Is Doing Push Ups Everyday Overtraining? (The Good Bad Myth)

Workout Plans | Written by Nathan Petitpas | Updated on 22 June 2024

A man with a tattoo on his left arm sweats profusely while doing push-ups, wondering if performing them every day is overtraining.

Social circles worldwide have popularized the 100 push-ups a day challenge as a way to get fit and hold each other accountable. However, jumping from 0 to 100 can be intense, leading people to wonder if doing push-ups every day constitutes overtraining or if it’s safe to push the limits for a few weeks to a month.12

Unfortunately, overtraining oftentimes gets a bad rap, is over-generalized, and turns into a myth that does more harm than good – hence the good bad myth.

Despite what the overtraining myth might imply, the U.S. Department of Health suggests pushups are healthy for people of all ages, and the true test of overtraining lies in performance – and once “push-upers” are aware of signs of overtraining, they can either adapt their approach, a program in a reset period, or work towards other forms of training to work on their chest.1

How to Notice Signs of Overtraining When it Comes to Pushups?

When it comes to overtraining, whether it be in regards to push-ups or other strength workouts, the body gives clear signals. When an individual’s system is becoming overexerted, the cues might start off subtly; however, it is important to pay close attention, because by the time the obvious signs of overtraining are present, it could be past the point of an easy correction and recovery could be prolonged.

Whether a person is doing push-ups 2 days in a row or doing push-ups every day for 3 months, if they are unable to recover from a session or cannot increase their volume (sets, repetitions, or weight), then familiarizing themself with a overtraining indicators can be helpful in evaluating their present situation as well as training efforts in the future.

Signs of overtraining include:

  • Set and/or rep speed has decreased
  • Reduction in repetitions per set and/or sets per session
  • Excessive soreness or slow recovery
  • Lasting fatigue
  • Lack of motivation
  • Depression
  • Persistent sickness
  • Pain and/or injury2

If one or more of the above indicators are present before or while doing a push-up routine, it might be time to make some temporary adjustments or even an overall change.

Daily Push-Ups: Overtraining or Beneficial?

Paying attention to how the body responds to daily and nightly push-ups is the key to figuring out if it’s harmful, beneficial, or continuing a good idea. For instance, 3 push-ups a day is most likely not detrimental, but won’t lead to noticeable muscle growth, while doing push-ups every hour could cause overexertion and injuries.

A man who is wearing a grey tank top and black shorts is on his hands and feet performing a push up on a blue playground surface.

Photo by Fortune Vieyra on Unsplash10

When trying to settle on a routine, easing in at the beginning and adjusting to make it more difficult can help individuals avoid the ill effects of overtraining. Starting with reps of 3 and adding 1 push-up a day, per set is a good way to ensure proper form, document recovery time, and reduce pain from overexertion.

Or in other words, don’t be afraid to start slow and add more pushups from there; the last thing newcomers want to do is get too sore too soon which increases the likelihood of giving up.

Which is Most Effective: Doing Push Ups Throughout The Day, Once a Day, or Every Other Day?

The frequency of training can make a big difference in how much volume can be done, how well one recovers, and in turn, how much muscles grow.

Much of the appeal of these daily, weekly, and monthly challenges is that push-ups are an efficient way to build chest and tricep muscles solely using body weight and are ideal for those who don’t have time to go to the gym.

But no matter the case, the most effective routine for push-ups is the same as building any target muscle group – through hypertrophy.

Most know that muscles are built by exercising them to the point that tiny tears occur and when repaired, it results in hypertrophy – A.K.A. muscle growth. So according to the University of Michigan, to achieve hypertrophy, a good starting point is 1 to 3 sets of repetitions between 2 and 6 times per week, where each set is performed to temporary muscle exhaustion.

Time to recover is of equal importance, and, depending on the intensity of the workout, could take up to 48 hours or more.3

Taking the above advice into account, the most effective push-up routine to build chest and tricep strength would consist of 2 or 3 sets of push-ups that include the current amount of push-ups one is able to properly perform for 2 or 3 days per week.

If someone is wanting to do push-ups 4 days a week or more, reducing sets to 1 or 2 per session may reduce the likelihood of overtraining. As strength increases, the number of repetitions in each set can also be increased, which will continue to promote hypertrophy.

I’m Doing 100 Pushups a Day – How Come I’m Not Seeing Results?

The number 100 is arbitrary when it is in reference to push-ups because that amount may be excessive for some while inadequate for others. Additionally, results from strength training are best seen when the proper combination of goals is accomplished.

