Wait a few seconds...

Matt Kinnaman

The Power of One Push-Up

Written by

The push-up is one of those nearly-perfect exercises. Push-ups are great for upper body strength and a good catalyst for overall fitness. Push-ups can be performed almost anywhere (well, choose your time and place sensibly; I guess that’s good advice), with nothing but you and gravity, two things you always have with you.

Minoru Yoshida of Japan did 10,507 consecutive push-ups in 1980 and as far as world record watchers know, nobody has ever done more than that. In 1993, Charles Servizio of the USA did 46,001 push-ups in 24 hours. Well, as the story goes, not actually in 24 hours. He stopped at 21 hours and 21 minutes. Maybe he was tired and figured enough is enough. But even so, he averaged almost 36 push-ups per minute for 21 straight hours. Oh, and 21 minutes. His world record for the most push-ups in 24 hours still stands.

Those guys are outliers, of course. Most people find 100 push-ups challenging. No, actually, most people find 50 push-ups challenging. No, actually 30. Or maybe 20. Or…

And I bet most people don’t do push-ups at all.

I know the feeling. I actually like doing push-ups. Once I start doing them. The challenge turns out to be all of those times (which is most of the time) that I feel like not doing them. “Arg. I don’t feel like doing the 50-100 push-ups I told myself this morning I’d do sometime today. It’s too late. I’m tired. Maybe tomorrow. Yeah, I’ll do them tomorrow.” Are you familiar with that defeatist attitude that clearly has the appearance of rationality and sounds so reasonable you get convinced by it to accept defeat? I know I do.

But the same old trap catches me every time I give into that attitude, the trap of “Tomorrow becomes tomorrow becomes tomorrow,” and I get nothing done. I spiral out of shape and down into discouragement. I lose consistency. I find it hard to climb back up to where I want to be. I’m tempted to give up.

But I discovered good news to free me from this trap. I discovered a simple, powerful way to avoid the consequent downward spiral into discouragement and defeat. (I just realized that sentence sounds just like a script for an infomercial. Oh well, sometimes those infomercials work.)

It’s a simple, powerful solution wrapped up in a simple, powerful frame of mind. I simply declared my belief in The Power of One Push-Up. (Sounds like an infomercial but stay with me.)

That’s it. I found when I dropped my insistence on hitting some higher number of push-ups as the measurement of the day’s success, I became instantly free to succeed by doing one push-up. I realized I can see this as a success because I know one push-up is better than zero push-ups. Wow, instant freedom from the agony of defeat!

Now, of course, nobody gets fit or strong on one push-up per day. But almost nobody who does one push-up will stop with one. He’ll do 10. She’ll do 20. Invariably, the numbers will go up higher than one. And when it comes to doing something good, doing one or more is always a lot better than doing zero.

You may have already realized that push-ups are not the most important point of this article. Push-ups are good. Do them. But the obvious bigger point is the principle of “The Power of One Push-Up” applies to everything in life that’s worth doing. In every such case, doing something is better than doing nothing.

Once again, this whole thing sounds so simple you might be tempted to say it’s too simple. Not really. Just try it. You will be so encouraged and empowered in small ways that you will move on to being encouraged and empowered in bigger ways. It’s guaranteed. Get started today. Choose one good thing, a push-up or something else like a walk around the block or opening up one envelop in that stupid stack of mail from last week, or rolling down your car window and saying hello to your neighbor instead of just waving as you roll by. You will be living the The Power of One Push-Up. You won’t be sorry. And I promise I’ll practice this principle, too, so we’re in this thing together.

PS You might find this video demonstration of a perfect push-up very helpful. It has 35 million views so that might mean it’s pretty good as a push-up demonstration. Not bad. And the guy has an accent which makes it even more interesting. And he’s good at push-ups. You might be inspired to do one really good push-up. I was.

Share this article

Subscribe to my newsletter

Receive tools and support for self-discovery and growth.

You may also like:

Connect with me