From a cardiovascular perspective, the gold standard for push-ups is right around 40 reps.
That’s according to a study published a few years back by Harvard’s School of Public Health, which illustrated an indisputable link between heart health and push-up capacity. As part of the research, 1,104 men (all firefighters) took a baseline push-up test and were monitored over the course of 10 years. Those who completed 40 or more push-ups at the outset (compared to those who completed fewer than 10), were 96% less likely to develop a CVD.
Fair enough. But if 40 push-ups is a good goal for the active adult male to shoot for, though, then why would 30 push-ups pose a challenge for the almighty David Goggins?
The $35 “Kung Fu Shoe” We Keep Seeing at the GymDo you need to add a pair of Feiyues to your rotation?
Goggins vs. Push-Ups
In a recent video uploaded to the former Navy SEAL’s YouTube account, Goggins takes nearly four minutes to complete 30 push-ups. He’s not quite howling about boats or logs as he works, but he does yell out a few times, and he legitimately collapses onto the carpet when he’s done. How could a man who’s ripped 4,000+ pull-ups in 24 hours ever struggle to knock out such a nominal push-up count?
Well, therein lies the power of perfect push-ups. The video is one of the best examples we’ve seen of how difficult the classic move can be when it is performed correctly (and leisurely), with Goggins taking on a workout that’s made the rounds of gung-ho America for years now: the “Bring Sally Up” push-up challenge.
“Bring Sally Up”
The lyrics to the song (“Bring Sally up, bring Sally down, lift and squat, gotta tear the ground,”) play over and over again, as Goggins pushes up and down to the corresponding instructions (up, down) and rhythm. He begins the video by outlining the rules: the elbows should be in a 45-degree formation with the body, the arms need to make a 90-degree angle when you go down, the final count should be 30.
If anything really challenges Goggins — whose form is impeccable here — it’s the periods in between “up” and “down” cues, where he’s forced to essentially hold a plank. Those moments are where the lactic acid really starts to set in, and where, in other online videos of the trend, people start to quit the challenge altogether.
Why We Like It
This song — which was originally a Moby b-side, by the way — first had its moment 10 years ago, as a CrossFit tool. Now it’s synonymous with the push-up challenge. Still, it can be easily co-opted for any variety of tabata or HIIT challenges. You might consider applying it to other calisthenics, too, like air squats or parallel dips.
Don’t get us wrong, we love a good “push-up capacity” goal. It’s a nice, offbeat biomarker of your cardiovascular health. But maximum counts tend to encourage poor from and lack a sustainable structure. This Goggins-approved track, meanwhile? It’s a bodyweight building block that you can turn to it whenever. It’s simple yet fun. It’ll eviscerate your upper body, yet in all likelihood you won’t even be able to finish it. Next time you’ve got a push day, give it a try. No shame if you can’t get halfway. If it made one of the greats sweat, you know it’s legit.