When not seeing desired results, one should consider the following:

  • If muscles are given enough time to recover,
  • If the push-up form is correct throughout all 100 repetitions,
  • If proper nutrition is being achieved to fuel the body,
  • If sleep has been adequate,
  • Whether completing 100 push-ups leads to muscle exhaustion, recognizing that doing 5 push-ups every hour for 20 hours will not have the same impact as doing 50 push-ups twice a day.4
  • If strength is increasing even if muscles aren’t getting bigger.

If the answer to one or more of the previous questions is no, then adjustments in training, rest, or form need to be made. Ensuring one meets the minimum effective volume (MEV) is going to be the biggest factor in achieving results and that essentially means, getting just enough volume to elicit growth and/or hypertrophy.

In most cases the MEV for chest muscles typically includes 6 sets per week, which can be done in as little as 2 sessions or spread out more throughout the week, assuming recovery time is given.5

Ensure You’re Doing Pushups With Proper Form

When engaging in a push-up routine, maintaining proper form is crucial. Although doing push-ups every day may not necessarily lead to overtraining, improper form can make it feel like you are overtraining.

Using the improper form is not only ineffective, but it can cause injuries to wrists, shoulders, and even back pain.

Push Up Alternatives When it’s Too Easy or Too Hard

For those that are either having difficulty with classic push-ups or those who find them too easy, altering them to accommodate strength level is a great first step.

Doing push-ups on the knees, incline push-ups (moving hands to a raised surface such as a bench), or even standing push-ups will be less strenuous while still building strength.

Intermediate or advanced fitness enthusiasts could rotate between wide push-ups, narrow or diamond push-ups, and decline push-ups (feed raised above hand level) to challenge themselves during a workout or push-up challenge.

Machines and free weights are another great replacement for those having difficulties with push-ups as well as for those who need more of a challenge. Both the chest press and bench press are adjustable alternatives to push-ups that can fit every level of fitness.

How to Ensure You’re Not Overtraining by Doing Pushups Everyday

The key to not overtraining while doing push-ups daily is to listen to one’s body. Strength training includes pushing one’s self, but there is a vast difference between intensity and overexertion.

Applying the advice given below can pinpoint the causes of fatigue and offer relief when overtraining is taking its toll.

  • Nutrition: Nourishing one’s self can ensure the energy needed to achieve workout goals. If the body is not receiving the correct fuel, then workouts will suffer and muscles will not recover properly.
  • Technique: Push-ups are an exercise that has many variations and changing techniques, whether it be temporarily or frequently, could potentially help lessen stress on particular joints and muscles.
  • Difficulty: Reducing the difficulty of the push-up routine during a single session by intentionally decreasing repetitions or sets can give muscles time to recuperate.6
  • Recovery: Muscles need time to recover after every workout. The timeframe of recovery is dependent on the intensity of each session and, if not given the proper rest, muscles will not respond to workouts as desired. As touched on above in regards to technique, adjusting push-up variation may give muscle groups adequate time to recover as well as incorporate rest days.
  • Download: Dedicating an entire week, typically every 8 to 10 weeks, to reducing the reps and sets off the push-up routine.7

Bigger Changes May Be Needed to Halt the Effects of Overtraining

If the changes above have been implemented and an individual is still struggling, it might indicate overtraining from doing push-ups every day. In this case, it may be time to consider a workout routine that includes more variety.

A man on grass inside of a chain link fence at the top of a push up and with a look of determination in his eyes.

Source: corelens via Canva.com11

Push-ups are a great way to target muscle growth in the triceps, shoulders, and pectoral muscles, but this does, however, leave a wide array of muscle groups underworked. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, strengthening muscles throughout the body, as well as cardiovascular health, leads to a longer and healthier life.8

Implementing a well-rounded workout instead of focusing solely on push-ups could reduce or remove the consequences of overtraining.

If someone asks whether doing push-ups every day is overtraining, they are likely already concerned. Expanding the workout routine can help alleviate worries about overtraining.

When an Overall Workout Protocol is Better Than Pushup Challenges

As convenient and useful as push-ups are, a proper workout routine will always reign supreme since it targets the entire body and ensures imbalances aren’t being strengthened.

