Last year, trainer Jeff Cavaliere shared a pushup challenge on the Athlean-X YouTube channel that was suitable for any ability level. And in a recent video, fitness influencer Austin Dunham gave himself the task of achieving the highest possible score—and invited powerlifter and strength coach Jorge Rosado to try it out too.
The goal is to reach a certain number of reps in as few sets as possible. If you are able to perform 9 to 14 reps in a set, then the goal is to hit 40. If you can do 15 reps or more in a set, then you aim for 50.
Calisthenics-focused Austin sets his sights on 50 reps, while Jorge shoots for 40. They take it in turns to complete their sets, so that their rest time only lasts as long as it takes for the other guy to complete his set. Each of them hopes to hit his target in a maximum of 5 rounds.
They both start strong, and each manage 20 reps in their first set, ensuring that they are exhibiting correct form and fully extending their arms at the lower end of the movement in order for every high-quality repetition to count.
The rep count goes down with each subsequent set as the cumulative fatigue begins to set in. Austin completes 10 reps in his second round while Jorge only manages 4. In the third set, Austin does 8 pullups and Jorge does 3. In the fourth, Austin does 5, and Jorge does 3.
In the fifth round of pullups, which both men had hoped would be their last, an exhausted Austin cranks out a final set of 7, hitting his goal of 50 reps. “Man, that was tough,” he says. “I thought I was going to get it in 3 sets… I’ve got the craziest bicep pump right now.”
“It’s definitely going to take me more than 5 sets,” says Jorge, who only manages 3 reps in the fifth set, bringing his total up to 33. “It’s just ridiculous how, as soon as you start, you feel like you’ve got 5 in you, and then by the time you’ve done your second rep, your biceps are gone… There’s a lot of endurance that goes into it, like muscular endurance. I’m more sheer power output.”
He does 3 reps in his sixth set, 2 in his seventh, and finally reaches his goal of 40 with 2 reps in the eighth round.
“I still can’t move my lats,” says Austin. “I thought this was going to be a lot easier.”
While Austin and Jorge are both feeling wrecked by the experience, they’re happy to see that they rank in the top two tiers of performance respectively in the Athlean-X challenge.
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