Strength and Conditioning

How to play the Push-up Game

Back in high school gymnastics, one of my favorite ways to end a day in the gym was to play something we called the Push-up Game. You might know it by another name, or perhaps you play it slightly differently than how we did.

Whether you coach your own clients or you simply enjoy exercising with friends, it’s a creative and crazy-hard finish to a workout. Here’s how to play it:

Structure of the game

Have your athletes form a circle on the ground, in a push-up position. Their heads should point into the circle, and their feet should point outward. Space people far enough apart that they won’t bang heads or bump elbows once they’re moving.

The more people that you have playing the game, the better. Strive for at least 4 participants. You can play it with less than that, but it isn’t as fun.

The game starts with one player doing a few push-ups. Everyone else should be to holding the top, plank position during this time. Once the first player has done his or her reps, the next person – going clockwise – repeats the same number of push-ups that the first person did.

Besides doing the first person’s reps, the second person must add at least one push-up to the total number. He or she could add one rep, or as many extra as they have the stamina for.

For example, if the first person did 20 push-ups, then the second person would have to do at least 21 push-ups. He or she could do 25, 30, or even 40, but 21 is the minimum to be completed.

If that person can’t complete the number of previous push-ups completed plus one more, then that he or she is out of the game.

Assuming that that the second athlete did the required reps, plus one or more, then the third person then completes the number of added push-ups that the second person did. If it was only one push-up, then that is all required. Yet. Like the second person, he or she must add at one or more push-ups on top of the required number.

The game proceeds in this manner, with each player performing the previous number of added reps, plus contributing however many more they can muster.

How do you win?

As mentioned above, whenever someone can’t complete the previous number of added push-ups plus one, then he or she drops out. Round and round, the goal is to proceed through the circle repping out push-ups until you are the only one left in the game.

The premise sounds simple, but it’s smart to use some strategy.

When should you keep your reps low? When should you crank out as many as possible? The key is to pay attention to your neighbors, and monitor your fatigue level. There will be time to go easy, and a time to go hard. Play it right and you’ll be the victor.

One more rule

There is one final rule that needs to be observed. The longer that the game goes on, the more that the players will get tired of holding the plank position. People will want to drop to their knees for a second, but it isn’t allowed.

To stay in the game you have to remain off the ground, supported only by your hands and feet.

Dropping to your knees disqualifies you.

You must stay elevated in a plank position. It’s okay to shift your weight side-to-side, or rock forward and backward a little, but once your knees drop down, you’re done.


For athletes who want a more challenging game, up the ante with clapping push-ups or other plyometric variations. Add resistance bands or weight plates for extra effort. Try one-armed push-ups. Take things vertical with burpees. I’m sure you can come up with your own wicked mutation.

Let me know how it goes. If you have any alterations, recommendations, or different rules, post them below. Have fun!

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