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Best Way to Improve Push-up Score

Hopeful Hoya

Your Friendly Neighborhood Stash
I'm in the process of training for the Navy PFT and I've been scoring decently on the run (hitting 12 mins consistently and peaking at 11:30) as well as the sit-ups (maxing in the high 60s). But push-ups are the one area that I'm not pleased with, and I can currently do around 32 good form push-ups as a max. I'm working to improve that, but I was wondering what program is best, as there seem to be several competing philosophies (such as doing a high number over the course of a day or doing several max sets with a few minutes of rest in between). What do you guys think?
What I found to be very effective when preparing for OCS was to do a quick, simple pushup workout 3 times a week. So, in addition to whatever other workouts you may be doing, set aside a little time (I liked doing it in the morning before I went to work) and do 10 sets of pushups with a 1 minute timed rest. You could start off with sets of 10: so you do 10 pushups, rest 1 minute, 10 more pushups, rest 1 minute, and so on 10 times. The first few times you might be burning by the end but in general it will feel pretty easy and only takes about 15 minutes. At the end of the week, try a max effort set and watch your numbers go up week to week. As you get stronger, increase your sets of 10 to 15, 20, etc. The key is forcing yourself to do it and not cheating with rest time or skipping days you don't feel like it.
I'm a civilian, but I've been busting ass to get a 300 on the Marine pft. For me push ups aren't too tough. I'm currently struggling with pull-ups, but I'm following the Armstrong program which requires 3 max effort push up sets 5 mornings a week. The first week I was doing 30 pushups comfortably, now I can easily knock out 50. I'd say the key thing is to go till your arms give out. Also just make sure you do atleast 3 sets a day. Should see some good results pretty quickly. mix up your arm placement too. I'm actually about to start elevating my legs when I do them.
Your mileage may vary but this has worked for me. I do them about 3 times a week with a rest day in between.

Pushups - do 20, rest for 20 seconds, 19, rest for 19 seconds, and so on until you finish at 1. Feel free to start lower at 10 or 15 (or hell, even 5) and work your way up from there.

Situps - get thee an ab wheel. On your knees, wheel forward, wheel back. Recommend starting at about 3 sets of 5 (you'll thank me in the morning) but work your way up to 10 sets of 10. If it gets too easy on your knees, do it standing up (that's what she said). Other things like doing traditional situps while holding a weight straight armed over your head or laying on the floor with a weighted barbell moving your legs like a windshield wiper or "V" works as well.

Pullups - toss a 10 or 25 pound weight in the mix to keep things lively.

Overall, find something that works for you and stick with it. The journey of 1000 miles begins with a single step, or some crap like that.
One thing that I have found helps is adding isometrics (read: static holds) to whatever program you are doing. This is because the PFT is an endurance event in that maxing out scores requires continuing to push past that 1:00min mark that many people (including myself) burn out at. Peak muscle recruitment happens when both the acting muscles and counteracting muscles in the movement are contracting at equal rates. Try holding pushup position/pullup position with arms at 90 degree angles for 30-60sec before pumping out as many pushups/pullups as you can. You can also do this with holding squat or leg chair and then max squats or hold a v-sit and then max situps.


Agent of Averageness
Awesome, thanks for the advice guys! I'll try those out and let you know how it works out.
Hoya, how did this workout for you? I know you posted a big ol' thread on "A Word on OCS" but I didn't see specifics on what you did from this thread to help you. My pushups are abysmal so I need all the help I can get.