Push-​​​​up Improvement Plan 01 – Get 30 Points in 30 Days!

Pushup Improvement Plan

Staff Sergeant Ken Weichert,
Hello! Thanks for all that you do! I have an Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT) in a month and wanted to improve my score. My weakest area is push-​​ups. What is your favorite workout for push-​​ups? Thanks!

Specialist Bill S..



Specialist Bill S,
Hello! Thanks for the compliment! If you follow Push-​​up Improvement Plan 01 and give it your absolute best for at least 30 days, you will probably increase your score at least 30 points in the APFT. Push-​​up Improvement Plan 01 has worked for hundreds of Soldiers worldwide! Now it’s your turn!

Here is how it works:

  1. Perform a good warm-​​up (5 minutes).
  2. Perform a few stretching exercises (5 minutes).
  3. Begin the push-​​up exercise in the close grip position. Continue as long as you as you can in this position.
  4. Assume an authorized rest position.
  5. Slide your hands outward to the normal grip position. Continue as long as you as you can in this position.
  6. Assume an authorized rest position.
  7. Slide your hands outward to the wide grip position. Continue as long as you as you can in this position.
  8. “Go to muscle failure!” Warning: Do not let your back sag. Do not lift your hands or feet off of the ground. Do not perform this program on your knees.
  9. Rest when you reach two-​​minutes. Track your progress by taking your total number of push-​​ups and writing it down on a piece of paper, or on a
    DA Form 705
    . If you would like to see how many points you achieved, try our fitness calculator.
  10. National Guard Fitness Calculator

  11. While resting for 2–3 minutes, watch Push-​​up Improvement Plan 01 on video (You may also want to perform crunches during your rest period). Once you have rested for a few minutes, perform the following push-​​up progression according to your fitness level:
    • Basic – 1 set of 1 minute
    • Intermediate – 1 set of 2 minutes
    • Advanced – 2 sets of 2 minutes each
    • Extreme – 2 sets of 3 minutes each

    Lastly, allow your body to recover for 1–2 days before performing this program again. In fact, if you are trying to train at all three events of the APFT, use our 30-​​day workout calendar in order to achieve best results!

Following are the steps to perform standard push-​​ups for the Army Physical Fitness Test (APFT):

    Push-​​up standards

  • Pushups
    Start:Balance your body on your hands and feet with your back forming a straight line. Look forward and keep your feet together or up to 12 inches apart. Note: Different arm positions engage different arm, chest and shoulder muscles. The closer your hands are together, the more triceps muscles you engage.

  • Pushups
    Actions: While keeping your abdominal muscles tight, drop your body straight down by bending both elbows until the upper part of your arms become parallel to the ground. Return to the start position. Note: Do not look down toward the ground during this exercise. Maintain a forward focal point at all times.

Try it for a month and email me your progress at sgtken@​gxonline.​com. Like many other Soldiers, you may see a huge increase in your energy levels. Stay the course!

SSG Ken Weichert a.k.a. “SGT KEN”



  1. Jeff says:

    I\‘m 14 years old and can only perform 25 pushups. I\‘ve spent some time reviewing/​watching your videos on Youtube​.com I also noticed that most of your workouts are based on an older age group(preferably people entering the military). Would you approve the same workouts for me, a 14 year old kid trying to reach a goal of 100 pushups?

    • SFC Ranger says:

      Hey brother! I applaud your goal of 100 pushups. WHEN you reach your goal you will have a broader chest, stronger shoulders and triceps. While it is a great goal and certainly achievable, I would recommend that you add another goal as well. A stronger core! As a career Soldier with roughly 500 PT test under my belt (if not more) I have seen many fail to pass the push ups event not because they dont have the endurance in theri upper bosy but because their core is weak. When you are doing pushups the core is engaged to its limits stabilizing the rest of your body. Do this 5–6 days a week on top of a good interval/​body weight rountine and im guessing in 90 days you will exceed your goal. I do it as soon as my feet hit the floor in the mroning

