Forget planks — I did 100 sphinx push-ups every day for a week, and here are my results

a photo of a woman holding a plank
(Image credit: Getty/Oleg Breslavtsev)

I’ve concluded that I’ve somehow been neglecting my triceps until now. A week’s worth of sphinx push-ups just schooled me on what it means to feel that triceps burnout. The advanced push-up variation torches your arms, pecs and shoulders and increases core activity — so I did them every day for a week to see what would happen to my body.

I love physically pushing myself with new fitness challenges to see if I can learn anything about myself throughout the process. But it’s worth emphasizing here that I don’t recommend following suit if you have a shoulder injury or any upper body joint weaknesses. The high-to-low plank transition could aggravate your joints, so it should be exercised with caution and introduced gradually if you’re unsure. 

Having rolled out one of the best yoga mats I own, I got to work on 100 sphinx push-ups a day, detailing what happened each time for a week. Here’s my verdict. 

What do sphinx push-ups work?

The push-up variation could revamp your chest and triceps day if you fancy substituting regular push-ups and hitting your triceps harder. You’ll target the same muscles during the pushing motion — your pectorals, triceps, anterior deltoids and core muscles — but the arm position emphasizes the triceps more. 

Even without pairing the upper body exercise with popular moves like the bench press or overhead press, you can deliver a powerful pump to your muscles and work your abs harder. 

No equipment is needed — just your body weight and space for an exercise mat. 

How to do sphinx push-ups

How:

  • Start in a push-up position and brace your core
  • Slightly round your upper back, then walk your hands forward shoulder-width apart
  • Engage your shoulders, glutes and quads
  • Keeping your arms close to the sides of your body, bend both elbows and lower your forearms to the floor into a forearm plank
  • Keep your hips aligned with your shoulders, pause, then push upward into the starting position.

I did 100 sphinx push-ups every day for a week, and here are my results

My triceps were on fire

Of all the push-ups I’ve done over the years, this one set my triceps alight the most. When you first start sphinx push-ups, it almost feels counterintuitive, but with good form and some patience, it’s quite a fun upper-body exercise to add to your strength routine.

I opted for 10 sets of 10 reps for this challenge, repeating every morning for seven days. Marrying a high rep count with a new exercise almost guaranteed the next day's DOMS, and while I woke up each day with sore arms, the rest of my body coped just fine.

I had to be careful with my elbows

Amongst the dodgy rotator cuffs and clicky joints, I am also hypermobile (I know, right?), so exercises that rely heavily on a controlled range of motion, like the sphinx push-up, can be challenging for me. 

The key to getting the push-up right is in the alignment — at no point should your elbows flare outward, but instead, ensure they track backward and align with your shoulders. 

A tip I picked up during yoga classes is to slightly turn your hands outward as you ground down through your palms — almost like you’re tightening a jar without physically moving your hands. It should help you pull your biceps toward each other and keep your form tight. 

I dominated with my right arm

During the first few reps of each set, it felt like my body had forgotten how to move, and I physically couldn’t push myself up. As I pushed through my hands, I noticed I dominated with my right side, using my right arm and then my left arm to move upward. 

You should keep your weight evenly spread at all times and recruit both sides of the body together without favoring your strongest side. Defeated, I did as many reps as possible using good form, then dropped to my knees for the remaining reps when I noticed my weight shifting over to the right.

They're harder than they look

Sphinx push-ups are seriously tough for a high number of reps, which is why the exercise is known as an advanced push-up variation. I recommend starting with 6-8 reps and using your knees, gradually building as you improve and get stronger. 

A common mistake preventing many people from pushing upward involves having your hands too close to your body; remember to walk your hands out with enough space to lower both elbows to the ground. If you can, lower during the first phase of the exercise without using your knees, then bring the knees to the floor as you push upward. It’s a great way to build strength in the relevant muscle groups without overloading your body. 

I did 100 sphinx push-ups every day for a week — here's my verdict

Having just ticked off my seventh and final day of 100 daily sphinx push-ups, I’ve concluded that it’s going in the vault of Tom’s Guide fitness challenges I can shelve for the foreseeable future. Did it torch my triceps? Certainly. Has it taught me anything? Sure — I’m not as good at pushing from low to high plank as I thought. And it’s seriously hard work. 

Do I need to do it again? Absolutely not. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III qualified fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.