5 Tips to Improve Your Push Ups on the APFT

If you’re looking to improve your push up score on the APFT, you are in the right place.  Today, I want to share five tips to improve your push ups on the APFT.  Let’s get started.

# 1 Vary Your Body Position

One of the easiest things you can do to do more push ups is to vary your body positions.  Use benches and objects to help alter your body position.  For instance, put your feet on a bench, elevated above your body while you do push ups.  Another simple option is to raise one leg in the air while you do push ups.  This helps work different muscle groups and gives you the added variety you need to confuse your muscles.

# 2 Do Pyramids

Pyramids are a great workout.  You can start with a certain number and work your way up and then back down.  You can rest in between each set of push ups.  For instance, you can start with 10 push ups and then do 11, then 12, and work your way up to 20 push ups.  Once you get to 20, you work your way back down, doing 19, then 18, all the way back to 10.  The best thing about pyramids is that you can do a lot of push ups in a short amount of time.

# 3 Lift Weights

It’s a proven fact that lifting weights will make you stronger and help you do more push ups.  Don’t forget to do chest, back, arm and shoulder exercises.  I recommend you lift weights twice a week.  Whenever I lift weights on a regular basis, I can normally do an extra 10-15 push ups on the APFT.

# 4 Use Resistance

Resistance is another great way to improve your push up score on the APFT.  When you do push ups, go slow.  Hold yourself in the down positions for a few seconds.  When you go back to the up position, go slow and hold it again.  Consider using a buddy, or another form of resistance.  I’ve found that 10 resistance push ups tire me out more than 40 regular push ups.

# 5 Vary Your Hand Position

Another simple thing you can do is vary your hand position.  When you do push ups, do some wide arm, diamond and closed handed push ups too.  This works different muscle groups and makes you stronger.

Final Thoughts

At the end of the day, the best way to do more push ups is to practice doing push ups on a regular basis and to incorporate variety into your training.  You can do that by following the advice mentioned in this article.  What are your thoughts?

If you have any added tips for doing better on the push up portion of your APFT, please share them below. If you have any questions, you can ask them here too. We will do our best to provide an answer. Thank you.


chuck holmes

Chuck Holmes
Former Army Major (resigned)
Publisher, Part-Time-Commander.com
Email: mrchuckholmes@gmail.com

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8 thoughts on “5 Tips to Improve Your Push Ups on the APFT”

  1. The only thing I do to improve my pushups is lots of pushups. I do interval training and try to do push ups a few days a week.

  2. These are all great ways to improve your push ups in general but I think one important factor missing from this article is how to improve your push ups on the APFT during the actual APFT. One easy thing you can do is to vary your hand placement. As you said in your article, varying hand placement while doing push ups will help strengthen your entire arm more but during the PT test it could be a 20 push up difference.

    I remember I’d be able to knock out quite a few push ups with my hands a little closer to together and then as my arms began to tire, I’d slowly move my hands out further so as to use a different part of my arms to do the exercise. I would always end up knocking out about 20 or so more than if I had kept my hands stagnant. Just don’t lift up your hands when moving them!!!!

    1. You’re right Chad. Moving your hands in between push-ups is a great way to knock out some extra reps during the APFT. Whenever I do that, I normally get an extra 8-10 push-ups!

  3. I’m personally a big fan of the pyramid system. I used it on our last deployment and came just a couple of reps short of maxing the pushup event. I know a lot of people like to use pushup stands or the Perfect Pushup (which I also own) to allow them to go below the horizontal plane with their upper arms (in other words, a “dip” pushup). While I’m not an exercise physiologist, I’ve read from people who are supposed to be experts in the field that doing so risks damage to the shoulder muscles and joints. It’s just something to be aware of if you do that sort of workout.

    1. I do pyramids whenever I can. They are really easy to do and really work your muscles great. Best of all, you can do them anywhere and they only take a few minutes to do.

      Chuck Holmes

  4. It may sound a little weird, but when I am just lounging around watching TV I feel the need to do a set of push-ups and sit ups during each commercial. A little tip I shared with one of my Soldiers who felt as if he could never get better at his push-up event. Try it!

    1. What a great idea, Justin. I try to do 100 push ups every day, but I never thought about doing them during television advertisements. That would really be an easy way to knock out a lot of push ups, especially during the NFL Playoffs when I am glued to the television.


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