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Attempt The 30-Day Press-Up Challenge

Press-up
(Image credit: Getty Images / John Fedele)

In many ways the press-up is the definitive bodyweight exercise. It’s a simple move, requiring zero equipment and minimal space, and there’s a fair chance that it’s the first bodyweight exercise you ever did. When someone barks at you to drop and give them 20, there’s only one exercise that comes to mind.

It’s also tough. The press-up is a savage test of a host of upper-body muscles, especially the chest, shoulders and triceps. Your core will also benefit from the standard press-up, and if you introduce a few basic variations on the move you can recruit even more muscles.

Before you start varying your press-ups, however, it’s important to ensure your form on the classic move is correct. Even if you’ve done a million press-ups in your time, make sure you check your form against the following technique guide. It’s a bit like watching the air stewards when they show you the safety procedure. Sure, you can look cool by ignoring it, but you’re going to wish you paid attention when you attach the oxygen mask to your neck by mistake.

Press-up

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)
  1. Start on all fours, with your hands shoulder-width apart and your feet hip-width apart – moving your feet further apart will make it easier, while bringing them closer together makes it harder.
  2. Straighten your arms. Keep your hips in line with your shoulders throughout the movement.
  3. Lower your chest towards the ground by bending at the elbows, keeping them by your sides. Flaring your elbows works the chest more, while keeping them close to you targets the triceps more. The closer your chest gets to the floor the better, unless you end up just lying down. That’s not going to help anyone.
  4. Press back up. Then do it all again.

The 30-Day Press-Up Challenge

Once you've mastered the form, it’s time for this challenge designed by Maximuscle (opens in new tab) expert personal trainer Paul Olima. The first few days build up with regular press-ups, but before long some variations are thrown into the mix, so make sure you know the form for each press-up style before beginning. Here’s how to do them.

Diamond press-up

Diamond press-up

(Image credit: Glen Burrows)

This variation shifts the focus of the exercise to your triceps, though you’ll still be working your shoulders and chest as well. Start in a standard press-up position, but place your hands together under your chest with the thumbs and index fingers touching so that they form a diamond shape. Keeping your elbows tucked in to your sides, lower slowly until your chest is just above the ground and then push back up.

Decline press-up

Decline press-up

(Image credit: Shutterstock)

While the diamond press-up hits your triceps harder, the decline variation is tougher on your shoulders and upper chest muscles. To perform the exercise, get into a press-up position with your feet on a raised surface, which should be about 30-60cm off the floor. Lower your chest towards the ground, then push back up.

This is a very tough challenge, so if one look at the below makes you tremble with fear, rather than excitement, then it might be worth first taking on our more accessible 30-day plank challenge, or our 30-day burpee challenge which can be scaled up or down in line with your current fitness level. We also have an abs challenge, squat challenge, and sundry other fitness challenges and gym challenges for those who like to test themselves.

Day 120 press-ups
Day 225 press-ups
Day 330 press-ups
Day 435 press-ups
Day 52 sets of 20 press-ups
Day 62 sets of 25 press-ups
Day 72 sets of 30 press-ups 
Day 82 sets of 35 press-ups
Day 945 press-ups
Day 1030 press-ups + 10 diamond press-ups
Day 1135 press-ups + 15 diamond press-ups
Day 1235 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups
Day 1340 press-ups + 20 diamond press-ups
Day 1440 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups
Day 1545 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups
Day 1650 press-ups + 25 diamond press-ups
Day 172 sets of 30 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 182 sets of 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 1960 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 2030 decline press-ups + 30 press-ups+ 30 diamond press-ups
Day 2135 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 30 diamond press-ups
Day 2235 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups
Day 2340 decline press-ups + 35 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups
Day 2440 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 35 diamond press-ups
Day 2540 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups
Day 2645 decline press-ups + 40 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups
Day 2745 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 40 diamond press-ups
Day 2845 decline press-ups + 45 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups
Day 2950 decline press-ups + 50 press-ups + 45 diamond press-ups
Day 30100 press-ups
Nick Harris-Fry
Nick Harris-Fry

Nick Harris-Fry is a journalist who has been covering health and fitness since 2015. Nick is an avid runner, covering 70-110km a week, which gives him ample opportunity to test a wide range of running shoes and running gear. He is also the chief tester for fitness trackers and running watches, treadmills and exercise bikes, and workout headphones.