How to Increase Your Push-ups for the Academy

Q: My name is Chris; not sure if this email address is still monitored, but I was hoping you had some time to answer a couple questions and concerns regarding the article you wrote on a couple years back entitled Return to Copland: Strength Training for the Professional Warrior.

I am a 24 year old male from South Jersey and I am about 5′ 10″ and weigh around 145-150. I go to the gym 3 to 5 times a week and try to run or get some form of cardio in around 5 times a week. I am also desperately trying to gain weight which has been a very difficult obstacle for me.

Currently, I am in the hiring process to become a New Jersey State Trooper; I have passed their physical fitness test and the next step is to pass the written examination being held in the coming weeks. I did fairly well on the fitness test I scored a 19 out of 21 possible points but I feel as though I definitely could’ve done a better job and I don’t think how I did will cut it in the academy.

Being a police officer yourself, do you have any tips or advice going forward regarding weightlifting and cardio? The last thing I want to happen is go into the academy unprepared. Do you think I should get a trainer specifically to train for the physical stuff in the academy such as push-ups and distance running? I had a trainer in the past but he has since moved on from the gym I go to and we also didn’t do anything cardio-wise while I was his client. I’m not sure if a trainer even specializes in training for law enforcement academies and the like.

I would really like to become a more proficient and faster runner and increase my push-up count. By the way, I completely agree when you said that the academy training relies too heavily on distance and endurance running. I think, as you said, it needs to focus more on sprints and high intensity stuff.

I hope to hear from you soon and thank you in advance for the help and answering my questions.


My Answer: The problem I see is that you are doing too much and that is preventing you from gaining weight. Cardio 5 times a week in addition to the weight room is what’s limiting your gains.

I have no idea what your weight training program is, but I would suggest simplifying your program to the basics and running just 2-3 times a week. You can start with the Hypertrophy Training for the Ectomorph and follow the principles in this program.

At the end of each workout, do diminishing sets of push-ups to increase your push-up count. The goal of diminishing sets is to reach a target rep total in the fewest number of sets with minimal rest (10-30 seconds). So if your target rep total is 50 push-ups, then perform 50 push-ups in however many sets it takes. On your next workout, try to perform 50 push-ups in fewer sets. Eventually you’ll be able to perform 50 push-ups in one set.

Good luck!


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