Performing 50 press-ups in a minute is a classic fitness benchmark. “But you rarely see guys do even one rep with perfect form,” says Rob Shaul, founder of the training facility Strong Swift Durable.
“So whenever a guy tells me he can do 50 in a minute, I tell him to do it with the dead-stop press-up, where you lower yourself to the ground and lift your hands.”
That pause eliminates help from the stretch reflex – the tendency of a muscle to spring back to a shortened state when stretched – and forces you to move through a full range of motion.
The result? No cheating. “It’s a true test of strength,” says Shaul. Read on to test yours, and then follow Shaul’s plan to increase it.
Related: The 8 Best Pushups You Aren't Doing
The dead-stop press-up test
Assume a press-up position with your feet together, your body straight, and your hands below but slightly wider than your shoulders. Lower your body to the floor. Lift your hands off the floor, pause, and then place them back on the floor and push up explosively.
It’s literally as simple as it sounds – don’t overthink it. Do as many repetitions you can in 60 seconds. Twenty is average; 30 is exceptional.
Boost your strength
Add the dead-stop pushup to three of your weekly workouts. Do 5 sets, using the plan below to guide your reps. Retest yourself after 4 weeks. Repeat the 4-week cycle until you reach your goal: 30 perfect reps.
Week 1: Do 40% of Your Test Number
Week 2: Do 40% of Your Test Number
Week 3: Do 50% of Your Test Number
Week 4: Do 60% of Your Test Number
Perfect your form
While lowering your body all the way down and lifting your hands off the floor is what makes this version of the press-up different, you also want to make sure your technique for the rest of movement stays spot-on. Do just that by using the tips below.
Keeping your arms straight so your hands align with your shoulders reduces stress on those critical joints.
Driving your palms down and screwing them outward into the floor increases stability through your shoulders, neck, and upper back. Stability equals power.
Increasing core tension boosts stability all over. Imagine someone is about to punch you in the gut.
Clenching your glutes locks your hips in place, keeping your body straight from head to heels. It also takes stress off your lower back.
Holding your feet together adds muscle tension in your legs, enhancing energy transfer and power production throughout your body.
A version of this article first appeared on menshealth.com