I tried 90 dolphin push-ups every day for one week — here’s what happened to my body

Writer Sam Hopes performing a dolphin plank in her living room at home
(Image credit: Future)

Dolphin push-ups torch your shoulders and work your core muscles, so I added 90 reps to my exercise routine every day for one week to see what, if anything, would happen to my body.

To do a dolphin push-up, you’ll start in a forearm plank position, then push through your shoulders, arms and elbows, lift your hips up and back toward the ceiling, as if you’re trying to perform a downward dog on your elbows, then return to a forearm plank position.

Best of all, I didn’t need any equipment to accept my own challenge — just one of the best yoga mats and my body weight. Here’s what happened throughout the week, 630 reps later. 

How to do a dolphin push-up

Unlike dolphin planks, this dolphin exercise requires movement. Here’s a step-by-step guide to doing a dolphin push-up:

  • Start in a forearm plank position with your shoulders stacked over your elbows, hips aligned with your shoulders and stomach braced.
  • Slightly round your upper back and engage your glutes, quads and shoulders.
  • Lift your hips and send them upward and backward while pressing through your elbows.
  • Maintain a soft knee bend and stay on the balls of your feet.
  • Send your shoulders forward and return to the forearm plank position.

I did 90 dolphin push-ups every day for one week — here’s what happened

Here’s what I learned. 

It works your shoulders hard

I tried two variations throughout the challenge to emphasize my shoulders and triceps. To send more focus to the shoulders, I kept my hips lifted throughout and sent my weight over my shoulders as I pushed forward; it’s less taxing on the elbows to bring your hands together and slightly turn your elbows outward.

In the fitness industry, you’ll always find variations of the same exercise under the same name; this was much more challenging than regular dolphin push-ups, but to target my triceps more, I also tested out another tough alternative.

Dolphin Push-up - YouTube Dolphin Push-up - YouTube
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Starting in a downward dog position, I bent my elbows and tapped them down onto the mat, keeping them close to my ribs, then pushed back up into the starting position while lifting my hips (which can also be done from the knees).

How to do Dolphin Push Up \\ Tone Triceps and Shoulders - YouTube How to do Dolphin Push Up \\ Tone Triceps and Shoulders - YouTube
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A week’s worth of dolphin push-ups provided a pretty decent upper workout without weights.

It helped develop short-term hamstring flexibility

Although the exercise builds a range of motion and strength in your shoulders and to a lesser degree, targets your chest, upper back and abs, it also delivers a great stretch for the hamstrings.  

Lifting your hips and sending your weight backward emphasizes your hamstrings and calves, helping to stretch them. There are other hamstring stretches I’d prioritize for developing lower body flexibility, but it’s a bonus and helped me find space down the backs of my legs as the reps went on. 

It's harder than it looks

The bodyweight exercise might not look like much, but your muscles stay under constant tension throughout both phases of motion. Unlike the dolphin pose found in yoga, your muscles lengthen and shorten as they contract. Weight-bearing upper body exercises performed from a vertical position can feel intense even without weights.

Coupled with high reps, I found dolphin push-ups still delivered a familiar upper-body muscle-fatiguing burn that I associate with push-ups, without actually performing them. However, you'll need to try the second variation I mentioned earlier if you want to work your triceps hard.

Verdict

The beauty of this exercise is that it can be done anywhere, anytime and I could slot the reps into my day whenever I had time. Despite the high rep count, I didn’t notice any changes in my body except slightly more space in my hamstrings immediately afterward.

I didn’t expect to see any changes within a week, so this wasn’t about building muscle definition or making strength gains — more an experiment to learn more about my body and how it responds to endurance work.

I recommend breaking your reps up like I did, completing 20-30 reps at a time with a short rest between. Ticks all around for working my upper body hard and testing my endurance, but it wasn’t a game-changer to my exercise routine and I could still slot my regular runs, CrossFit classes and hot yoga routines into my day with little problem. That said, my elbows need a good rest.

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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.