Push-ups are one of the most accessible and beneficial exercises anyone can do, but that doesn’t mean they’re easy. If you struggle to pump out 20 at a time, then ‘The Iceman’ himself, Wim Hof, has some crucial advice for you.
Wim Hof is known for his extreme athleticism and breathing exercises, that allow him (and you, if you follow his advice) to be submerged in sub-zero temperature waters for long periods of time.
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But now he’s removed himself from the water to offer up some advice that (realistically) more of us are likely take heed of, “how to do more push-ups than ever before.” Taking to Instagram, Wim Hof explains that the key to being able to perform a higher number of push-ups all comes back to his favourite topic: breathing.
To prove there is a method to his madness, he first asks us to try performing push-ups as we would normally. Then, with a number of repetitions set as a benchmark, to try things his way instead and see how much of an improvement you make.
WATCH: Wim Hof Explains How To Do More Push-Ups Than Ever
His process is incredibly simple, just take 30 deep breaths, breathing in fully and exhaling completely. Then, on the 30th breath, once you’ve exhaled, stop breathing and then perform the push-ups. He does add that will feel normal to have the urge to breathe during this process, and if you do, you can breathe but just hold your breath for 15-seconds.
And that’s it!
Judging by some of the comments on his post, Wim Hof’s method truly works.
“Wow, I did 10 regular push-ups! I usually do push-ups on my knees because of my wrist and it’s too hard! I can usually do about 3 regular. I know 10 doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is for me!” says one user.
“10 -15 regular, 30-40 with the breathing!!”
So, how does Wim Hof’s breathing technique help? One user explains that “neurologically, this increases the fight or flight mechanism within the brain, releasing adrenalin which in turn increases physical output, so the number of press-ups will increase.”
Another user adds to this that “there is more oxygen in the muscles.”
Indeed, another reply to this comment somewhat contradicts the first, saying, “only if the breathing is rapid, will it instigate fight or flight. Slower, deep breathing will activate the parasympathetic nervous system, which is calming and relaxing as opposed to stressful. For this case, it’s oxygenating the body properly to bring more energy to the needed muscles.”
Breathing properly, in general, is crucial when working out. As Healthline says, breathing properly “allows your body more control, keeping you calm and alert throughout your workout so you can actively engage all your muscles. It might even give you the ability to lift more.”
And, while it’s not recommended to hold your breath completely during a lifting movement, for example, holding your breath at certain points throughout the lift can be beneficial. We’ve discussed this before, using the humble barbell back squat as an example.
For this exercise, it can be incredibly beneficial to inhale as you squat down, hold your breath at the bottom of the squat and then exhale as you push back up. Holding your breath can help provide greater stability and a stronger base from which to push back up. The exhalation can then help you explode back up to the starting position.
Try Wim Hof’s technique next time you have some spare time, wherever you are, to attempt some push-ups and see how much progress you can make.