      Warm up the shoulder and chest with rotations/​strectching

      Do 30 Pushups correctly (keep the core tight like you about to take a gut punch and go slow and smooth)

      Flip over and do flutter kicks and or the plank for twice as long as it took you to do the pushups (rough guess is acceptable)

      Flip back over and do 25 pushups
      Do flutter kicks/​planks

      Continue this process subtracting 5–10 pushups each set until you get to 10 (never do less than 10)

      This is great way to build the endurance necessary to complete your goal.
      Once this gets easy add more reps not sets. I start with 60 and work down by 10\‘s

      BTW I did 102 pushups on my last test

  2. Aaron Toler,

    Hello. Hope this blog entry finds you well! You are not far off from the military height and weight standard for your age and gender. I suggest that you perform Operation Pushing for Points. It will help you prepare for joining the Armed Services. Regarding your back position, squeeze your rear end and abdominal muscles while performing the push-​​up. That will create more stability in your core. Feel free to email me for additional information at sgtken@​gxonline.​com. HOOAH!

    SSG Ken Weichert

  3. Jarret Lyles,

    Hello. Thanks for reaching out! I suggest trying Operation Diet Dissection for reaching your nutrition goals. While on that plan, use Operation Pushing for Points in order to get ready for military fitness training. HOOAH!

    SSG Ken Weichert

  4. Jeff,

    Hello. Thanks for reaching out! All of my total body-​​resistance programs will work for individuals at 14 years or older. Stay away from weight training until you have stopped advanced growing. HOOAH!

    SSG Ken Weichert

  5. Brian,

    Hello. Thanks for compliment! HOOAH!

    SSG Ken Weichert

  6. collin jones says:

    Hello, I am in AIT active duty Army Im training for Ammo Specialist, lately I have been getting frustrated with the Army life does it get better? Also my push ups are at 29 per 2min and I need 39 any ideas that will get me there? Thank you

  7. Collin,

    Hello. Thanks for reaching out! Stay the course! Military life has treated me well. I was active duty Army for four years, and Army National Guard for 16 years, some of that time deployed twice. I love the military!

    Regarding the push-​​up exercise, stick to my program and you WILL improve. Perform this program on your strength training days, giving your upper body some rest the day after.

    Let me know how it works for you!


    SSG Ken Weichert

  8. Spc. Guerra, Dave says:

    i have to improve nine pushups in 13 days and its for a different type of test its called the legionaire test for 1–24 inf. and they have to be chest to ground and it has to 80 reps i can only do 71 … what can i do to improve this in a matter of 13 days .… the whole test is 80 chest to ground push ups and 90 sit ups, 4 mile run in 28 min, ten pullups and 30 dips i can pass everything very easy except push ups can u help me

  9. Dave,

    Thanks for reaching out! Push-​​up Improvement Plan 01 is exactly what you need to make your body reach your goals. Simply make certain that all of your repetitions are are low to the ground as possible.

    Once you are done with the plan, perform Push-​​up Pulses for an additional 30 seconds.

    Push-​​up Pulses are where you start the push-​​up from the \‘down\’ position and only come up 4–6 inches. The idea is to perform push-​​up pulses quickly.

    Push-​​up Pulses help you to develop your shoulder strength, which is needed for the low position of the push-​​up.

    Let me know how it works for you!


    Staff Sergeant Ken Weichert

  10. gerald ramm says:

    I have not ran in a year and have a PT Test in a month, Im 48 and want to get around 18:00. How can I achieve this in a short time.

  11. Hello, Gerald!

    Thanks for reaching out! Look at my other blog called \“Operation Pushing for Points.\” Follow the APFT workout calendar and let me know how it works for you. It also includes great running tips, all available for FREE as downloads on iTunes.

    Keep me informed of your progress.


    Staff Sergeant Ken Weichert

  12. Peter says:

    Staff Sergeant Ken Weichert,
    I am planing to improve my scores but which is the better program, the Operation Pushing for Points or the Operation Pushing for Points volume 2. or do you have a newer volume?

