I just added ‘Mike Tyson push-ups’ to my upper body routine — here's what happened

man performing push-ups next to photo of Mike Tyson
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Scrolling aimlessly through YouTube videos one afternoon in search of some exercise inspiration, I stumbled across “Mike Tyson push-ups.” I didn’t even know Mike Tyson had a push-up, but here we are, and here I am, writing about them and feeling like I should have known about this sooner. Intrigued, I decided to give the exercise a go.

I didn’t commit to making it a fitness challenge or performing a set number of reps each day — I just wanted to see how many reps I could achieve and why this move was “a thing.” Revved and ready to go, I rolled out one of the best yoga mats (Lulululemon Take Form, if you’re looking for a new one) and did a quick upper-body warm-up to get my shoulders, arms and chest ready.

Are you fed up with push-ups? This push-up variation is a game-changer. Here’s what happened when I attempted max reps, the benefits and how to do them.

What are ‘Mike Tyson push-ups’?

The advanced push-up variation pretty much combines the loaded beast exercise and a push-up, which means it targets your legs, glutes, hips and core alongside your chest, triceps, back and shoulders as you move between loading your lower and upper body.

The exerciser will place their feet flat against a wall, push the hips backward toward the heels, then drive the chest forward while keeping a flat back to maintain horizontal movement, and move into a push-up; this allows you to sit into a squat using a horizontal plane and combine with a push-up.

How many push-ups did Mike Tyson do a day in his prime? 

Legend has it Tyson smashed out 500 push-up reps in a day during his calisthenics training sessions, alongside other exercises, but while I was hardly about to follow suit, I love learning new skills — and this was about to get spicy. 

How to do 'Mike Tyson push-ups'

  • Start in a push-up position with your shoulders stacked over your wrists and your feet placed flat against a wall with your toes touching the floor. If you don’t have a wall to use, keep the weight on the balls of your feet and stay on your toes
  • Bend your knees, then shift your hips back toward your heels, squatting as far as you can
  • Keep your back flat, core engaged and knees close to the floor
  • Push through your feet, shift your weight forward over your shoulders and lower your chest toward the ground, initiating the push-up
  • Push the ground away to lift your chest back to the starting position, then immediately send your weight backward into the next rep.

I tried 'Mike Tyson push-ups' — here’s what happened 

It’s a full-body masterclass

The Tyson push-up variation is a full-body workout, combining a squat to target the lower body and a push-up to hit the upper body. How you transition between both also targets the back and rear delt muscles, making this an efficient full-body torcher.

Not only does the move engage muscles and build strength across your whole body, but it also increases your heart rate and endurance. You can program the move as part of your upper body routine or calisthenics workout or set yourself to a target number of reps as a challenge. I mean, it can realistically slot anywhere. 

It's easy to get wrong

Many exercisers rush through the reps without achieving a full range of motion or proper knee flexion. Send the bum back as far as your mobility allows while maintaining a flat back, and lower your chest to the floor without dropping your hips. Keep pressing your heels into the wall at all times, and ensure you fully extend your arms during the push-up phase before sending your weight back again with your arms still extended. 

From firsthand experience, I can tell you that it’s super easy to let these things go when you’re fatigued. My heels kept lifting away without me realizing, so I ended up moving my mirror side on to keep a good view of my form. Even if that means you’ll achieve fewer reps, hitting the correct muscle groups should be your priority.

It adds variety to your exercise routine

Learn how to do a push-up first and ensure you can comfortably achieve at least 10-15 reps with proper form before looking at advanced push-up variations. 

Personally, because I have good lower body flexibility, I find this variation more enjoyable and slightly easier for my upper body because I can transfer the weight to my lower body between push-up reps rather than just powering up and down like I would during standard push-ups.

That’s not to say that beginners should jump straight in, and everyone will experience it differently. I recommend looking closely at your current ability level and learning basic mechanics before starting new exercises. If you haven’t locked down the squat and push-up principles, those should be your priority.

I found the hardest part transferring from the squat to the push-up while keeping the horizontal position.

It helps develop lower body mobility

Similar to the loaded beast, "Mike Tyson push-ups" involve sitting back as far as possible, then driving forward into the push-up. When performed properly and regularly, this can help develop mobility around your shoulders, hips, knees and ankles. 

Pressing your feet against the wall will help stabilize your body and hold position while you sit back, fully loading the quads. If you don’t use the wall, you’ll find you can sit back further into your ankles, developing ankle flexibility, but “proper form” involves using a wall where you can. I tried both and enjoyed how the wall tested me to keep my heels pushed back at all times and send my weight directly into my heels.

These push-ups add variety

I found this way more fun than standard push-ups, and my heart rate jacked up considerably. If your routine is getting stale or you want to challenge yourself with something new, learning a different skill set will help keep your muscles challenged. You also get more bang for your buck during these push-ups because your whole body works throughout, which is a big tick for efficiency if you’re short on time. 

The move will also deliver a punishing ab burn, as I quickly learned, because the core muscles must stay active during both phases of the movement to help control your body as you push up and down, forward and backward. 

70 reps later and cooked, this one is going in the bank of exercises labeled “hellish but worth it.”

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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.