Adding exercise to your routine can offer many benefits. Find out whether doing 20 pushups a day is good and what types of results you can expect.
Since it is a bodyweight resistance training exercise, the main goal of doing pushups is growing and strengthening your chest, tricep, and front shoulder muscles.
First of all, for these goals, you generally want to implement a rest day in between pushup sessions. Doing them every day could interfere with your results.
That aside, if you can barely complete the 20 pushups in 2 sets of 10 repetitions to 4 sets of 5 repetitions, this workout routine will generally be good for muscle growth and strength progress.
As you get stronger, you want to do things like weighted pushups or increase how many repetitions you do to keep seeing results.
Besides muscle growth and strength progress, you can expect tiny health benefits from doing 20 pushups a day like burning a few extra calories, slightly improving your mood, etc.
However, these effects will be tiny since doing 20 pushups only takes around a minute or so. You will definitely have to step up your workout routine to hit the exercise guidelines.
Can 20 pushups a day build muscle?
First and foremost, pushups are a resistance training exercise. That means you typically do them to grow and strengthen muscles. More specifically, your chest, tricep, and front shoulder muscles.
To grow and strengthen muscles you have to pressure them with enough resistance, do enough repetitions, give your body enough nutrients, and rest enough.
How much is enough depends on your current strength level and how fast your body recovers.
That being said, let’s temporarily say that your body weight and 20 repetitions spread out over a few sets are enough of a challenge for you to build muscle.
In that case, it is possible that you are one of the people who can recover enough to do another pushup session after 24 hours.
However, it is generally recommended to give your body more time than that to rest. It is often a good idea to give the muscle groups you worked an extra rest day.
The reason for that is that resistance training damages your muscles during the workout. This may not sound good but can actually start a variety of internal processes that make the muscles bigger and stronger in the long term.
However, to repair and grow the muscles, your body still needs enough time (and nutrients).
So first of all, if doing 20 pushups counts as a challenging resistance training workout for you, you generally don’t want to do this every single day. A rest day in between each session will likely improve your results.
Enough of a challenge
The second main concern with doing 20 pushups, preferably not every day, is that it may not be challenging enough or on the flip side, too challenging.
You can find out whether one of these two things applies by actually implementing this routine and seeing what results you get.
At the same time, there are some more short term ways to predict this too.
If you can barely complete the pushups in anywhere ranging from 2 sets of 10 repetitions to 4 sets of 5 repetitions, workouts with 20 pushups will likely make a positive difference. At least initially.
However, if you are not able to reach these numbers, doing 20 regular bodyweight pushups is likely too challenging for you (for now). In that case, you want to start with pushup progression steps.
If you can easily hit the numbers above, you either want to make the 20 repetitions harder with pushup equipment or consider increasing the number of bodyweight repetitions you do per workout.
How to adapt your pushup routine to keep seeing results
The main issue most people will have with doing 20 pushups a day is that it will stop giving the desired progress and results.
Pushups offer other benefits to a certain extent too but muscle growth and strength progress is the main focus of this exercise.
First of all, most people want to implement at least one day of rest in between the pushup sessions. This can be a good opportunity to work other muscle groups too.
Secondly, you can increase the number of repetitions and sets you do.
At some point, you may need some extra resistance anyway but bodyweight exercises can offer nice amounts of results as long as you push yourself close enough to muscle failure.
Next, you can increase how challenging the pushups are for your muscles. Most people will prefer doing this by wearing a weighted vest or putting something on their upper backs.
However, you can also do decline pushups where more of your body weight rests on your upper body muscles.
Lastly, your body may need more protein, vitamins, minerals, and sleep to recover and strengthen the muscles.
Especially if you are doing the workout part right and not seeing results, you likely want to take a look at these areas.
Why you can’t do more than 20 pushups
Some people are also not able to do 20 pushups in a row or in the recommended rep ranges above. The reason for that is simply that your muscles are not strong enough and/or have enough endurance yet.