  13. Peter,

    Hello. Thanks for reaching out! Volume 3 of Operation Pushing for Points (OPP4P) is going to be published in the National Guard Experience magazine in April/​May 2009. I think that it is better! Feel free to contact me for an advance copy at sgtken@​gxonline.​com.


    SSG Ken Weichert

  14. John says:

    When you do push up improvement #1 how many sets do you do? I know to do it every other day but how many times and with how much rest in between.

  15. Hello, John! I like to perform this program 2–3 times, every other day, adding abdominal and cardio work to the workout, in order to max the APFT. Look at \‘Operation Pushing for Points\’ blog for how to incorporate it into a monthly program.


    SSG Ken Weichert

  16. Srini is correct! The objective is to get the Triceps and Pectorals strong enough to support your entire body. Starting out on your knees is a good way to get started! HOOAH!

    SSG Ken Weichert

  17. Jeff says:

    I posted a while ago(Post # 51) and would like to say that this pushup workout is really starting to show results! I\‘ve gone up from struggling with 20 pushups to completing 50 with a moderate pump. Lately, I\‘ve been doing back-​​pack pushups with 30 lbs(worth textbooks) in them(alot for my 115 lb weight). I feel that completing low reps with alot weight for muscular strength and then doing max pushups for endurance is an effective method for increase your pushups, do you think this is a good idea?

  18. Hello, Jeff!

    Make certain that your backpack is fastened securely to your body with even weight distribution in order to prevent injury. Great work!


  19. JP says:

    hello Mr. Weichert and Stephanie. Right now im 16 years old, 120 pounds and i would like to increase my weight(the good way), more muscles, and more strength. What should i do? Any tips? Ive been doing the excercises in your podcast and theyre great. Thanks1

  20. Hello, JP!

    Thanks for reaching out! All of these body resistance exercise plans can be used to increase muscle mass by performing everything very slowly, almost dramatically slow. You will feel the \‘burn\’ much faster and achieve more muscle mass, as opposed to performing the program to speed and quantity. You must go for quality! Hope this helps!


    SSG Ken Weichert

  21. Zeke Almquist says:

    Hi, I recently joined the Army and am working improving my max # of push-​​ups. Right now I\‘m at about 30 push-​​ups. I mix chest and triceps lifting workouts with push-​​ups. I am rely trying to build up my chest but my arms always get burned out way before my chest. No matter what I do I don\‘t rely feel any burn in my chest. I am looking for some workouts that mainly focus on the chest alone rather than triceps.

  22. Hello, Zeke!

    Thanks for reaching out! Be advised that weight lifting is counterproductive to push-​​up improvement training. Go to Operation Pushing for Points under my blogs, follow the 30-​​day workout calendar, and let me know how it works for you. HOOAH!

    SSG Ken Weichert
    Master Fitness Trainer, Army National Guard
    TNARNG RSP Health and Fitness Director

  23. A.J. says:

    HELLO Sgt Ken i do your push up improvement plan 2 and its awesome but on nationaulguard​.com i watched push up improvement plan 3.…is it next level and when i need to switch to it?

    p.s.How much time rest need to have beatvine the sets in push up im.3?


  24. Rik says:

    Hello Sgt Ken,

    I am 15 years old an I’m training for my acces to my new school, wich tests are in a few months(probaly 3 months). I tried doing your plan today, but after I did the first exersice(the close grip position push up), I can only push myself up 10 or 25 times when I do the normal grip position push up. Is this a normal thing or do I do anything wrong? Normally, I can push myself up in a normal grip position just 25 times.

  25. oldfella1962 says:

    “How do you deal with mental blocks? I can max bench 375lbs, however getting past 40 pushups is a nightmare of pain for me!”

