Is It Better To Do Push-Ups Fast or Slow?

fast push-ups improves the explosiveness of our pushing ability, while slow push-ups can create greater muscle damage, resulting in increasing muscle mass in the chest muscles.

Push-ups are a general exercise that we should all be able to do, and the tempo at which we do them, whether it’s fast or slow, can affect how we improve.

So, is it better to do push-ups fast or slow? Depending on our goals, how we do our push-ups will differ.  When doing push-ups fast we are improving the explosiveness of our pushing ability, while slow push-ups can create greater muscle damage, resulting in increasing muscle mass in the chest muscles. 

In the following article I will:

  • Help you decide whether you should be training push-ups fast or slow
  • Discuss the pros and cons of training push-ups fast or slow
  • Cover whether training push-ups fast or slow is more difficult; and 
  • Tell you who should do push-ups fast or slow.

Push-Ups Fast Or Slow: An Overview

Push ups are a great general exercise to build upper body strength that target the chest, triceps, and the shoulders. 

Typically, we can use either slow reps or fast reps to change the performance benefits that we receive from the push-up.

Slow reps are normally used to learn the skill of the push-up, and to increase the difficulty of the movement.

While, faster reps can be used as more of an advanced method to improve explosiveness in the movement. 

Fast Push-Ups

Fast push-ups can be an effective option for enhancing upper body performance and pressing ability. More specifically, an increase in power output is one of the benefits of incorporating fast push-ups.

Developing power output is beneficial for all training styles. Implementing some sort of explosive push-up variation can improve our overall ability to carry heavier loads and hit higher rep counts.

2 Reasons To Do Push-Ups Fast

  • Fast push-ups improve power output. Being able to move fast or explosively is very important at all loading parameters. Fast push-ups are a great option for improving the overall speed at which we are able to move, and ultimately produce transference to the amount of weight we can move.
  • Fast push-ups allow you to hit a greater repetition count. Even though we are losing time under tension per repetition, greater tension is maintained through totality of the set through larger rep counts.

2 Drawbacks of Doing Push-Ups Fast

  • Fast push-ups allow for less time under tension. Each individual repetition will be less effective in producing quality muscle damage, however aim for larger rep counts to balance this out. 
  • Fast push-ups may result in less quality repetitions. Less quality repetitions will result in less effective learning and practice with the movement. All experience levels need frequent technical practice with movements to promote movement quality, and in turn improve strength.

Slow Push-ups

Compared to fast push-ups, slow push-ups involve a slower lowering which is a great way to increase push-up practice.

During the lowering phase of the push-ups is when the majority of the muscle damage occurs. Longer time under tension leads to greater total stress that is being placed on the muscle, which consequently leads us to greater muscular hypertrophy or muscle growth.

2 Reasons To Do Push-Ups Slow

  • Slow push-ups create longer time under tension. When we do push-ups slowly, the execution of each repetition will take longer. In turn, this will create more fatigue with less repetitions which leads to muscular gains.
  • Slow push-ups result in more quality repetitions. Part of being able to execute a movement is the practice of quality repetitions. Doing slow push-ups can result in better practice and getting comfortable with the different positions involved.

2 Drawbacks of Doing Push-Ups Slow

  • Less repetitions take longer to execute. Getting equal volume with slow push-ups takes longer than if we were to do them fast. If this is a problem we can do repetitions If this is problematic, we can mix in different tempos to get equal volume in a shorter period of time.
  • Greater Perceived Pain. It can be much harder to do push ups when the reps are slower. Many would say that it causes greater pain and soreness to get equal repetitions in slow than fast.

Easy Push-up Variations

If we have not done them before, push-ups alone can be quite a challenging task. Here are several variations to try out to improve your ability to do push-ups.

Push-ups On Knees

Push-ups on our knees shortens the range of motion of the push-up, which decreases the difficulty, while allowing us to get necessary reps in.

Push-ups on our knees shortens the range of motion of the push-up, which decreases the difficulty, while allowing us to get necessary reps in.

How To Do It

  • Lay down on the ground face down with your hands positioned about shoulder width apart.
  • Anchor slightly bent knees into the ground.
  • While maintaining stable hips, push your upper body away from the ground until elbows are at complete extension.
  • From the top, bend your elbows in a controlled motion, return to the starting position. 

Box Push-Ups

Box push-ups restrict the upper body range of motion

Box push-ups restrict the upper body range of motion. This is another option that can be done in many places, including the park or as an home upper body exercise.

How To Do It

  • Place your hands about shoulder width apart atop a bench or larger box. The higher the elevation the easier this is, while the lower the elevation the harder it is.
  • While maintaining stable hips, push your upper body away from the box until elbows are at complete extension.
  • From the top, in a controlled motion, bend your elbows until you return to the starting position.
  • Repeat this for the following repetitions.

Challenging Push-Up Variations

Feet Elevated Push-Ups

Feet elevated push-ups

When doing the push-up, elevating your feet places you in a disadvantageous position. Being in a disadvantageous position can increase the difficulty of the exercise, and consequently increase the amount of strength gains achieved as a result.

How To Do It

  • Place your hands about shoulder width apart lying face down on the ground.
  • Elevate your feet on a bench or seat. The higher the elevation the greater the challenge.
  • While maintaining stable hips, push your upper body away from the ground until elbows are at complete extension.
  • From the top, bend your elbows in a controlled motion to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat these steps for the following repetitions.

Deficit Push-Ups

Deficit push-ups

Elevating the hands with two weight stacks can increase the range of motion in the upper body. You can also add an explosive component to this exercise by completely pushing yourself off the floor.

How To Do It

  • Place your hands on two plates about shoulder width apart lying face down on the ground
  • While maintaining stable hips, push your upper body away from the ground until elbows are at complete extension.
  • From the top, bend your elbows in a controlled motion to return to the starting position.
  • Repeat these steps for the following repetitions.

Who Should Do Push-Ups Fast or Slow?

Do Fast Push-Ups If

  • Your goal is to improve explosiveness in push-ups.
  • Your goal is to increase the number of the repetitions in a set.
  • If you are short on time.

Do Slow Push-Ups If

  • Your goal is to increase the effectiveness of repetitions.
  • Your goal is to increase muscle mass.
  • If you want to challenge yourself with equal volume.

Do Both Push-Ups If

  • If you have extra time at the gym.
  • You want to build time under tension and explosiveness in pressing ability.

Frequently Asked Questions

Are Slow Push-Ups Better For Building Muscle?

Slow push-ups allow for an increase in time-under-tension, which consequently contribute to a greater increase in muscle mass. Incorporating slow-push ups are a great tool for building your chest and triceps muscles. 

Do Fast Push-Ups Count As Reps?

While you’re doing fast push-ups you might accidentally cheat some reps. Honestly, this isn’t such a big deal since your goal might be to be quick off the ground. You can aim to lockout completely for each repetition, which will then consequently result in complete repetitions.

More Push-Up Resources

Final Thoughts

As a novice to intermediate gym goer, slow push-ups can enhance quality of movement and promote learning of the push-up, while more advanced gym goers can benefit from an increase in explosiveness from fast push-ups. 


About The Author: Norman Cheung ASCC, British Powerlifting Team Coach

Norman Cheung

Norman Cheung is a powerlifting, and accredited strength and conditioning coach under the UKSCA. He has been coaching powerlifting since 2012 and has been an IPF Team GB coach since 2016. He has experience coaching various lifters, from novices to international medallists and international university teams. Alongside coaching, he takes interest in helping powerlifters take their first step into coaching. He currently runs his coaching services at strongambitionscoaching.com