incredible (and surprising) changes.
Not only was I able to perform 60 pushups (with a few minor breaks here and there, sure) in a single sitting, but my physical appearance had transformed, too. My upper body looked stronger.
That said, my muscles definitely suffered some serious wear and tear towards the end of this challenge. To make sure I give my muscles enough rest to continue growing and gaining strength, I’ll probably incorporate pushups into my workouts a couple times per week from now on. I can’t wait to see how I progress!