Luckily, this is generally not a permanent issue. You work up to this number of pushups in a few ways.
First of all, you can do modified pushups in similar amounts of repetitions and sets until you are strong enough to do the regular ones.
Modified pushups are where you lean on your knees instead of your feet. This will put less resistance on your chest, tricep, and front shoulder muscles.
Secondly, you can do horizontal push exercises like a bench press or standing resistance band chest press with lower resistance.
As you get stronger, you can increase the resistance/repetitions until you reach a point where you can do 20 pushups a day or in a row.
Will 20 pushups a day do anything else?
So far the main focus was growing and strengthening muscles because the pushup is mainly a bodyweight resistance training exercise.
That being said, there are also other health benefits that happen to a certain extent when doing pushups.
One thing you do want to keep in mind is that it will likely only take around 1 minute (possibly split into multiple sets) to do 20 pushups.
That means that while they are welcome, you should not expect too much of the benefits below.
How many calories do 20 pushups burn?
Many people are interested in how many calories 20 pushups burn. The exact numbers will likely vary for you personally due to differences in things like body composition, weight, intensity, hormone levels, etc.
That being said, here are some rough estimations about how many calories 20 pushups burn for different body weights:
- 125 pounds (56 kg) body weight: 6 calories
- 155 pounds (70 kg) body weight: 7 calories
- 185 pounds (83 kg) body weight: 9 calories
- 215 pounds (97 kg) body weight: 10 calories
As you can see and expect from only exercising for around 1 minute, 20 pushups do not burn that many calories. Even if you would do them every single day for a week, a month, or even a year.
Many people exercise to lose weight. Something to note about this is that other lifestyle habits like nutrition play a big role in this process too.
You can do a lot of pushups and not see any weight loss results if these other lifestyle areas are suboptimal.
Similarly, you can lose weight without doing any exercise at all.
Potentially improve muscle endurance
So far growing and strengthening muscles were the main focus. However, muscle endurance is a separate thing and can be beneficial in its own ways.
Even at a point where doing 20 pushups a day is not enough to grow and strengthen your muscles, this exercise routine can still improve endurance in your chest, tricep, and front shoulder muscles.
Helps you build an exercise habit
The benefits of doing 20 pushups a day are not only physical. Even if it is not the most impressive workout routine out there, it can be the first step towards even more effective habits.
Making changes in lifestyle areas like fitness can feel too overwhelming if you set the bar too high. Something you can do to avoid this is to break up your bigger goals into smaller steps.
1 minute of pushups a day sounds and is not much but this makes it an easy place to start. After this has become a habit you can start to add more repetitions and exercises more easily.
Improve your mood a tiny amount
Your physical habits can influence the state of your mind through a variety of internal processes.
Additionally, you will likely feel good about doing something challenging that is good for you like working up to 20 pushups a day and sticking to this routine.
At the same, you want to keep in mind that the internal processes will only take place to a tiny extent since doing 20 pushups only comes down to a workout of a minute or so.
Other health benefits to a tiny extent
Again, 20 pushups is not that much of a workout. At the same time, it does offer some of the more general health benefits of exercise to a slightly larger extent than doing nothing at all.
Some of these include better bone density (especially with weighted pushups), better sleep, better cognitive function, slowing down certain age measurements, etc.
Is 20 pushups a day good enough for general health?
How much everyone should exercise for optimal general health is currently not known due to things like personal differences.
However, there are still some general exercise guidelines that can point you in the right direction. The Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion recommends the following amounts to adults (4):
- Moving more and sitting less throughout the day
- At least 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity a week. Preferably spread throughout the week.
- You can gain additional health benefits by engaging in physical activity beyond the equivalent of 300 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity a week.
- Muscle-strengthening activities of moderate or greater intensity that involve all major muscle groups on 2 or more days a week.
It should become clear that the one minute a day you spend doing pushups is far not enough to hit these general health exercise guidelines.
You want to implement longer resistance workouts for different muscles and a lot more cardiovascular exercise sessions.