Illustration of a man doing push-ups to build muscle.

How Many Push-Ups Should You Do Per Day?

The number of push-ups you should do depends on how many you did last time. To get bigger, stronger, and fitter, you have to focus on progressive overload. You have to do more push-ups than last time.

For example, let’s say in your last workout, you got 13 push-ups in your first set, 11 in your second, and 9 in your third. That’s 33 push-ups. Today, your goal is to do 34 push-ups or more.

If you can do more push-ups than last time, that’s progressive overload. It’s by far the most important part of gaining muscle and strength. It proves you’ve gotten stronger, and it stimulates a new wave of growth. It’s both the sign and signal of muscle growth.

Here’s the catch: to have any hope of getting more push-ups than last time, you need to follow a sensible workout plan, eat a diet that supports muscle growth, and live a good lifestyle. Let’s delve into how to do that.

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Illustration of a man doing the 100 push-ups a day challenge to build muscle.

100 Push-Ups a Day? You Can Do Better

The 100 Push-ups a Day Challenge is when you do 100 push-ups every day, usually for 30 days in a row. The goal is to improve your strength and fitness, building a bigger upper body as you go. It’s an admirable challenge. It’s also controversial.

Muscles take 2–4 days to recover from a strenuous workout. It’s during those days of recovery that they grow bigger and stronger. You won’t gain more muscle and strength by doing push-ups every day. In fact, you may gain less.

On the other hand, repeating the same exercise every day is a great way to practice your form. It can be great for your health and fitness, too. But if that were your goal, you’d want to keep your workouts easier. That way, you aren’t accumulating muscle damage.

The final problem is that push-ups work your chest, shoulders, triceps, and a slew of postural muscles in your torso. That’s fantastic. Push-ups are one of the best muscle-building exercises. Still, that leaves 3/4 of your body untrained.

We can solve all these problems, creating a much better challenge.

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Illustration of a skinny person building muscle.

How Many Calories Does It Take To Build a Pound of Muscle?

A pound of muscle contains about 800 calories of stored energy (study). However, just like a mason spends energy laying stones, it also takes energy to construct that muscle, increasing the energy costs by another 2,000 calories. And so, overall, it might take closer to 2,500 surplus calories to gain a pound of muscle.

A mason can only lay so many stones in a day. Giving him more energy than he can use won’t help him lay those stones any faster. Instead, the extra calories will simply be saved for later. They’ll be stored as body fat. That begs the question: how many calories does it take to maximize your rate of muscle growth?

To answer that question, we have to consider the “hardgainer” issue. Some people have more adaptive metabolisms than others. We’ll delve into that, too.

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Illustration of a buff weightlifter confused at why he isn't losing weight.

Why Aren’t You Losing Weight in a Calorie Deficit?

If you ask about why you aren’t losing weight in a calorie deficit, the common answer is: “Because you’re not in a calorie deficit. You need to eat fewer calories.” That’s not entirely wrong, and we’ll get into it, but it’s factually wrong.

You can maintain or even gain weight in a calorie deficit. In fact, there are several different ways this can happen, all of which make perfect scientific and logical sense. By shining light on these exceptions, we can fully illuminate the truth.

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Illustration of a person burning calories by lifting weights.

How Many Calories Does Weight Lifting Burn? (With Calculator)

How many calories you burn while lifting weights depends on how much you weigh and how much lean mass you’re carrying. It also depends on how much weight you’re lifting, how long you’re resting, and how long your workout is. It quickly gets complicated.

Fortunately, we have Greg Nuckols, MA, who reviews muscle and strength research on his site, Stronger by Science. He figured out a simple heuristic for estimating how many calories a workout burns. I’ve built his formula into a simple calorie calculator you can use.

All we need to know is your weight, body fat percentage, and the length of your workout.

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Illustration of a bodybuilder doing biceps curls for the Arm Day of his Bro Split Workout routine.

The Perfect Bro Split Workout Routine

The Bro Split is surprisingly controversial. Most guys assume it’s for casual lifters who never took the time to learn how to program a proper workout split. That’s not the case. 2/3rds of competitive bodybuilders use Bro Splits (study).

Well-designed Bro Splits can be incredibly good for building muscle, especially in your arms and shoulders. In this article, we’ll teach you how to do it right. We’ll talk about why it works, how to build your own Bro Split, and then give you a sample routine you can follow (and customize).

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Diagram showing the various back muscles.

What Muscles Do Pull-Ups Work?

Pull-ups, often conflated with chin-ups, are a compound upper-back exercise. They’ll give you a wide back and thick arms—and we’ll talk about which back muscles they’re best for—but what makes pull-ups even more interesting is how they work muscles you never would have expected.

There are a few interesting things to cover:

  • Which back muscles do pull-ups work?
  • Are pull-ups good for building bigger biceps?
  • Are pull-ups good for building bigger triceps?
  • Why are pull-ups so famous for building bigger lower lats?
  • How do pull-ups train your abs?
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Illustration of a bodybuilder doing chin-ups instead of pull-ups.

The Best Pull-Up Alternatives (for Building Muscle)

Pull-ups are one of the very best back exercises, rivalled only by chin-ups and deadlifts. The problem is not everyone can do them. Some people aren’t strong enough. Others don’t have a pull-up bar. Fortunately, there are near-perfect alternatives. You won’t miss out on anything.

Over the past twelve years, we’ve helped over ten million readers and over ten thousand clients bulk up their backs with or without pull-ups. They’re a great exercise, but you don’t need them.

Without further ado, let’s talk about what the pull-up does and how to replace it.

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Illustration of a bodybuilder with a huge bowl of food. Illustrated by Shane Duquette for Outlift.

How Many Calories Do You Need to Build Muscle?

To build muscle, you need extra calories. Those calories don’t always need to come from food. Many of us carry quite a lot of extra energy in our guts. If that’s you, you’ve got plenty. You can listen to your appetite, eat a comfortable amount of food, and stimulate muscle growth with your training. No problem.

If you’re thinner or leaner, you’ll need to get the extra calories from your diet. That means you’ll need to eat in a calorie surplus—you’ll need to bulk. The size of that surplus is up to you. If you eat 100 extra calories every day, you’ll build muscle slowly and leanly. If you eat 750 extra calories, you’ll build muscle faster, but you may also gain more fat. I’ll give you some options below.

Now, here’s where it gets tricky. To eat in a calorie surplus, you need to build on what you’re already eating. One approach is to take your current diet and increase the serving sizes or add snacks. Another approach is to count calories. Both methods work.

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Illustration of a man flexing burning muscles.

How Many Calories Does a Pound of Muscle Burn?

A pound of muscle burns around 6 calories per day at rest (studystudystudy, study). However, it also takes energy to carry around and use those muscles. Your heftier leg muscles need to haul your beefier upper body around. This can double or even triple the calories your muscles burn.

All told, a pound of muscle burns more like 8–16 calories per day. I’ve given a full explanation below. I’ve also made a simple calculator.

Perhaps more importantly, I want to talk about the implications of burning those extra calories. Usually, burning more calories is a good thing. You get to eat more food, which means you get to eat more nutrients—more energy, but also more fibre, probiotics, and micronutrients.

However, many naturally thin people worry that to maintain the muscle they gain, they’ll be forced to eat an uncomfortable amount of food forever. I had that same worry.

To my horror, my worst nightmare came true. I gained nearly 60 pounds of lean mass, and my calorie needs went up by over 700 calories per day. To my great relief, it wasn’t anything like I expected.

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