Research has shown the importance of including the following exercise in routines:

  • Endurance: This consists of activities that raise heart rate and breathing while exercising and can greatly improve cardiovascular health. A lively walk or jog, group dance class, swimming or water aerobics, or playing a sport are all great endurance exercises.
  • Strength: Workouts that focus on large muscle groups help keep the body strong and moving. Weight lifting, resistance training, and body weight exercises will all contribute to strength gains and muscle growth.
  • Balance and Flexibility: These two principles are both important basics in day-to-day life and need to be maintained so there is no decline in ability. Balance exercises are often combined with strength training, as balance relies on core muscles. Flexibility exercises are typically something that can be done after endurance and/or strength training to cool down when the muscles are already warmed up.9

If new to working out, finding a beginner guide can help introduce new techniques in a safe and effective way. Becoming familiar with how and when to work certain muscle groups can lead to the most efficient way to achieve results.

As beginners progress, if strength training becomes the focus, adding in more advanced programs, such as powerlifting, can be fun and challenging.

With the dedication to work out daily, you’re already on the path to success. Rather than worrying about overtraining with daily push-ups, channel that motivation and energy into full-body workouts for a broader range of benefits.

Frequently Asked Questions

How Can I Tell If I am Overtraining?

One of the biggest indicators of overtraining is not seeing progress in terms of volume, such as reps and sets. The trouble with recovery, fatigue, motivation, and pain can also result from overtraining.

What’s the Best Way to Recover From Overtraining?

Reduce volume for a set or two to assess whether the body just needed a small break. If it is determined that more time is needed for recovery, consider deloading.

Is Doing Push-Ups Everyday Considered Overtraining?

Doing push-ups every day will not necessarily lead to overtraining if the proper volume and technique are utilized. Engaging in an excessive amount of push-ups for one’s strength level can, however, lead to fatigue and overtraining.

What Can I Do to Prevent Overtraining in the Future?

Ensuring the body receives adequate nutrition and that proper technique is a good basis for any workout routine. Ideally, a well-rounded cardiovascular and strength training program can reduce the likelihood of overtraining, especially when it is in reference to specific muscle groups.


References

1U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. (2018). Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, 2nd edition. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from <https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-09/Physical_Activity_Guidelines_2nd_edition.pdf>

2Goolsby, M. A. (2021, August 16). Overtraining: What It Is, Symptoms, and Recovery. HSS. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from <https://www.hss.edu/article_overtraining.asp>

3MHealthy University of Michigan. (2014). Using Your Body Weight. Body Weight. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from <https://hr.umich.edu/sites/default/files/body_weight_booklet_-_intermediate_-_email.pdf>

4Israetel, D. M. (2021, January 6). Fatigue Indicators and How to Use Them. YouTube. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3lrxQ3nHOmA>

5Israetel, D. M. (2022). Chest (Pecs) Growth Training Tips. Renaissance Periodization. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from <https://rpstrength.com/chest-training-tips-hypertrophy/>

6Israetel, D. M. (2021, April 7). Recovery Training at Every Level. YouTube. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CHO5x_3UGMo>

7Samuels, M. (2020, January 20). Deloading 101: What Is a Deload and How Do You Do It? Breaking Muscle. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from <https://breakingmuscle.com/deloading-101-what-is-a-deload-and-how-do-you-do-it/>

8Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2022). Benefits of Physical Activity | Physical Activity. CDC. Retrieved July 26, 2022, from <https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/pa-health/index.htm>

9National Institute on Aging. (2021). Four Types of Exercise Can Improve Your Health and Physical Ability. National Institute on Aging. Retrieved July 27, 2022, from <https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/four-types-exercise-can-improve-your-health-and-physical-ability>

10Vieyra, Fortune. “man in white tank top and gray shorts sitting on blue floor photo – Free Fitness Image on Unsplash.” Unsplash, 26 March 2021. Accessed 7 April 2023. <https://unsplash.com/photos/jD4MtXnsJ6w>

11corelens. “Athletic Man Doing Push Up in the Field.” Canva. Accessed 7 April 2023. <https://www.canva.com/photos/MAEgNrral2c-athletic-man-doing-push-up-in-the-field/>

12hidesy. “Pushups.” Canva. Accessed 7 April 2023. <https://www.canva.com/photos/MAEEt-natVU-pushups/>

About the Author

Nathan Petitpas

Nathan has been a fitness enthusiast for the past 12 years and jumps between several types of training such as bodybuilding, powerlifting, cycling, gymnastics, and backcountry hiking. Due to the varying caloric needs of numerous sports, he has cycled between all types of diets and currently eats a whole food diet. In addition, Nathan lives with several injuries such as hip impingement, spondylolisthesis, and scoliosis, so he underwent self-rehabilitation and no longer lives with debilitating pain.