The points you need to remember are to keep your lower back from sagging so that when you lower yourself to the ground your stomach should still be 8 to 10 inches from the ground as your face and chest get within an inch of the ground. Keep your hands about shoulder width or slightly wider apart and if you drew a line between your hands, that line would hit your chest. I'll change my body position in relation to my hands so that imaginary line will hit my lower chest (nipples) mid chest and upper chest on sucessive sets. I'll also do pretty wide push ups with my hands pointed slightly outwards to prevent wrist strain. These are very challenging and will really tax the chest and shoulder muscles.
If you are reaching rep ranges of 15-20 than you might try elevating your feet so there will be more of your body weight for your body to press against.
I've been bodybuilding for 15 years and all that time used heavy weights. I injured my back last year and have been rehabilitating it and discovered that a chest workout composed of mainly push ups is getting my chest more sore than all the crazy weights I used in the past.
You can do this by several different methods. Here's what I'd recommend for your push-up chest routine:
1. Wide hand position push ups. Strech your hands all the way out as if you were trying to demonstrate the size of the 'fish that got away'. ;-) Now, bring them in about halfway between that point and the point that would be equal to shoulder width. (Does that make sense?). Now, place your hands on the floor and pivot your fingers outwards about 2-3 inches so you won't stress your wrists at the bottom of the movement. Use a tempo of 3 seconds down so that your chest almost touches the floor and stop for a split second to break the momentum then use 2 seconds to push back up to the top of the movement. Make sure you flex your chest as hard as you can at the top of the movement (stick your chest out towards the ground at the top of your movement). Do this movement until failure, which means you can't return to the top. I'd suggest at least 2 sets like this.
2. High chest push ups. This is a regular push up so that your hands are slightly wider than shoulder width. If you drew an imaginary line between your hands (like bench pressing with a bar) it would hit the upper part of your chest, about 6 inches below your adam's apple. Use the same tempo as above, 3 seconds down and 2 seconds up with a slight pause at the top to flex. When you hit failure, drop your knees to the ground and then do as many more reps as you can manage. I'd also suggest 2 sets here.
3. Mid chest push ups. Same as above except this time the imaginary line will cross the center of your chest. Same tempo, same tempo, same failure procedure here. I'd drop to 1 set here as you should be just about spent at this point.
4. Lower chest push ups. Same as above except the line will cross your nipple level and you also might want to pivot your fingers outwards to take the stress off your wrists. Also position your hands just inside shoulder width which is going to work the dead center of your chest and place more stress on your triceps. Use the same failure method as above by dropping to you knees and continuing the reps. Just 1 set here should be more than enough.
At this point your triceps are probably going to be through but if you want to continue with the reverse push ups just make sure you tighten up your shoulders enough so they don't sag and risk hurting your rotator cuff.
I promise your chest will be sore after this program and you should get some growth. The best way to continue building muscle is to keep your body guessing and keep feeding it. If you do anything the same way long enough your body will stop responding so it's all about finding new ways to shock it into growth.
Hope this helps!
Does that help clear it up?
As I said, I've been serously weight training for 15 years and I work part time at a gym as a trainer/nutrition advisor. Before switching to this push up program I was pushing some seriously heavy dumbbells for my chest work but I am getting more soreness and fatigue from this push up program than I did from the dumbbell work.
If you have access and some training experiance, consider super-setting the push ups with a pec deck or dumbbell flyes. Start with a set on the pec deck or with dumbbell flyes with a weight you can complete about 18-20 reps with and then go immediately to the first push up movement. Preceed each push up set with a set of flyes or pec deck and you'll really fatigue the chest muscles deeply. I do this becuase my tris are smaller than my chest and tend to give out first leaving my chest wanting more.
Dorian Yates typically did only 3-4 work sets for his chest but each one was full blown intensity. If you think you have MORE muscle to work than Dorian Yates than by all means, do more sets...
“Only high intensity training can force the body to resort to its reserve ability sufficiently to stimulate compensatory growth.”
-Mike Mentzer, 1978 Mr Universe
“The crux of your training for any given exercise on any given day boils down to one do-or-die, balls-to-the-wall set.”
-Dorian Yates, 6 time Mr Olympia
Failing that I'd consider doing your wide hand position push ups first to failure and then immediately continue with a more narrow hand position until failure again.
Hope this works for you...
I've spent years chasing my magic recovery interval windows but as I age and my training evolves, the magic wondow remains elusive. A great rule of thumb is to track all your training and then compare your workout to the previous. If you made progress than you are doing things right. If you remained the same, something needs to be changed and if you didn't go as good there is definately a problem. My basic recovery intervals dictate my program is broken down like so:
Day 1 Chest/Delts
Day 2 off
Day 3 Lats/Bi's
Day 4 off
Day 5 Quads/calves
Day 6 off
Day 7 Chest/Tri's
Day 8 Hams/hips/lower back
Day 9 off
Day 10 Lats
Day 11 off
Day 12 Quads/calves
At a glance it may appear pretty random but this is the result of 15 years of evolution in my program and learning to respond to what my muscles are telling me. Remember when you are training chest your shoulders and triceps are working too so they don't need a lot of subsequent work. Since the triceps are smaller than either the chest or delts, I actually skip specific training on them every other week. This also applies to my biceps after training lats. They get a ton of work with any upper body work so they don't need as much specific training to grow, muscle grows during REST not training.
I train my hams and hips with specific movements every other week becuase they get plenty of work during my quad training. The weeks I skip hams and hips, I'll be doing more lunges and overall leg training than involves the entire leg group.
I didn't list abs seperately in my list becuase I've started training my CORE with every body part. I sustained a herniated disc in my lower back last year from never training my core and always isolating my abs. I belive this was bad for me and left my lower back vunerable to injury and it happened. Now I do all my weight training with a focus on my core first and the rest of the body secondary. It's incredibly difficult and taxing on my heart and lungs and I've had to step up my cardio training to stay with it. I'm still fighting my back injury but with my new program I'm able to continue working out and was back in the gym only 3 weeks after surgery.
Also, when you see an "off day" that just means no weight training. Depending on how I feel, I'll either do cardio only or cardio and core training if I was too sore to complete it the previous day.
Let me know what gray areas to clear up for you at this point or if you have any further questions.
-How many days per week do you want to workout?
-How much time do you want to spend in each training session?
There are a million different ways to break it all down and I'm sure together we can figure out a good starting point and breakdown of bodyparts to train together.