    Whoa! That is amazing. I guess all my time in The Army (doing pushups constantly) doing 40 pushups is the bare minimum in many cases — yet not one soldier in 100 could ever bench 375! I could never bench more than 200 in my prime, but could do 60+ pushups in my prime. I guess it’s all about muscle endurance versus strength. Then again — whatever you practice is what you become good at. I’m 50 years old now and right now I’m on a “strength to weight ratio” routine. I’m trying to increase my chin-​​ups for one thing, and get back down to 175 at 5′ 10″ height.

  26. Frederick Simpson says:

    For all of you with APFT improvement information requests, if you get bored with a certain workout make sure you mix it up often. That is the best way to stay focused and, more importantly, interested in PT. For PU and SU improvement try this: Detemine maximum PU\‘s and SU\‘s in a one minute time frame. Subtract 10 reps from each. Do three sets of this adjusted number three times per week with a one minute rest interval in between. After one week, try a max again and determine a new rep requirement. Ex:
    40 PU\‘s in one minute;
    do three sets of 30 PU\‘s resting one minute in between sets three times per week. After one week, go for a new max in each event.
    This is an old trick to improve quickly and is recommended by most SF communities. You can find more info on SF websites such as the 160th SOAR. Good luck to all.

  27. MWS says:

    Ken — The Push-​​Up Improvement Plan warns that we shouldn\‘t do the program on our knees. However, I can\‘t do the closed grip PUs unless I\‘m on my knees, and I can only do a few PUs before muscle failure when I\‘m not on my knees, do I\‘ve been doing a lot from my knees. Am I doing more harm than good? Also, I notice in your videos that, during PUs, your elbows remain close to your side. For me, my elbows go straight out, perpendicular to my sides. I try keeping my elbows close, but then I can only do 3 PUs. I just joined Guard and ship to BCT in January. Thx!

  28. Nicole says:

    Ken, Had surgery a year ago that cut through abdominal muscles. Still some internal pulling occassionally when I move \“just that way.\” Pushups, Situps, flutter kicks are challenging. What other ideas do you have to improve both pushups and situps for the PT test? Did about half my normal last test. Also, learned pelvic bone is tilted, causing pain in psoas (low back and inside hip) and limited hip range, making my runs SLOW. Feet hitting ground as often as anyone, but taking almost twice as long. Ideas to increase run stride and rotator range? Forcing hips to rotate while running and walking creates pain — bearable for a time, then not. Not ready to retire!!

  29. SPC Sawyer says:

    Hey SSG Ken,

    SPC Sawyer here. I’m a tall, lanky guy. Push-​​ups and my run are my absolute weak points and I’d also like to improve my sit-​​ups as well. I’ve been looking for a workout plan that would best suit my ectomorphic body type. Any advice on how to improve my scores?

    SPC Sawyer

  30. Wayne says:


    None of the links work for me. I understand this may be an old article so maybe they have moved?

  31. vince says:

    good afternoon ssg.ken, im looking to get what i never did in 14 yrs of service. get a 260 and go blue before i get to old. going to try your 4 wk plan. do you have any info on highly deploy-​​able reserve units in ca? i am 38 b and thinking that would help me if i could go to the 426 ca bn.

More from:

Ken Weichert

Ken Weichert (a.k.a. "SGT Ken") is an international speaker, six-time U.S. Army Soldier of the Year, Master Fitness and Master Resilience Trainer, and veteran of Operations Iraqi Freedom and Desert Storm. In 1998, Ken founded the longest-running Boot Camp fitness program in America, START Fitness®. Ken has led thousands of Soldiers and civilians to better health through Operation Fit to Fight, a tactical fitness instructor training and testing program designed to prepare Soldiers for Basic Combat Training ("Boot Camp"), deployments, leadership schools and post-deployment recovery. Ken was the focus of an Emmy award-winning feature on CBS, and has been featured numerous times on ABC, NBC and FOX news. Ken was featured in the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Business Times newspapers, and 7X7 magazine. Ken has also written over 100 fitness and health articles for magazines such as GX®, Backpacker®, Outside®, Health®, and for the National Guard website.