I did 90 judo push-ups every morning for a week — here’s what happened to my upper body

Woman in sunlight workout studio performing a judo push-up on exercise mat with legs extended behind and hands on the mat
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Fed up of boring push-ups? Here’s a push-up variation that will torch your triceps, pecs and shoulder muscles using a slightly different movement pattern than usual. 

The best part about this fitness challenge is the lack of equipment — you don’t need to own dumbbells or the best kettlebells to do it, Just a space in your living room, gym, or studio where you can roll out an exercise mat and power out the push-ups.

I decided to tackle 90 reps of judo push-ups every morning for seven days, and it was one of the toughest Tom’s Guide challenges I’ve done. Below, I explain how to do the judo push-up and reveal my results. 

How to do judo push-ups

Here’s how to do the judo push-up step by step with good form:

  • Start in a push-up position (here’s how to do a push-up properly)
  • Lift your hips up and backward similar to a downward facing dog — your body should form an upside down v-shape
  • Keep your elbows tucked close to your body and engage your core
  • Bend your elbows and lower your head forward toward the ground in a straight line, keeping your hips up without arching your back — like you would during a pike push-up
  • Then scoop your bodyweight forward and push through your hands to lift your chest and thighs — similar to the yoga pose upward facing dog but staying on the balls of your feet
  • Extend your arms. Reverse the whole movement back to the starting position.

I did 90 judo push-ups every day for a week — here are my results

Here’s what I learned from doing 90 reps of this upper-body exercise a day. 

It’s easy to lose form

The advanced push-up strengthens your arms (namely, your triceps), shoulders and pectorals and activates your core muscles. It looks like a downward dog to an upward dog in yoga but with a few differences, like foot placement. Either way, it’s crucial to keep your form tight and protect your arms as you rep it out.

I regularly practice yoga, so my back coped quite well. My advice is to keep your elbows tucked close to your ribs and prevent them from flaring outward as you lower your chest. If you have a tight back, try lowering your thighs to the floor and softly bend your elbows as you push upward. Back injury? I recommend giving this one a miss and checking out the variations we recommend below. 

It gave a great stretch

Despite torching my upper body from a strength perspective, 90 reps a day also delivered a deep stretch and energized my body. 

Judo push-ups provide a stretch through the upper body and lower back as well as building strength, flexibility and mobility. The chest exercise helped open my hip flexors and stretch my stomach, as well as firing up my arms. After each daily attempt, my back felt activated and my posture taller. I found a great rhythm, and as I flowed through my reps, I focused on my breath. It wasn’t yoga, but it didn’t feel far off — here’s what an hour of yoga could do for your body.

It was taxing on my upper body

Judo push-ups are a compound exercise, which means multiple muscles are at work, and the chest exercise — derived from martial arts — sits under the calisthenics umbrella, which means it’s body weight. Bodyweight exercise is brilliant at building functional strength without weights. Although the judo push-up is primarily a chest, shoulder and arm exercise, it also hits the mid and lower back and hip flexors. 

I immediately regretted the 90-rep decision. It’s a lot of reps, so I broke them up into 9 sets of 10. My upper body was in pieces every day, even though I had traditional push-ups quite comfortably in the bank. And that didn’t get easier as the week progressed, so the DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) was very real.

Moving backward was harder than forward

What makes the strength exercise even harder? You’ll need to work backward to return to the starting position; this was by far the most demanding part and can irritate elbows if you don’t keep them tracking close to the body. It’s also where I felt my triceps working the hardest. 

I found it took a few goes to get the movement pattern right, and even then, it was brutal on my arms. Bend your elbows and lower the chest first until roughly aligned with your hips, then start to push the ground away and send your hips up and back again. I dare anyone not to leave this exercise without shaky arms. If you prefer, move from the upward position straight to the starting position by sending your hips straight back up.

I did 90 judo push-ups every day for a week — here's my verdict

After seven straight days of this push-up variation, I hadn’t sculpted a muscle-packed torso to rival Arnold Schwarzenegger, sadly (but unsurprisingly). That aside, I certainly felt robust and more mobile. 

Now it’s time to give my upper body a rest. I wouldn’t recommend doing 90 judo push-ups every day if you’re not used to doing them, and what works for me might not work for you. I paired this challenge with my regular CrossFit routine, but dialing back on other upper body exercises could be a safe bet if you’re worried about overtraining. 

This challenge was tougher on my muscles than when I did this 200-rep push-up challenge, which surprised me. But it also made a difference to my yoga routine — I felt strong, coordinated and capable during chaturanga (a yoga asana moving from high to low push-up). Are you fed up with push-ups? These 5 variations will revamp chest day.

Exercises like these develop mobility and improve functional movement when performed regularly. Judo push-ups work well as a strength drill, or they add brilliantly to workouts.

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III 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.