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August 23, 2013

How I solved my problem with pushup avoidance by invoking Peter Drucker

Long story short: a couple months ago my son-in-law — listening to me lament how my upper body isn't nearly as strong as it used to be and is now so much less fit than my legs, what with running being the only thing I do to stay in shape — remarked that pushups are an excellent way to get fitter up top.

Old-fashioned pushups, like we had to do in junior high and high school P.E.?

Yup, that's the ticket, he said.

So I noodled around online and darned if he wasn't right: you can indeed strengthen your chest, shoulders and arms just doing pushups.

I started the very day we spoke — Tuesday, May 21 — and was able to do 6.

I resolved to do one more every day, with a goal of being able to knock off 200 at a session.

Why think small?

As Albert Szent-Györgyi (Nobel Prize winner for the discovery of Vitamin C) once remarked (in another context entirely), "If you're going to go fishing, use a big hook."


Goals should be insane — otherwise, where's the fun?


I started skipping days between pushup attempts, to the point where there were five-day gaps.

That's no good.

Long story short (did I already say that? too bad): Today is day 95 (week 14) of my regimen and I will be attempting 17 pushups, one more than I did Wednesday (I collapsed yesterday during #15. I always keep going until collapse rather than stopping after a completed pushup: it makes me hungrier. But I digress).

Now the Peter Drucker angle.

I once read where he said that the only way to get people to listen to his advice was to charge them so much money it hurt: that always gets their full and undivided attention.


I thought to myself, you've been a big wuss, not doing your daily pushups because you're tired or whatever: I've gotta make it really hurt to skip a day.

Then the penny dropped Wednesday: from now on, every time I skip a day or days, I have to not only attempt to best my previous high but also do as many extra sessions — that day, after my regularly scheduled effort — as days missed.

So sure, go ahead and skip 5 days in a row — but be prepared, Mr. Man, to do 5 more series of reps on day 6 after the first.


Worked great last night when I was about to go to bed, in no mood to attempt 17 pushups to beat Wednesday's 16: I thought about the misery and pain I'd be in today having to try 17 — and then the makeup session after that — and before you know it I was on the floor.

I did 14 and thought yeah, this works.

Up top, a point-of-view Google Glass video made July 7 — day 48 — of one of my pushup sessions: I was attempting 15 but collapsed during #12.

I'd thought that making those videos on a daily basis would be a strong impetus to keep up with the regimen but that flopped dismally like most of my ideas.

Good thing for me I've always got tons more 'cause 99+% head straight to the toilet, they're so stupid and useless.

No worries.

August 23, 2013 at 12:01 PM | Permalink


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You might want to also consider burpees with a push-up.

As a runner, I've always had problems with upper body strength. Three years ago, I read Mark Rippetoe's Starting Strength, and it changed my approach. I do 2-3 exercises of either: a) bench press and deadlift or b) press, power clean, and squat - alternating over 3 days a week. It takes 45min to an hour, and you can get pretty strong. It might not be your thing, but it may be worth a look.

Posted by: Scott Jenkins | Aug 27, 2013 12:42:08 PM

I think you will find advice that says that collapsing on the last push is not as useful to your goal as stopping one or two short of failure. Better for the muscles to add sets than squeeze out forced reps.

Posted by: JohnM | Aug 27, 2013 8:33:43 AM

Stay strong! Motivated by your plight, I started a pushup routine of my own.. the 1st day after my initial 25, I could barely hold my cup of coffee. Now up to 200 daily, in sets of 50. I'd recommend (beware the advice of strangers,) doing AM and PM sets.

Posted by: dodgrr | Aug 23, 2013 1:12:45 PM

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